New Mexico Co-op Signs Low-Priced Distributed Solar Deal

Construction has commenced on a 3 MW solar project in New Mexico that will sell its output below 4.5 cents/kWh – a price Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) believes is among the cheapest reported contracts for distributed photovoltaic solar energy in the U.S.

Otero County Electric Cooperative Inc. (OCEC) will receive output from the Carrizozo project, which will be developed and owned by Chicago-based SoCore Energy. RMI provided project analysis and supported the competitive procurement process.

The project, which has a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) at the fixed price, is expected to come online in March. OCEC covered the cost of the land and the interconnection and will receive the renewable energy credits from the project as part of the PPA. RMI notes the project, located in Lincoln County, does not receive state tax credits or subsidies.

“The Carrizozo solar project allows us to deliver renewable energy to our members while also saving them money,” comments Mario Romero, chief executive of OCEC. “Since OCEC purchases the energy produced by this project at such a great price, this project will allow all of our 14,000 members to benefit by reducing our overall cost of purchased power.”

The co-op’s first solar project was a 76 kW array built in 2014, which was later expanded to 150 kW. Having gained experience and comfort with distributed solar, OCEC was ready to explore larger “community-scale” arrays such as the Carrizozo project.

According to RMI, community-scale solar refers to solar arrays that generate between 0.5 MW and 10 MW per installation, are interconnected to distribution networks and are sited directly within the communities they serve. They are large enough to access low costs through economies of scale and small enough to efficiently interconnect into distribution systems, RMI adds.

“We are honored to help bring affordable, reliable clean energy to members of the Otero County Electric Cooperative,” says SoCore President Rob Scheuermann. “This has been an exciting opportunity to work with Otero and Rocky Mountain Institute to bring highly competitive, locally produced renewable energy to businesses and communities in New Mexico.”

In addition to co-op member savings, the project is expected to provide approximately $550,000 in property tax revenue over its lifetime and will provide local jobs during site development and construction. More than 25 contractors and other professionals will be involved in construction activities at the site.

“The Carrizozo project points to the compelling customer savings, grid benefits, and clean energy resources that energy providers can deliver via community-scale solar,” says Stephen Doig, a managing director at RMI who coleads the institute’s work to increase the adoption of distributed renewable energy. “We hope what OCEC has accomplished here can serve as a model to scale similar distributed solar projects across the country.”

In addition to its community-scale projects, OCEC also receives solar power from its power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, including two utility-scale solar power projects near Deming and Springer, N.M.

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