Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima and officials from El Paso Electric Company (EPE), the regional electric utility (NYSE: EE) for the area, and SunEdison, a leading worldwide solar energy services provider and subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. (NYSE: WFR), gathered today to officially inaugurate and name the 12 megawatt solar power plant located near Las Cruces International Airport. The "Las Cruces Centennial Solar Farm" was recently activated in May 2012 and is part of EPE's ongoing strategy to increase renewable energy as part of the generation mix used to meet its customers' demand. Since 2011, EPE has invested in more than 37 MW of solar generating capacity, including construction and contracts to purchase power.
The Las Cruces Centennial Solar Farm is comprised of more than 48,000 of MEMC's high-performance Silvantis P280 photovoltaic modules and covers approximately 140 acres. It is expected to produce more than 32 million kilowatt hours of clean solar energy in the first year alone, and over 773 million kilowatt hours over 25 years — enough energy to power more than 72,000 average-sized US homes for one year.
"This project highlights El Paso Electric's commitment to advance the development of renewable energy resources and be a leader in the solar industry," said Tom Shockley, CEO of EL Paso Electric. "EPE continues to evaluate opportunities to invest in additional projects in the future to expand our renewable energy portfolio. Currently, EPE's owned renewable energy projects and purchase power agreements represent almost 3 percent of the Company's net dependable generating capacity, which represents one of the largest percentages of renewable energy for a company of EPE's size in the United States."
This solar farm was made possible through a power purchase agreement between SunEdison and EPE. SunEdison was responsible for the construction and financing of the project and will oversee operation and maintenance of the power plant over the 25 year contract period. In return, EPE will purchase all the energy produced from the solar farm.
"With demonstrated experience and proven technologies and processes, SunEdison is able to provide smart, affordable, solar energy solutions to our utility customers across the globe," stated Tim Derrick, General Manager, SunEdison, North America. "SunEdison is proud of the work accomplished with EPE and commends their leadership and continued commitment to renewable energy."
The energy produced from the farm and the environmental attributes associated with the system are expected to offset more than 1.1 billion pounds of CO2 over the 25 years. That is equivalent to removing more than 112,000 cars off the road over 25 years, or approximately 4,400 cars per year.
EPE and SunEdison will soon activate a second solar farm located in Chaparral, NM. The 10MW solar farm is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
Equity financing for the Las Cruces Centennial Solar Farm was provided by PNC Energy Capital.