PNM Prepares for 80-MW Solar PV Program, Moves Forward on Bioenergy Project

An agreement reached last week between New Mexico utility PNM, environmental, renewable energy and government groups could pave the way for the development of nearly 80-megawatts (MW) of solar power. The agreement will form the basis for a new PNM renewable plan to be filed by Jan. 25 with the N.M. Public Regulation Commission.

PNM originally filed its renewable procurement plan on July 1, 2009, but agreed to refile parts of it at a later date to allow more time to incorporate input from these groups. That effort was started when Gov. Bill Richardson assembled a group of stakeholders to reach a consensus on revising PNM’s plan.

A goal of the group was to help achieve the goals in the Sept. 21, 2009, Green Jobs Cabinet Report from Gov. Richardson. Among other things, the proposal provides a new framework for rapid growth of customer-owned photovoltaic systems by creating a new system of incentives, along with a large-scale utility solar construction program.

New Mexico law requires PNM and other electric utilities by 2011 to have 10 percent of the energy they generate come from renewable resources such as wind and solar. The current requirement is 6 percent. The agreement reached will lay the groundwork to meet that requirement.

The agreement calls for the expansion of incentives for customer-owned solar installations that could grow participation to 24 MW, as well as up to 10 MW of PNM-owned solar facilities sited at government and tax-exempt facilities and PNM’s first significant entry into utility-scale solar with construction of up to 45 MW of PNM-owned solar facilities.

The plan to be filed by January 25 requires PRC approval. Based on the expected timeline for that approval, PNM could begin construction of the new large-scale solar facilities as early as mid-2010, with the first project operational by early 2011.

As part of the original filing, PNM will continue to pursue the biogas project it proposed in July to help meet the state renewable requirement. Through that project, PNM would rely on fuel derived from dairy waste to help supply its Luna Energy Facility near Deming, New Mexico. That project recently was approved by the PRC

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