Two utilities with large stakes in the renewable energy, just laid the groundwork for an even bigger piece of the pie: NextEra Energy Resources and Xcel Energy said that they have commissioned two of New Mexico’s large photovoltaic projects in New Mexico: the Roswell and Chaves County Solar Energy Centres.
“Solar energy creates solid, high-paying jobs and produces millions of dollars in payments over the life of the project to landowners and local government that directly benefit schools, roads and essential services,” said Mike O’Sullivan, senior vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources, which will build, own and operate the projects.
The Roswell and Chaves County Solar Energy Centers feature approximately 600,000 solar panels with trackers that will follow the sun from east to west each day to maximize energy production, the company’s release said. Together, they have a generating capacity of 140 megawatts, or enough to power more than 40,000 homes. The energy will serve customers of Xcel Energy in New Mexico and Texas starting this year, it continues.
Xcel is buying the power under a power purchase agreement. Such a contract gives NextEra a guaranteed market and a stream of income. In addition to that, the federal production tax credits offset the initial cost of the project.
“Our customers have told us they want more affordable, renewable energy, generated by the state’s own sunshine, and these projects are an excellent demonstration of how we are delivering on that commitment for our customers,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy New Mexico and Texas, in a release. “Additionally, this is an opportunity for Xcel Energy to diversify our energy production resource mix in an economical manner.”
By using renewable energy from the sun, the projects will avoid approximately 240,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions that would have been produced if the electricity had been generated using fossil fuels, the companies maintain.
The United States will install more than 6,000 megawatts of non-renewable portfolio standard utility-scale solar in 2016 — electrons that feed into the grid. That’s compared to the roughly 4,000 megawatts installed in 2015, all according to Greentech Media. Still, the growth potential for onsite rooftop solar for homes and businesses is also enormous, largely because of the falling price of solar panels.
“The growth in renewables is driven by state requirements and, federal tax credits have improved the economics,” says Cheryl Wilson, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Looking out, that growth is expected to continue,” especially if the Clean Power Plan is enacted, as expected.
What other utilities are being proactive? Southern Co. plans to invest about $5 billion in renewable energy over the next two years. And Berkshire Hathaway’s energy unit has invested $16 billion in renewables and now owns 7 percent of the country’s wind generation and 6 percent of its solar generation. NextEra Energy meanwhile, also develops these projects for other utilities.