In no particular order, Chaves County Commissioners Robert Corn, Smiley Wooten, Will Cavin, Kim Chesser, RISD School Board President Peggy Brewer, PRC Commissioner Patrick H. Lyons, Jim Shandalov, executive director at NextEra Energy and Mike McLeod, regional manager at Xcel Energy, break ground on NextEra Energy’s new solar array, the largest solar energy project in New Mexico. (Bethany Freudenthal Photo)
Construction of a $290 million solar energy array, the largest in the state, began Thursday with a groundbreaking ceremony at the Wrangler Road project site behind the Roswell Mall in Chaves County.
The three-stage project will see construction of three solar farms, two producing 70 megawatts of energy and one capable of producing 30 megawatts of energy over the next year.
According to project owners NextEra Energy Resources LLC, that’s enough electricity to power more than 40 thousand average homes.
In a proposal agreed upon earlier this year between NextEra, Chaves County and the Roswell Independent School District, Chaves County agreed to issue a $290-million industrial bond to finance the project.
In exchange, property taxes on the land will be deferred for the next 30 years and replaced by an annual payment of $9.6 million, of which $320,000 will be directed to RISD, and $480,000 will be directed to Chaves County.
The project will also help keep costs down for consumers.
“It’s helping about 20 percent of the state, because it’s bringing in electricity at a very affordable rate for the rate payer, so hopefully, we can keep electricity rates down, and (they will be), affordable, and (the) most important thing is reliability,” said Public Regulations Commissioner Patrick H. Lyons.
Xcel Energy, which services 385,000 customers in eastern and southeastern New Mexico, as well as the panhandle and south plains regions of Texas, said they have signed two long-term purchase agreements with NextEra that will continue to keep energy costs low for customers.
The proposed solar farms will use about 700,000 solar panels with trackers that will follow the sun east to west each day to maximize energy production, said a NextEra representative.
Payments to Chaves County and RISD are scheduled to begin next year.
Staff writer Bethany Freudenthal may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or email@example.com.