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Colorado company plans community solar project here

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A Colorado-based company would like to build a community solar project just west of the Roswell city limits.

Chaves Solar 2 LLC, part of Pivot Energy New Mexico LLC and Pivot Energy of Denver, Colo., has entered a land lease for a “community solar garden” at West Pine Lodge Road and the Roswell Relief Route.

The enterprise is taking the steps necessary to be selected as an energy-generator for local utility Xcel Energy in April 2022, when the state’s community solar program is expected to be finalized, said Jon Fitzpatrick, vice president of project development for Pivot Energy.

As part of that process, Chaves Solar 2 has filed for a special use permit with the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial (ETZ) Commission to establish the solar garden on 25.6 acres of land owned by Jerrod and Melissa Higgins. The lease has been set for 25 years initially.

Pivot Energy is in talks with two nearby local landowners who have expressed concerns and is expected to make its second presentation to the ETZ Commission during a Sept. 21 meeting. The first ETZ presentation occurred on Aug. 17.

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Fitzpatrick said that the project is planned to be a 5 megawatt A/C, or alternating current, power generation project that would consist of about 13,000 panels. It would generate enough power on an annual basis to supply 1,200 homes. According to a county document, the panels would be ground-mounted.

While the company has worked in several states, becoming what Fitzpatrick said is the leading community solar developer in Colorado, the project would be a first for the Roswell area. The legislation that makes community solar projects possible just passed the New Mexico Legislature in March. The Community Solar Act, or Senate Bill 84, was signed into law on April 5.

Under such projects, local utility consumers can choose to become subscribers to the project, with New Mexico requiring at least 10 subscribers.

Fitzpatrick said subscribers would realize a credit on their utility bills from their portion of participation and would share a portion of the credit with Pivot Energy. Fitzpatrick said consumers would realize a net savings, but that amount cannot be estimated yet. He said the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission is still working with utilities to determine how the bill credit will work.

The PRC also is working to finalize the program components by April 2022 in cooperation with the three investor-owned utilities in the state: Xcel, PNM or Public Service Company of New Mexico, and El Paso Electric or EPE.

“We are working to prepare our projects for submission to the program,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that the company is also working to prepare some other solar gardens in New Mexico. “We do not have permission from the utility to build this project at this time. We are simply preparing all of our project elements to present them to utility when the project goes live.”

Should Xcel decline to accept its project in April, Pivot Energy will seek to have it approved at a future time, Fitzpatrick said.

If the project is approved in April 2022, it probably would be operational in 2023. While a cost estimate for the particular site has not been developed, Fitzpatrick said that a rule of thumb is that community projects generally cost $2 million for each megawatt generated.

He said that the Roswell site is appealing because it is accessible from existing roads, on property that is flat and that receives a lot of sun, and near existing electrical infrastructure.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.