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NextEra wants to expand solar operations in county

Dan Ryan, senior project manager with NextEra Energy Resources, talks about plans to expand solar operations in the local area. He gave a presentation during a Thursday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners at the Chaves County Administrative Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A large renewable energy company that operates two utility-scale solar projects in Chaves County plans to build a new $46 million project to generate an additional 30 megawatts of electricity a year.

Dan Ryan, a senior project manager with NextEra Energy Resources LLC, based in Juno Beach, Florida, said that the company intends to build on 255 acres northeast of the Roswell city limits.

The planned site for the new facility is directly to the south of the company’s Chaves County Solar I project, which is to the east of Wrangler Road between East Pine Lodge Road and Horizon Road.

During a Thursday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, Ryan described the company as the largest generator of renewable resources in the United States, with operations in Canada as well.

He said NextEra has 41 utility-scale solar facilities, including the two in Chaves County, called the Roswell Solar Facility and the Chaves County Solar I Facility. Together those generate 140 megawatts of electricity a year.

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The Chaves County Solar II project is expected to create 50 construction jobs for six months.

Ryan said that the solar panels will be above ground, but that cables and power lines would be underground to connect with existing Southwestern Public Service Co. substations.

The company hopes to begin work in June, Ryan said, adding, “It is a smaller project and we are kind of studying right now to make sure we can actually do that.”

If construction starts in June, the facility would be operation by about Dec. 31, 2022.

Unlike the other two solar facilities, the new one probably won’t be selling electricity to Xcel Energy of New Mexico and Texas. A corporate spokesman said in December that Xcel did not have current plans to expand its solar purchases in the area.

“We do have a power purchaser,” Ryan said. “It hasn’t been released yet to the public. When it is, we can let you know.”

He said that power purchasers buy a certain amount of electricity, but not specific wattages generated by specific facilities.

“I do think this power will be used in Roswell. There is nothing to say that it won’t be, but there will be a purchaser probably in another area that is paying for the power,” Ryan said.

After the meeting, Ryan indicated that he could not answer additional questions.

Chaves County Planning and Zoning Director Louis Jaramillo said that the company would have to apply for a building permit that would need to be approved by local officials before any work could begin. He added that a permit application has not been filed yet.

The Roswell Solar Facility and Chaves County Solar I Facility, which cost about $260 million to construct and are sited on 1,400 acres, began operations in September and October 2016. The 600,000 solar panels generate enough power to supply 40,000 homes a year, according to NextEra information, and provide the county and the Roswell Independent School District about $660,000 a year in payments in lieu of taxes. Xcel has a 25-year purchase agreement to buy the electricity supplied from those facilities.

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.