On Wednesday, the five members of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously endorsed the plan, paving the way for PNM to construct new solar photovoltaic facilities in Central New Mexico next year at a cost of $79.3 million.
The new solar capacity will allow PNM to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard in 2016, when all of the state’s public utilities are required to derive at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources, up from 10 percent today.
Once the extra 40 MW come online, PNM will have a total of 107 MW of solar feeding into its system from a total of 15 PV facilities around the state. That’s enough to meet the annual electric needs of about 40,000 average homes.
The company is exploring locations now for the new plants, PNM Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Gerard Ortiz told commissioners.
“We have options on several sites in Santa Fe and in between Valencia and Sandoval counties,” Ortiz said. “We haven’t finalized the sites yet, but (the plants) will be installed in three or four locations.”
Under the new procurement plan – agreed to in a “stipulation,” or settlement agreement signed in September by a range of parties that included the Attorney General, New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, clean energy advocates and environmental organizations – PNM will also add two megawatts of capacity to its subsidy program for customer-owned solar installations for institutional and business consumers that install 100 kilowatt to 1 MW systems. The program currently only offers subsidies for below-100 kilowatt systems.
The 2015 plan also lowers the amount of electricity that PNM will procure from the Lightning Dock geothermal generating facility in Lordsburg from 10 MW to 8 MW because the plant is not yet producing up to capacity.
PNM will add another 100 MW of wind-generated electricity to the grid next year from New Mexico wind farms under a previous renewable procurement plan approved by the PRC last year. Taken together, PNM’s wind, solar and geothermal electricity will provide enough generation in 2016 to supply power for 150,000 average residential consumers.
PNM customers currently pay for new renewable generation added to the system each year through a monthly rate rider that costs about $2.76 for the average residential user. That will rise to $3.63 per month in 2015.