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Photosol moving forward with 3 solar projects near San Juan County power plants

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — A company hoping to develop more than 1,300 megawatts of solar as well as battery storage in three distinct projects in San Juan County says that it is clearing important milestones that will bring these projects closer to reality.

Photosol US, a subsidiary of one of France’s leading solar providers, has been working to develop its Four Corners Solar Center, which consists of three distinct projects.

CEO Josh Case presented details on these three projects and where they stand in development during the San Juan County Commission meeting on Nov. 10, which can be viewed on YouTube.

MORE:Photosol US looks to develop three solar arrays near San Juan, Four Corners power plants

These projects include:

  • Shiprock Solar: 360 megawatts of solar with storage located primarily on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management north of the San Juan Generating Station. Information about this project can be found at shiprocksolar.com.
  • Four Corners Solar: 400 megawatts of solar with storage located at Navajo Mine in an area of reclaimed land.
  • San Juan Solar: 598 megawatts of solar with 300 megawatts storage located on private land near the San Juan Generating Station.
An employee at Navajo Mine checks a sprinkler system on Aug. 1, 2019 in a recently seeded part of the mine.

Photosol received a variance from the Bureau of Land Management in August for the Shiprock Solar Project and is now waiting on the results of an environmental assessment required under the National Environmental Policy Act. Case anticipates that will result in a finding of no significant impacts, which will allow the project to move forward.

The BLM is working with the Western Area Power Administration on the NEPA process, as Photosol must enter into a transmission agreement with WAPA to put the electricity on the grid at the Shiprock substation that is operated by WAPA. Photosol is in the final phase of the interconnection study for the Shiprock Solar Project.

MORE:Shiprock Solar Project could create jobs, invest millions of dollars into the community

A transformer is pictured just outside the San Juan Generating Station. The transformer increases the voltage prior to transporting it away from the power plant.

Case said the San Juan Solar project will be the first one operational with at least a portion of it being completed by June 2022. The other two projects will be operational in 2023 or 2024. An interconnection agreement with Arizona Public Service Company for the Four Corners Solar Project has been drafted and Case anticipates it will be signed by the end of the year.

San Juan Solar power purchase agreement pending PRC approval

One of these projects, San Juan Solar, has a power purchase agreement with Public Service Company of New Mexico as part of PNM’s plan to replace the electricity currently generated by the San Juan Generating Station. This power purchase agreement is pending approval by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, however Case anticipates it will could be approved as early as next week.

MORE:San Juan Generating Station renewable energy plan gets approval from PRC

PNM is only purchasing a portion of the power that Photosol hopes to generate at San Juan Solar, which will be located on private land near the San Juan Generating Station and the electricity generated at the solar array will be placed onto the grid at the power plant’s switchyard.

The San Juan Generating Station is seen, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, from Twin Peaks in Kirtland. The Shiprock Solar and San Juan Solar projects would be located near the coal-fired power plant.

The PRC could approve a 200 megawatt power purchase agreement, and Case said that portion of the array will be completed by June 2022, allowing PNM to receive electricity from the solar system as soon as it stops receiving electricity from the coal-fired power plant.

The power purchase agreement provided to the PRC states that PNM will purchase the electricity at a rate of $26.31 per megawatt hour. In addition, PNM will pay $7.70 monthly per kilowatt of battery storage. The power purchase agreement is a 20-year contract.

The PRC earlier this year approved a replacement power plan for PNM that included 650 megawatts of solar as well as 300 megawatts of battery storage located in San Juan, McKinley and Rio Arriba counties. The San Juan Solar project makes up a portion of the solar that would be located within San Juan County’s Central Consolidated School District.

100-megawatt Rockmont Solar Project could also come to San Juan County

A second solar project in CCSD was also included in the replacement power plan. The second solar project is called the Rockmont Solar Project and PNM will pay $27.35 per megawatt hour over that 20 year contract term as well as $7.99 each month per kilowatt of battery storage. Rockmont’s power purchase agreement is 100 megawatts of solar with 30 megawatts of battery storage.

However, PNM has also included an alternative that would not involve approval of the Rockmont Solar Project Power Purchase Agreement. Instead, PNM would enter into a 299 megawatt power purchase agreement with Photosol’s San Juan Solar which would also include 130 megawatts of battery storage.

This would save PNM customers approximately $22.7 million but could potentially increase construction and operational risks, PNM states in documents filed with the PRC.

Transmission lines run from the San Juan Generating Station in August 2016.

The other solar projects, which are located in neighboring counties, have a lower power purchase cost.

PNM would purchase electricity for $19.73 per megawatt hour from the Jicarilla project and pay $9.97 per megawatt hour of battery storage.

The Arroyo Project power purchase agreement calls for PNM to pay $18.65 per megawatt hour and $7.46 per kilowatt month.

Solar projects will bring jobs, tax revenue

PNM estimates that the renewable energy projects that will replace the San Juan Generating Station will lead to an investment of $1.13 to $1.16 billion in New Mexico and, of that investment, $558 million to $618 million will be invested in the projects within the CCSD boundaries. The first year of property tax revenue will generate $3.1 million within CCSD boundaries and a total of $5.35 million statewide.

Hundreds of jobs will be created during the construction, with a peak of 500 jobs, according to Case. However, once the facility is built, only a handful of full-time employees will be needed to operate it.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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