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

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The San Juan Generating Station is pictured, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, from the San Juan Mine.

AZTEC — With the potential closure of coal-fired power plants, some companies are seizing opportunities to build generation facilities with the hopes of filling the need for electricity.

One of those companies is Photosol US, which has three solar projects proposed for San Juan County. Photosol US is a subsidiary of a French company.

The three projects are located near the Four Corners Power Plant, the San Juan Generating Station and the Shiprock substation.

In an email to The Daily Times, Photosol US CEO Josh Case referred to the collective three projects as the Four Corners Solar Center.

A recently seeded area at Navajo Mine is pictured Aug. 1, 2019. The Four Corners Power Plant is in the background.

The projects come as the region braces for the potential closure of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022, along with the Four Corners Power Plant in 2031.

Case said the target customers are the utilities that'll be moving away from coal-fired generation.

The San Juan Generating Station may remain open if the City of Farmington and Enchant Energy successfully retrofit the plant with carbon capture technology. Even if the plant stays open, Case said Photosol believes that its projects are well positioned.

San Juan Solar Project

Photosol US plans to lease more than 4,000 acres of private land near the San Juan Generating Station to build a solar array.

Case said that project is known as the San Juan Solar Project and is located about 3.5 miles northeast of the existing power plant.

Case anticipates the San Juan Solar Project will be ready for commercial operation in the third or fourth quarter of 2023. 

San Juan Mine as well as coal stock piles can be seen from the San Juan Generating Station, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Waterflow.

The Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Generating Station have provided reliable electricity to utilities throughout the Southwest for decades.

That required extensive transmission lines. That transmission ability, combined with abundant sunlight, makes the area an ideal site for solar arrays.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico recently performed a transmission study that looked at various proposed projects in the area and what upgrades would be needed to bring them online.

That study included the San Juan Solar project, which includes a 400-megawatt solar array and battery storage. The document, which is dated June 2020, refers to the project as the Four Corners Solar. Case said that name has been changed to the San Juan Solar project.

In the email, Case said the project also includes another 198-megawatt array with storage.

Case said the San Juan Solar project is on private land northeast of the San Juan Generating Station and is within the Central Consolidated School District boundaries. That means it will generate property tax revenue for the district.

That is important because the San Juan Generating Station and its associated San Juan Mine are two of the largest contributors of property tax revenue to the district. 

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

"The San Juan Solar Project will bring economic development, construction jobs, long term operation and maintenance jobs (and) tax base that will benefit the CCSD and will support the Energy Transition Act, which will bring clean renewable energy to San Juan County and the state of New Mexico," Case said in an email.

Shiprock Solar Project

Construction on the Shiprock Solar Project will begin in 2022 if Photosol is granted a variance.

The project would be located on federal lands leased from the Bureau of Land Management. Because those lands are not in areas the BLM has classified as solar energy zones, Photosol is working to get a variance for the project.

More:Shiprock Solar project could create jobs, invest millions of dollars into the community

The Shiprock Solar project would be a 372-megawatt array with battery storage. More information about the project is available at shiprocksolar.com.

Photosol US hopes to construct three new solar arrays near the San Juan Generating Station, pictured in this 2018 photo, and the Four Corners Power Plant.

Case said the company also has an option to use a site west of the Shiprock Solar Project.

A few years ago, Western Energy Partners proposed building the Clean Path Energy Center at that location. Clean Path Energy Center would have included both solar and natural gas generation, but those plans never came to fruition.

Four Corners Solar Project

Photosol US hopes the Four Corners Solar Project may soon have its first customer. 

When the Salt River Project, which provides power to Phoenix, sent out a request for proposals this year, Photosol responded in partnership with Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

More:NTEC, Photosol US propose solar array at Navajo Mine on reclaimed land

Photosol and NTEC have proposed providing SRP with 200 megawatts of solar electricity from an array that would be located on reclaimed lands at Navajo Mine, which provides coal to Four Corners Power Plant.

The reclaimed Chinde area is pictured, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, at Navajo Mine.

While the proposal submitted to SRP included 200 megawatts of power, the solar array will be a 400-megawatt array.

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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