Aztec commission approves power agreement

Joshua Kellogg

AZTEC — Construction on a $2 million solar energy farm will start next month after the Aztec City Commission approved agreements with a solar power company during Monday night’s meeting.

The commissioners approved two agreements between the city of Aztec and Guzman Energy of Coral Gables, Fla., to enter into a wholesale power agreement and to build a solar energy facility on city property.

“I think it’s a great direction for us,” Mayor Sally Burbridge said after the meeting. “We’ve just been, over the years, reviewing various projects and opportunities as they come up until one came up that made financial sense."

Electric Director Ken George said Guzman Energy will be the primary provider of power for the city of Aztec starting on July 1 when its contract with the Public Service Company of New Mexico ends on June 30.

George said the new agreement could save the city about $70,000 a month or 1.5 cents per kilowatt based on last month’s billing from PNM.

“Our plan is to give the customers a break,” George said. “Whatever savings we can get out of this, we’re going to give it right back to the customer.”

The 1 megawatt solar-powered electric energy generating facility will be constructed on an eight-acre site south of Western Circle near the public works building, according to City Manager Joshua Ray.

It will generate about 8 percent of the city’s electricity with about 72 percent coming from Guzman’s other energy assets. Aztec receives about 20 percent of its electricity from the hydropower plants operated by the Western Area Power Administration.

Construction is expected to start in January and the system is projected to be up and running by mid-June.

Ray said there are no costs for the city to pay on the construction and operations of the solar field as those costs will be paid by Guzman as part of a seven-year contract. When the contract expires in 2023, Aztec will own the solar farm.

When the wholesale power agreement comes up for renewal in 2023, the city will be able to charge customers less because it will be generating about 5 to 8 percent of its own electricity with the solar farm, according to Ray.

In other business, commissioners approved a $35,000 money transfer from the electric utility fund to the Hidden Valley Golf Course fund. Commissioners shared their frustration and concerns about the operations of the golf course and low revenues.

Commissioner Katee McClure said she hopes transferring money to the golf course does not become a trend and would probably vote no on future money transfers. She hoped the golf course would be closer to breaking even.

“If I see this a trend, I would pull the plug,” McClure said about possibly ending the city’s management of the 18-hole golf course. “I would probably campaign for that because there are a few hundred golfers but there are a few thousand (residents) in Aztec.”

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.