PNM, Jicarilla Apache Nation to Build Solar Source for New Mexico

A first-of-its-kind solar source is coming to Jicarilla Apache land to power cities, municipalities and large businesses across New Mexico to help them achieve their sustainability targets. 

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission recently approved the PNM Solar Direct program, a new 50MW renewable energy resource to be built on 500 acres of Jicarilla Apache Nation land in Northern New Mexico. 

The project represents a partnership between PNM and the Jicarilla Apache Nation, as well as thought leaders from the City of Albuquerque, Santa Fe County, Western New Mexico University, the City of Deming, Deming Public Schools, Grant County, Silver City, and Wal-Mart. 

By subscribing to this newly approved voluntary solar program, cities, governments and large businesses make a 15-year commitment to match their energy use to this facility output and, in addition, pay the costs of building this facility. By doing so, the City of Albuquerque, Santa Fe County, Western New Mexico University and other subscribers help the entire state tap into New Mexico’s expansive solar potential and move more quickly toward an ever-more-affordable 100% renewable energy economy.

The power purchase agreement (PPA) would be for 15 years and would include a recurring lease payment to the Jicarilla Nation.

Hecate Energy will build the 50-MW facility that includes a 20-megawatt battery storage unit. Construction is expected to finish in March 2021. It will produce enough solar to power 16,000 homes per year.

Partnerships of this kind are becoming more prevalent as they bring tax-advantage incentives to the table for Tribal entities with energy companies driven by the low cost of utility-scale solar, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). 

A vast amount of renewable energy technical potential exists on Tribal lands in the United States, as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) underscores, and southwestern Tribal lands are far and away the largest single repository of utility-scale solar potential, states the IEEFA.  

PNM Solar Direct Partners

The partnership recognized the need for a more sustainable future and understood that by working together they could achieve their goals while remaining economically sound.

The cost of building the 50-megawatt solar field through PNM Solar Direct is less than half the cost it would be for individual rooftop solar. Additionally, the program helps reduce volatility of electric bills, with the fixed price of electricity over the term of the subscription providing protection from fluctuating energy costs. 

The City of Albuquerque is on the path to 100% renewable energy. The PNM Solar Direct program will match  54% of the Albuquerque’s energy needs to a renewable energy resource. With the addition of the City’s rooftop solar projects, Albuquerque expects to achieve at least 65% renewable energy use by 2021.

“Albuquerque is at the forefront of cleaner, safer, healthier cities, and every step we take today will have a resounding impact on our future. We have put our city in the top ten nationwide for renewable cities, and we’re working side-by-side with our partners to show that we can do better for future generations,” said Mayor Tim Keller, City of Albuquerque.

“Our path to 100% emissions free is shared by our communities throughout the state. Through the PNM Solar Direct program we are able to help our cities and large businesses meet their own sustainability targets by doing what we do best – generating and delivering electricity reliably and at a low cost,” said Pat Vincent-Collawn, Chairman, President, and CEO for PNM.

“Santa Fe County is pleased to work with the Jicarilla Apache Nation, PNM, and other partners to use the Solar Direct program to reach our renewable energy goals,” said Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen.

Western New Mexico University later announced their goal of being 100% renewable by 2024 and their plans for the PNM Solar Direct program to help them reach 54% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2021.

“The solar direct program provides the opportunity for innovative companies like PNM to work with its customer base and move our energy needs toward renewable sources in a more prominent and sustainable manner,” said Western New Mexico University President, Dr. Joe Shepard.

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