New Mexico co-op signs 4.5 cent/kWh PPA for community solar project


In March, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association issued a report that rural electric co-operatives were betting heavily on solar power as the future electricity source for their future electricity-production needs. Now one such co-operative in New Mexico has signed what the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) calls the lowest per kilowatt-hour (kWh) distributed energy power purchase agreement (PPA) in the country at 4.5 cents/kWh.

The Otero County Electric Cooperative (OCEC) signed a 25-year PPA with SoCore Energy to receive electricity from the 3 MW capacity Carrizozo project, located in neighboring Lincoln County. SoCore, developer and owner of the project, says it will come online in March.

It is notable that unlike larger utility-scale solar projects, the Carrizozo project is connected to the distribution grid. And while 4.5 cents/kWh is a very good price for such a project, power contracts for larger solar projects connected to the transmission grid are regularly being signed at under 3 cents/kWh in sunny states like California and Texas.

RMI analyzed the project and supported the competitive procurement process conducted by the county.

In addition to the power, OCEC will receive renewable energy credits (RECs) as part of the PPA. The co-operative covered the cost of the land and will pay the interconnection costs.

“The Carrizozo solar project allows us to deliver renewable energy to our members while also saving them money,” said Mario Romero, chief executive of the co-operative. “Since OCEC purchases the energy produced by this project at such a great price, this project will allow all of our 14,000 members to benefit by reducing our overall cost of purchased power.”

Not only does OCEC expect the deal to save its members money, it says the project will also generate approximately $550,000 in property tax revenue over its lifetime.

Carrizozo is the second community solar project in which the co-operative is involved. It already receives power from a 150 kw project origjnally built in 2014 with half the capacity. It also receives solar electricity from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, including two utility-scale solar power projects.

OCEC said Tri-State is the largest solar co-operative in the country and currently operates 85 MW in solar capacity.

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