New Mexico solar project sites 200 MW on former coal plant


Origis Energy announced it has commenced construction on the Escalante Solar project, which emerged on the site of a decommissioned 253 MW coal-powered plant. The 200 MW project is expected to reach commercial operations in 2024. 

The project is comprised of 500,000 solar modules and is estimated to produce enough power for 40,000 New Mexico homes. It is expected to offset 192,156 kg of carbon emissions that would otherwise have been produced by a comparable coal plant.

The coal plant, operated by Tri-State and closed in 2020, marks the first solar project to start construction under the utility’s Responsible Energy Plan announced the same year.

“We continue to reinvest in the local community and advance our goal of having 50% of the energy used by our members coming from renewable resources in 2025 and meeting the 2030 renewable energy requirements of the Energy Transition Act five years early,” said Duane Highley, chief executive officer, Tri-State.

Origis Energy acquired the development rights for the Escalante Solar Project from TurningPoint Energy, the original developer. Located in Continental Divide Electric Cooperative’s (CDEC’s) service territory, the project will serve all of Tri-State’s members, including CDEC and its other ten members in New Mexico.

“CohnReznick Capital helped engage us with Origis and we ultimately partnered with Origis on this project because they are uniquely qualified to deliver on utility-scale solar projects in today’s business environment,” said Jared Schoch, president of TurningPoint Energy.

Constuction services are being provided by Albuquerque-headquartered Gridworks. Peak construction is expected to employ 400 people, and upon completion four to six long-term on-site jobs will remain.

“While the solar project cannot replace jobs at the retired coal plant, the addition of new tax base for McKinley County and our local school district is impactful, and we appreciate Tri-State and the project partners for bringing Escalante Solar to our region,” said Robert E. Castillo, chief executive officer of CDEC.

The project negotiated an Industrial Revenue Bond with McKinley County, N.M., which will generate approximately $7,100,000 in taxes to the County and $2,400,000 in taxes to the School District over the life of the project.

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