From: Rosalie Rayburn, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
Published November 8, 2004 12:00 AM

New Mexico Task Force Locates Three Possible Sites for Solar Energy Plant

Nov. 8—ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The governor's solar energy task force has released a feasibility study showing three sites in southern New Mexico and two near Belen as suitable for a commercial solar power plant.

The task force met recently in Santa Fe to discuss the study and announced plans to develop a short list of two or three sites capable of producing at least 50 megawatts of electricity, said task force leader Craig O'Hare, the governor's special assistant for renewable energy.

The task force is also looking at the type of technology and financial incentives the state could offer to induce a developer to build a such a plant, O'Hare said.

The task force should give its recommendation to the governor's Clean Energy Development Council in December or early January, he said.

Gov. Bill Richardson established the council in April as part of the state Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Black & Veatch, the Overland Park, Kan., engineering and construction company that conducted the study, picked the sites because of their abundant sunshine, proximity to power transmission lines and access to water.

The three southern New Mexico sites are all near gas-fueled power plants:

— Northwest of Deming near the partially built 570-megawatt gas power plant owned by Duke Energy. Duke is trying to sell the plant. The study estimates it could be completed 12 to 18 months after construction is restarted.

— About 12 miles southeast of Lordsburg near Tri-State Transmission and Generation's 40-megawatt Pyramid plant.

— Immediately northeast of Lordsburg near Public Service Company of New Mexico's 80-megawatt Lordsburg plant.

The two Belen locations are within a few miles of the site where Chicago-based People's Energy Resources plans to build a 280-megawatt gas-fueled plant.

Locating a field of solar heat collectors next to a gas power plant would ensure a back-up source of heat to turn the solar turbines when the sun is not shining, O'Hare said.

A hybrid solar and gas plant would provide a reliable source of electricity so utilities could incorporate more renewable energy into their portfolios, he said.

The task force is also looking at technology developed by Sandia National Laboratories that would allow solar heat to be stored in molten salt for several hours after the sun sets.

"This is homegrown technology that we're getting out of the R and D lab into the marketplace," O'Hare said.

Developers could also recoup costs faster with a solar and gas plant because it could produce most of its electricity during the summer, when demand and prices are highest. O'Hare estimated it would cost about $150 million to build a 50-megawatt solar plant.

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