From: Rosalie Rayburn, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
Published December 22, 2004 12:00 AM

New Mexico Regulators Approve Solar, Biomass Plans

Dec. 22—SANTA FE, N.M. — State regulators Tuesday approved a PNM plan to spend up to $1.4 million on solar and biomass projects to comply with a state renewable energy law.

Public Service Company of New Mexico will spend $300,000 to build a 25-kilowatt solar photovoltaic generating plant capable of supplying power for 20 average households. PNM expects to build the plant in 2005.

The state's largest utility also plans to spend about $850,000 to study the feasibility of building a biomass plant capable of producing at least 10 megawatts of electricity from organic material such as forest thinnings. A megawatt is enough for about 800 households.

PNM has not yet picked potential sites for either plant.

The utility also plans to set aside about $200,000 for a program to give incentives to individual customers who want to install solar photovoltaic panels and sell electricity back to the utility. PNM is working with Gov. Bill Richardson's Distributed Renewable Energy Task Force to have a program ready to implement late in 2005.

Some utilities, such as Tucson Electric Power in Arizona and Austin Energy in Texas, already have programs that offer customers rebates or attractive prices for solar power.

"We will be looking at other programs and draft our own," said PNM spokesman Don Brown. A state law passed this year requires utilities to derive 5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2006, rising to 10 percent by 2011. The law requires each of the state's three investor-owned utilities to submit their renewable plans to the Public Regulation Commission for approval.

Regulators also approved renewable energy plans on Tuesday for Xcel Energy and El Paso Electric. Xcel's plan focused on wind energy. Minneapolis, Minn.-based Xcel, which has 108,000 customers in eastern New Mexico, has a 1.98-megawatt wind farm at Texico-Farwell near Clovis. Xcel also plans to complete an 80-megawatt wind farm near Tucumcari and a 125-megawatt farm at Elida, between Roswell and Portales.

El Paso plans to buy wind power from PNM to comply with the requirement.

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© 2004, Albuquerque Journal. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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