First Solar Electricity Rate ‘Lowest Solar PPA Price We’ve Ever Seen’

First Solar has acquired the 50 MW Macho Springs Solar project in New Mexico, expected to be the state’s largest solar power plant. And, according to Bloomberg, the company may sell electricity at a lower rate than new coal plants earn.

First Solar bought the Luna County, N.M project from its developer, Element Power Solar, for an undisclosed amount in late January.

The photovoltaic solar plant is expected to be completed in 2014, displacing 40,000 tons of CO2 per year.

The Macho Springs Solar project is located on land leased from the New Mexico State Land Office, and electricity from the facility will be purchased by El Paso Electric under a power purchase agreement that is subject to regulatory approvals, expected in the first half of 2013.

Bloomberg, citing a procedural order from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, says El Paso Electric has agreed to buy power for 5.79 cents a kilowatt- hour. According to the news agency’s models, this is less than half the 12.8 cents a kilowatt-hour for power from typical new coal plants.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports thin-film PV power usually sells for 16.3 cents a kWh.

Aaron Chew, an analyst at Maxim Group, tells Bloomberg that the rate would be “the lowest solar power purchase agreement price we have ever seen,” at less than half the rate First Solar will receive for its Antelope Valley, Topaz and Agua Caliente (pictured) projects.

The Macho Springs project was the result of a request for proposal by El Paso Electric to include additional electric peaking resources in its current energy mix.

First Solar will construct the Macho Springs facility using its advanced thin-film PV modules.

First Solar completed New Mexico’s 30 MW Cimarron Solar facility in 2011, which is owned by Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy. First Solar also completed 22 MW of solar projects in the state for PNM Resources in 2011 and has been selected to build another 21.5 MW for PNM for expected completion in late 2013.


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