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Dec 23, 2019

El Paso Electric moves toward cleaner generation through solar, battery storage

Daily Energy Insider | Chris Galford
December 23, 2019

Looking for new ways to meet the future demands of the summer 2022-2023 season, El Paso Electric (EPE) has announced a long-term energy supply resource plan based on expanded solar energy, its first utility-scale battery storage effort and a new natural gas fired unit.

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Since 2017, EPE has known that around 50 MW of additional capacity would be needed by 2022, and 320 MW by 2023, if they were to meet growing customer demands. Meeting that need will now take the form of power purchased from three long term power agreements and the new gas-fired generation unit. The agreements draw in 200 MW of power from yet to be constructed solar facilities in New Mexico, as well as 100 MW from battery storage facilities to be built in New Mexico and Texas. The two 50 MW battery storage projects represent EPE’s first utility-scale forays into storage.

“Over the last year, we have continued seeing growth in our region and have added approximately 7,000 customers,” Adrian Rodriguez, EPE’s Interim CEO, said. “Additionally, because of falling renewable energy prices, and changing customer expectations on how they receive their energy, we are able to offer more sustainable solutions. Today’s announcement further underscores our responsibility to both increase and enhance our power generation capability while simultaneously meeting our regional customers changing needs in a safe, clean, reliable, and cost-effective manner.”

Beyond the renewable efforts, 228 MW will be ready for EPE’s customers from the new gas-fired generation unit to be built at the existing Newman Power Plant site.

The renewable projects will be handled by Hecate Energy, NextEra Energy Resources, and Ørsted Onshore will manage the development of the new renewable sites. The solar facilities should be online — pending approval — by May 2022, with the Texan stand-alone battery storage facility and gas generation unit to follow by summer 2023. All told, these efforts will nearly triple EPE’s renewable energy portfolio. 

“Our ability to grow our renewable energy portfolio with additional solar is maximized with the addition of battery storage capability,” Rodriguez said. “By being able to introduce large-scale battery storage into our region, we will, for the first time ever, be able to harness the power of the sun from our solar facilities and utilize that energy at night and during cloudy days.”

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