Officials from the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative and Rio Arriba County broke ground Oct. 26 on a 2.5 megawatt solar array project in Alcalde that will be completed in about three months.
Once completed it will be the largest commercial-sized solar array in the County.
The array will be owned and operated by Jerry Mosher, the founder and owner of Albuquerque-based Consolidated Solar Technologies, LLC. He formed a new company named Cuba Jemez, LLC to own and operate the new array.
He said the array will be made up of about 17,000 solar panels and produce up to 17,050 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. Construction will start in 30 to 45 days.
“We are using SunPower panels and (in) 45 to 50 years, they will still be producing power,” he said.
Their output will degrade over time, but they will still generate power, Mosher said.
Mosher said he signed a 25-year contract with the Co-op and will sell power generated by the array back to the Co-op for 6 cents per kilowatt hour with no escalation in price.
“The pricing stays fixed, it stays fixed for 25 years,” he said. “What is neat about the Co-op is they have a grip on it.”
County Economic Development Director Christopher Madrid said the array is also going to bring money into the County’s bank account.
The County owns the land where the array will be located and Mosher will pay $30,000 per year in rent.
“This particular project means about $750,000 in rent over the period of this lease, about $625,000 in property tax to the County, Gross Receipts Tax to the County during the construction phase,” Madrid said. “So about $1.5 million to the County.”
Madrid asked that the money be directed to future economic development projects so the County can continue to pursue these types of projects in the future.
Commissioner Alex Naranjo said this project is a long time coming.
“About two or three years ago I remember being in Chama, in Tierra Amarilla, where we were having a meeting in reference to gas for that community of Tierra Amarilla, Chama, that area,” he said. “And I kept mentioning to them in my opinion it was only a matter of time before we would start working with solar and wind.”
Co-op General Manager Donna Montoya-Trujillo said the array will help reduce the carbon footprint of the Co-op, reduce line loss and support education opportunities about alternative energy resources.
Line loss occurs when electricity has to travel long distances from where it is generated to where it will be used.
Mosher started Consolidated Solar in 2009 and has been an electrical contractor since 1983.
Others in attendance at the ceremony included County Manager Tomas Campos, Co-op Board of Trustees President Nick Naranjo, Alex Naranjo’s brother, Deputy County Manager Leo Marquez, who is the Co-op Board vice president, Co-op District 1 Trustee Dolores McCoy and Co-op District 2 Trustee Dennis Trujillo, as well as incoming County commissioners Leo Jaramillo and James Martinez.
Montoya-Trujillo said the Co-op involved the community in planning the solar array.
“Early last year, Mr. (Nick) Naranjo convened and organized an energy committee and the energy committee organized an advisory committee,” she said during the ceremony. “So this has very much been an effort with the Co-op and the community. We have tried to engage the community at all levels to be able to understand what would make the most sense in taking these next steps forward.”
She said Co-op officials had to negotiate with different companies before they decided who would build the array for the best price. Those conversations had to be kept confidential, and while she did not want to exclude advisory committee members, they could not be part of this process.
“I was more talking through the fact that the County has been so involved in their economic development program and it is very tied to community development,” she said.
Advisory committee meetings will pick up again after the new year, she said.
Energy committee meetings are not open to the public. The Co-op does not advertise the dates or times of the meetings.