Thursday, June 11, 2009

Solar Plants and Smart Grids Coming to New Mexico

Governor Bill Richardson today announced the construction of New Mexico’s first solar thermal power plant, a 92 megawatt concentrating solar thermal facility in Santa Teresa. The Governor was joined at a press conference in Santa Fe by the three companies involved in the project- El Paso Electric, NRG Technologies, and eSolar. Work on the “New Mexico Suntower” project is scheduled to begin early next year.

The announcement came on the same day that Smart Grid announced that a team of well known Japanese companies Hitachi, Toshiba, Fuji, and Panasonic plans to construct a working Smart Grid system in an unspecified New Mexico town by 2010.

Richardson says the Solar plant will be a cutting-edge facility that will turn New Mexico's renewable energy potential into reality and add a "green boost to our economy."
This keeps our state on the path toward efficiently utilizing our natural resources and moving us toward a clean energy economy. We are setting an example for the rest of the nation and sending a clear message that New Mexico will play a key role in developing the new energy economy.
Solar thermal power tower technology utilizes a field of mirrors to concentrate sunlight on receivers placed on top of towers that are about 180 feet tall. This allows liquid housed in the receivers to be heated to very high temperatures and produce super-heated steam, which then turns a turbine that produces electricity, similar to other power plants. There will be 32 mirror fields when the Santa Teresa plant is completed, consisting of approximately 390,000 tracking mirrors focused on 32 power towers.

"What we’re highlighting here today is but one step in a journey that will require more steps and more renewable projects like this solar plant. This is the right step at the right time,” said David Stevens, CEO of El Paso Electric.

“Governor Richardson’s leadership has made New Mexico one of the best locations in the nation for developing solar energy. In addition to their obvious encouragement and support for increased renewable power, the state offers precisely the kind of renewable energy incentives and pro-business policies that the solar industry needs to grow rapidly into a major provider of clean energy for our families and our communities,” said Michael Liebelson, Chief Development Officer, Low Carbon Technologies for NRG.

“This project is a marriage made in heaven-- bringing together the right solar resources with the right incentives and business policies, and the right technology. Together with NRG, we are working to usher in the next generation of renewable energy power generation, and we are incredibly excited to accelerate the deployment of solar energy in New Mexico and across the United States,” added eSolar CEO Bill Gross.

The project will create 220 green construction jobs in Southern New Mexico, and will provide more than 20 permanent, full-time jobs when the plant is fully operational.

The smart grid effort is led by Japan’s public research and development organization for environmental technologies, NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization). The Japanese government is expected to invest between $20.3 and $30.4 million in the project, which will include digital monitoring and distribution of power as well as solar power generation and storage.

Following construction, the Japanese companies will retain ownership of the grid and control it in large part via the Internet.

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