News Column

El Paso Electric Says Solar Power Is Up

May 10, 2013
Solar power

M Next year at this time, more than 5 percent of El Paso Electric's power will come from five large solar plants in New Mexico, and the company hopes to continue growing that portfolio, El Paso Electric CEO Tom Shockley said at the company's annual shareholders meeting Thursday.

The 5 percent of solar power is "very high compared to virtually every other electric utility" in the nation, he said. "So, we're making great progress."

As solar power prices decrease, it's becoming a more-attractive form of energy, Shockley said after his 10-minute speech. "Macho Springs is very competitive with other forms of generation."

El Paso Electric has a 20-year agreement to buy power from the 50-megawatt Macho Springs solar plant being built near Deming by First Solar of Phoenix. It's billed as New Mexico's largest solar project.

The utility buys 47 mega watts of solar power from three New Mexico solar plants, including one in Santa Teresa, built by other companies to supply the utility.

While the solar portfolio is growing, the company obtains most of its power from the Palo Verde nuclear power plant near Phoenix, which provides up to 633 megawatts of power, and from three El Paso natural gas-fueled power plants, which provide up to 1,023 megawatts. It also gets power from the Four Corners coal-fired power plant in New Mexico in which it has part ownership.

El Paso Electric has been forced by New Mexico mandates to use more solar power in that state while Texas has minimal solar requirements. It's been difficult to put a large solar plant in El Paso because of state regulations, Shockley said. However, the company is in the process of completing an agreement with Fort Bliss to help locate a 20-megawatt plant there to serve the Army post.

Only a few shareholders attended the 30-minute, uneventful meeting at El Paso Electric's Downtown headquarters.

W. Stafford Thurmond, an investment firm manager who has held El Paso Electric stock for years, said he's pleased with the way the financially healthy utility has been operating in recent years.

He also applauded its increasing use of solar power.

He complimented the leadership of Shockley, who became permanent chief executive officer last June, after serving four months as interim CEO.

"He respects all sides of the equation" -- businesses, individuals and government regulators, Thurmond said.

Shockley and three other members of the company's board of directors were re-elected by shareholders, who voted by proxy. The others are James Cicconi, an AT&T Services executive in Washington, D.C.; J. Robert Brown, an El Pasoan who invests in real estate; and Patricia Holland-Branch, CEO and owner of Facilities Connection, an El Paso commercial design company.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at vkolenc@elpasotimes.com; 546-6421. Follow him on Twitter @vickolencInformation: epelectric.com

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(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

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Source: Copyright El Paso Times (TX) 2013


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