Solar Set to Be Cheaper Than Coal in New Mexico

First Solar will develop a 50 MW PV power plant in New Mexico that will generate power at a price even lower than that produced by coal-fired power stations.

The Macho Springs Solar Park in New Mexico will be the largest solar power plant in the state, and will be composed of thin film, rather than the traditional crystalline silicon, PV modules.

First Solar has arranged a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the El Paso Electric Company – to be signed in June – that will price electricity produced by PV power for 5.79 cents per kilowatt-hour.

This price would be lower than the median cost of coal, currently at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, and less than half the average price of energy from new coal-powered power stations, currently at 12.8 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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A First Solar installation in Cimarron, New Mexico. Credit: First Solar

This new low price is even significantly less than the average price of thin-film generated PV power, which sits at 16.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2014. According to First Solar, their thin-film modules work more efficiently in hotter climates than traditional crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels, explaining the record low price.

The PV power plant is set to create up to 400 construction jobs and power over 18,000 households, while displacing 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. That’s the same as removing 8,000 cars off the road.

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