Looking to the sun for a viable energy source, the Public Service Company of New Mexico unveiled its latest solar energy center in Otero County on Tuesday.
The new 7.5-megawatt PNM Otero County Solar Energy Center was a $17.5 million investment made by the company, according to a PNM press release. The center is located on a 70-acre site southeast of Tularosa. Tom Kelly, the PNM construction manager for the solar energy center, said there are approximately 101,250 panels to absorb the rays from the sun to provide about 2,450 homes with energy in the area.
“All this power will be used in this community,” Kelly said. “Electrons follow the path of least resistance. So, if somebody at the school turns on a computer it’s going to go there, it’s going to go to the recreational vehicle park and to the church. So basically it feeds this part of the system. It’s not going to California. It’s for our customers right here in Alamogordo.”
The facility is interconnected to PNM’s existing electric distribution system and is owned and operated by the company.
“It’s clean energy,” Kelly said. “So it’s a good fit for PNM to have solar on our system.”
The center is estimated to reduce annual carbon emissions by 7,200 tons, which is the equivalent of removing 1,360 cars from the road, according to PNM.
Susan Sponar, a PNM spokesperson for renewable energy said the solar energy is an endless supply of free fuel.
“It doesn’t use water to generate electricity,” Sponar said. “That’s important for this community.”
Sponar said just because it is a solar energy center doesn’t make it any less hazardous to people who might venture onto the property.
“One thing we do want to communicate to the community is that this is a live working energy power plant and it’s just like any other electric facility so people should stay out and stay safe,” Sponar said. “Electrical facilities are dangerous if you come in contact.”
According to PNM, the project created 115 temporary jobs for New Mexicans during its construction. The solar energy center is expected to provide thousands of dollars of new tax revenue for Otero County next year.
Otero County Chairwoman Susan Flores attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new center.
“I’m all for renewable energies,” Flores said. “I have 24 solar panels at my house.”
Mayor Robert Rentschler also attended the event and spoke about how important it was to have the solar energy center for citizens in the community.