* Xcel to buy power from state's largest solar plant
* El Paso Electric also working on first solar project
HOUSTON Dec 15 Two solar facilities will begin
construction before the end of the year in New Mexico as
utilities work to meet the state's renewable energy mandate.
Xcel Energy's (XEL.N) utility serving New Mexico and Texas
broke ground on Wednesday on a 54-megawatt photovoltaic solar
project to be built and operated by SunEdison, a subsidiary of
MEMC Electronic Materials Inc WFR.N.
The solar project, which will be the state's largest, will
allow the utility to fulfill a New Mexico mandate that
utilities use renewable sources to supply 15 percent of their
electricity needs by 2015, the company said.
The renewable mandate increases to 20 percent by 2020.
The SunEdison facility will include solar arrays at five
sites in Lea and Eddy counties and is expected to be
operational by the end of 2011, said a spokesman for Xcel's
Southwestern Public Service regional operating company.
The project will generate more than 2 million
megawatt-hours of renewable energy over 20 years -- enough to
supply more than 192,000 average U.S. homes for one year, Xcel
Southwestern Public Service will pay 10.3 cents per
kilowatt-hour for the plant's output in the first year, an Xcel
spokesman said. The price will increase by 3.3 percent per year
over the 20-year contract.
About a quarter of SPS' 400,000 customers live in New
Separately, NRG Energy (NRG.N) said earlier this month it
will start construction on a 20-MW solar photovoltaic facility
near Santa Teresa, New Mexico, called the Roadrunner Solar
Output from that facility, also expected to be completed
next year, will be sold to El Paso Electric (EE.N) which serves
372,000 customers in New Mexico and far west Texas.
First Solar Inc (FSLR.O) will provide engineering and
construction services for the Roadrunner project.
El Paso Electric will pay a flat-fee of roughly 12.7 cents
per kwh for the solar output over the life of a 20-year power
purchase agreement with NRG, a utility spokeswoman said.
NRG said it plans to invest up to $21 million in the
project over the next three years, subject to final
(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by Marguerita Choy)