New Jersey is trying to forge the way as a leader in using solar energy to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a Princeton-based energy company is emerging as one of the biggest private-sector advocates of the renewable energy.
NRG Energy announced Friday that its wholly owned subsidiary, NRG Solar, will break ground by year end on the company’s first generation site in New Mexico, the Roadrunner Solar Electric Facility, a 20-megawatt photovoltaic solar project.
Under a 20-year power-purchase agreement with El Paso Electric Co., NRG plans to invest a maximum of $21 million in the project over the next three years, subject to final negotiation of the financing terms and conditions.
The facility will be one of the first large-scale projects built in New Mexico, and will be the second-largest photovoltaic installation when completed. It is expected to meet the energy demands of approximately 16,000 New Mexico homes.
In recent months, NRG Solar has become one of the biggest developers of mega solar facilities out in the West, where conditions are optimal for solar power. It currently operates the largest photovoltaic solar project in California, a 211-megawatt facility in Blythe. It also is building the 45 megawatt Avenual photovoltaic facility in California, in partnership with Eurus Energy America.
While New Jersey is second only to California in solar installations, it has not built any solar facility bigger than 10 megawatts, although some have been proposed. By 2026, New Jersey hopes to have enough solar installations to pump out the equivalent electricity of five nuclear-powered plants.
In New Mexico, the Roadrunner facility will be built on a 210-acre privately owned industrial-zoned site near Santa Teresa, about 10 miles from El Paso, TX.
"The merits of solar power -- zero emission, sustainable, coincident with peak demand, compliant with state renewable-energy portfolio standards -- are clear," said David Crane, chief executive officer of NRG Energy. "New Mexico’s motto, Crescuit Eundo, or 'Grow as it Goes,' sums up how we hope to further our partnership with the state to bring more of solar power’s benefits to its residents."
NRG, one of the largest independent power companies, operates a diverse fleet of power plants, including nuclear, coal and natural gas. It also is heavily involved in developing wind projects, including a 350-megawatt wind farm proposed off the coast of New Jersey.
The company also is building the nation’s first infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles in Houston and surrounding Harris County, TX.