America’s electric utilities are ramping up their use of solar power – and not just in the sunny Southwest – although Tri-State’s recent integration of 30 megawatts from the Cimarron Solar Facility is located in the Land of Enchantment. That was one of the principal findings of the new 2010 Utility Solar Rankings report recently released by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
SEPA’s report identified the Top 10 U.S. utilities that added the most new solar power to their systems last year. The highest ranked cooperative utility on the list is Tri-State, which ranked sixth in the nation after integrating 30 megawatts of power into its generation portfolio from the Cimarron Solar Facility in northeast New Mexico. The Cimarron plant is the largest solar PV project by an electric cooperative and one of the largest facilities of its kind.
Tri-State is the sole purchaser of the power produced at the photovoltaic facility, which is owned and operated by Southern Company and Turner Renewable Energy. The plant consists of 500,000 modules – each measuring two-feet by four-feet – aligned on a 250-acre site within the service territory of Tri-State member system Springer Electric Cooperative.
Altogether, the Top 10 utilities reported that they added 561 megawatts of new solar capacity in 2010, an increase of 100 percent over 2009. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), in northern California, led all utilities in the most new solar energy added to its portfolio with a total of 157 megawatts.