It’s an exciting new year for Co-op members! For the first time in Rio Grande Electric Cooperative's (RGEC’s) history, roughly 11 megawatts (MW) of solar power will be delivered right to our lines, and ultimately into the homes and businesses the Coop serves. The solar power project initiative is moving ahead, with the targeted in-service date being May of this year.
As CEO Roger Andrade related during the 2021 Annual Meeting, “This will mark a huge milestone in the Cooperative’s history because the Co-op has been evaluating, investigating, and modeling what the trends, in terms of cost/benefit of these types of renewable energy sources, would look like for Rio Grande Electric and its members. I’m happy to say that this project checked all the boxes in terms of reducing power costs for the power generated, and reducing our carbon footprint and tax revenues for the areas where these are located. Ultimately, they will produce a revenue stream for the members on whose property the solar sites are located. We are very excited, and I’m looking forward to making this the first of many steps in diversifying Rio Grande’s power sources, with the intent of reducing costs and contributing to a cleaner energy portfolio.”
RGEC will not own the solar facilities but is working with Primergy Solar on six solar sites, which are projected to save RGEC and its members approximately $8.15 million over the course of 25 years. The combined output of the projects will be enough to power approximately 1,700 single-family homes, according to Primergy. The useful life expectancy of the equipment varies by component, but the developer is responsible for the maintenance and/or replacement of any equipment, so this is something with which the Co-op does not have to be concerned.
The sites selected are on RGEC members’ land, with selection based on proximity to existing three-phase power lines and substations/loads to minimize construction and easement efforts, as well as solar irradiation data, or how much sun a certain area gets and how many hours per day. Lease terms of the sites vary between 25-35 years.
Primergy funds the projects with private funds, and will provide the energy to Rio Grande over a long-term contract at a price less than current energy costs. The company states they utilize single-axis trackers to maximize the efficiency of the solar panels, as well as to ensure energy production lasts into the later evening hours by tracking the sun to the horizon. All systems will be monitored remotely by cellular data connections, which will provide the Co-op a view into the daily operations of the facilities.