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Solar undercuts coal in New Mexico

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Bloomberg is reporting something of a world first: a solar facility in Macho Springs, New Mexico, is planning to sell its energy to the grid substantially below the price of coal-fired power.

The facility is under construction by First Solar, the news agency reports, and its customer is El Paso Electric. First Solar expects the Macho Springs plant to come on-line in 2014.

El Paso Electric has agreed to buy power from Macho Spring at 5.79 cents (US) per kilowatt-hour, with Bloomberg models putting the price of coal-fired power at more than 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The price was revealed in a regulatory filing with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

First Solar announced it had acquired the facility from Element Power Solar on January 31.

While noting that the plant attracts US federal incentives, Bloomberg states it did not include these in its models because they vary widely between different locations.

While Element Power Solar hasn’t stated its reasons for selling the project to First Solar, its previous activities suggest that launch-and-divest is part of its business model. In March 2012, it sold two energy parks in the UK totalling 6 MW to the Foresight Group, and in France, it offloaded a 5.4 MW operation to Sonnedix Group.

El Paso Electric is expected to reveal more about the impact of renewable energy credits on its operations in regulatory filings due soon. ®

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