Cimarron Solar Facility
In 2009, Tri-State and First Solar (Tempe, Ariz.) signed an agreement to develop one of the largest solar photovoltaic facilities in the world – the “Cimarron Solar Facility.” The 30-megawatt power plant sits on a 250-acre site in Colfax County in northeastern New Mexico, within the service territory of Tri-State member system Springer Electric Cooperative. The facility is owned and operated by Southern Company (Atlanta, Ga.).
The solar field consists of 500,000 2’ x 4’ photovoltaic modules constructed with First Solar’s patented thin film semiconductor technology. First Solar constructed, monitors and maintains the facility, while Tri-State has contracted to purchase the electricity output from the facility for a 25-year period. Cimarron, which provides enough energy to serve the equivalent of 9,000 homes, further diversifies Tri-State’s generation mix, assists the G&T in addressing carbon emissions and helps meets its member co-ops’ renewable energy requirements.
Solar augmentation study
With a goal of increasing power plant efficiency while incorporating renewable technologies, Tri-State entered into an agreement with the Electric Power Research Institute in 2009 to host a case study that is aimed at helping electric utilities add solar energy to fossil-fueled generating stations. Tri-State’s 245-megawatt Escalante Station – a coal-based power plant located in Prewitt, N.M. – is the host facility for the study.
The process being studied involves introducing steam generated by a solar thermal field to the conventional power plant’s steam cycle to offset some of the fuel required to generate electricity. Potential benefits of a solar-augmented steam-cycle facility include adding utility-scale solar power generation without the challenges of siting a new plant and new power block, reducing the facility’s carbon dioxide footprint and gaining valuable experience with solar thermal technologies to assess their future potential in a utility’s generation mix.
The project will provide a conceptual design study, analyze options to retrofit the existing power plant and identify new plant design options. EPRI is relying on its expertise in solar technologies, steam cycles and plant operation, as well as past solar and fossil fuel plant studies. Said Dr. Bryan Hannegan, vice president of generation and environment at EPRI, “These ‘hybrid’ power plants’ will combine the low-cost reliability of existing fossil power plants with the environmental benefit of renewables, and help companies meet federal and state mandates to reduce their emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases with renewable energy.”
Updated: January 7, 2011