Published on August 16th, 2018 | by Derek Markham0
New 9.8 Megawatt Solar Farm In Gallup, New Mexico, Will Save City $785,000 In First 8 Years
August 16th, 2018 by Derek Markham
By taking advantage of otherwise unusable land located in a floodplain, and with financing provided by the solar company itself, a city in northwestern New Mexico will benefit from a new 9.8 megawatt (MW) solar farm, saving an estimated $785,000 in energy costs in the first 8 years, while also covering about 10% of the city’s energy needs with solar electricity. Gallup, New Mexico, which is located on historic Route 66 in the northwestern part of the Land of Enchantment, is a sunny high desert community of about 22,000, and its new 9.8 MW single-axis tracker solar array is expected to generate some 20 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity annually, or the equivalent of the electricity demand for about 2500 homes.
Standard Solar, a Maryland-based solar energy company, provided the financing for the project and owns and operates the array, which sits on 31 acres of city-owned land leased by the company, and the city of Gallup has signed a 20-year PPA which will lock in a flat rate for electricity generated by the array, saving the city a considerable amount of money in energy costs annually. The city has also retained the right to purchase it after 7 years of operation.
According to Gallup’s electric director, as told to the Gallup Sun, the city only had to pony up “roughly $135,000 toward the project,” which is expected to “save the city roughly $1 million over 25 years.” Gallup did not have any electricity generation capabilities before the solar farm began operating, and purchased all of its electricity from the Continental Divide Electric Cooperative, but a 2014 agreement with that provider gave the city the option of supplying 10% of its own electricity, which will now come from this 9.8 MW solar array. Gallup’s average of 280 sunny days per year is well suited to solar electricity generation, especially when coupled with the single-axis tracking system that helps keep this 28,896-module solar installation pointed at the sun throughout the day.
From an engineering standpoint, the Gallup solar farm had an additional challenge to overcome, as the parcel of land, which sits just off of I-40, is in what is considered to be a 100-year floodplain, and so had to be designed to be sufficiently resistant in order to survive a flood event of that size. According to Standard Solar, the company’s engineering team “found a company that could design both the racking system and the pile foundations supporting it,” which found during the design process that “the major factor contributing to the pile design shouldn’t be the base-flood elevation condition, but the wind load—and designed it accordingly.”
Gallup is well on its way to being powered by 40% renewable energy, as according the Gallup Sun, 30% of the electricity being supplied from Tri-State Generation (via Continental) to the city is sourced from renewables (50% wind, 38% hydroelectric, 12% solar), and another source of electricity for the city is Western Area Power Administration, which comes “primarily” from hydroelectric sources. With the new solar farm covering an additional 10% of the city’s needs, Gallup is making significant progress toward a renewable future.