Though Element Power did not set out to co-locate wind and solar, harvesting solar at a site adjacent to its Macho Springs Wind project in New Mexico became an opportunity it couldn’t resist.
“This was not envisioned as a wind/solar play, but rather as two distinct projects, one wind and one solar, that were developed separately,” said Element Power Chief Operating Officer Raimund Grube.
While developing wind at Macho Springs, Element Power saw that the sun is just as exploitable at the Luna County site in New Mexico’s southwestern corner. The 50.4-megawatt wind project’s El Paso Electric-owned substation, Element Power realized, provides a ready interconnection to the existing 345-kilovolt transmission system for an adjacent solar project.
“It’s not the co-location, per se,” Grube said. “The substation was built for the wind project [and] that is part of the expense of any energy project.” But, he explained, “there are some economies of scale as you bring on more megawatts into an existing substation.”
“Building the wind farm allowed us to learn from New Mexico and Arizona,” said Element Power Senior Project Manager John Knight. “It opened up new opportunities and got us thinking about how we could further develop the project. We were sitting in a meeting one day and the question just came up — ‘What about solar?’”
“There is a demand for renewables in that part of the country and it’s a place where both solar and wind can be competitive,” added Grube. “The opportunity, land and resource converged.”