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World's Biggest Solar Farm Planned for New Mexico

Date: 27-Apr-06
Country: US
Author: Bernie Woodall

They also plan a factory to make photovoltaic panels for the farm, near the Mexican border in New Mexico, developers said on Wednesday.

Once the panels are spread out over 3,200 acres near Deming, New Mexico, they will be able to generate about 300 megawatts of electricity while the sun shines, said lead developer Ed Balch of New Solar Ventures, a private company.

New Solar Ventures and another start-up company, Solar Torx, both based in Phoenix, will operate the joint venture.

Balch said New Solar Ventures is the technological arm and Solar Torx runs the financial -- fund-raising -- end.

"It depends on the greenbacks," Balch said when asked if the US$1.6 billion project will get off the ground. The factory to build the panels will cost about US$650 million and the farm of solar panels will cost about US$950 million, Balch said. He would not disclose names of any investors.

The New Mexico State Land Office on Tuesday agreed to lease the first 640 acres in the first of several phases of leases. The total could climb to 3,200 acres, but one state official said that much expansion will be sticky as federal as well as state land is involved.

"If this is built, it would be the biggest solar farm in the United States by an order of 60," said Noah Kaye, spokesman for the Washingon-based Solar Energy Industries Association.

The biggest solar farm using photovoltaic panels like the ones to be used in the proposed farm near Deming, New Mexico is in Springerville, Arizona and can make 5 megawatts of electricity, Kaye said.

The biggest one in the world is in Bavaria in Germany, and can produce 10 megawatts.

A megawatt can power about 800 homes.

Balch and a half dozen others are all the staff that New Solar Ventures has now, but that will expand to between 300 and 400, most working in the factory that will make the photovoltaic panels. He said he has about 70 advising engineers helping on the project from around the United States.

It could take up to five years to have the full 300 megawatts on line and connected to the grid, Balch said. But the farm could connect to grid sooner. It will take about 18 months to build the factory and construction on the solar farm is to start in about two years Balch said.

The panels will be 10-feet by 5-feet and will stand on pedestals about six to eight feet tall, Balch said.

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