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El Paso Electric proposes adding solar, storage, gas unit by 2023

El Paso Electric Co. announced plans to to add hundreds of megawatts of solar and natural gas-fired generation resources across New Mexico and Texas, as well as develop its first-ever utility-scale battery storage resources as part of a strategy to meet peak energy demand for the 2022-2023 summer season and replace "older, less efficient gas-fired generation."

In 2017, the utility determined it needs additional capacity of 50 MW by 2022 and 320 MW by 2023 to meet customer demand. To accommodate that demand, El Paso Electric said in a Dec. 19 announcement it will be purchase power under a long-term contract from a 100-MW solar facility in Santa Teresa, N.M., to be developed by Hecate Energy.

El Paso Electric will also purchase power and capacity from a 100-MW solar facility with 50 MW of battery storage in Otero County, N.M., that will be developed, owned and operated by a NextEra Energy Resources LLC subsidiary. These two facilities are anticipated to be up and running by May 2022.

In Canutillo, Texas, a stand-alone battery storage facility with a 50-MW capacity will be developed by Ørsted US Offshore Wind, which recently purchased Lincoln Clean Energy LLC, an onshore developer with assets in Texas. At its operating Newman natural gas-fired power plant, El Paso Electric intends to add a 228-MW unit built by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd.

The stand-alone battery facility and natural gas-fired unit are anticipated to come online before the 2023 summer season. All of the projects are subject to regulatory approval.

In a statement, El Paso Electric Interim CEO Adrian Rodriguez said the increased load reflected the approximately 7,000 new customers that joined the utility's service area in the past year. Rodriguez said the "sustainable solutions" were a result of "falling renewable energy prices" and "changing customer expectations."

The utility serves 430,000 customers in west Texas and southern New Mexico.

El Paso Electric first issued an all-sources, 370-MW request for proposals for supply-side and/or demand-side resources in June 2017. A spokesperson with El Paso Electric did not immediately respond to a request for comment.