Origis Energy, a leading renewable energy platform, has officially initiated construction on the Escalante Solar Project near Grants, New Mexico.
The groundbreaking 200-megawatt solar project is set to transform the site of the decommissioned Escalante Station, a former 253-megawatt coal-powered plant that ceased operations in 2020. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a cooperative wholesale electric power supplier, has inked a power purchase agreement to procure the output of generation from the Escalante Solar Project.
Tanya Sessions, Vice President of Business Development at Origis Energy, expressed enthusiasm, saying, “We are excited to help create a milestone for Tri-State in their renewable energy goals. It’s always a celebration when clean, reliable energy is meeting the needs of homes and businesses in a community.”
The significance of the project extends beyond clean energy production. The Escalante Solar Project stands as a testament to Tri-State’s commitment to transitioning towards renewable energy sources. Duane Highley, Tri-State’s Chief Executive Officer, noted, “It’s meaningful that the first solar project to start construction as part of the Responsible Energy Plan we announced in 2020 will be built alongside our retired coal plant.” He also emphasized the cooperative’s objective of sourcing 50 percent of its members’ energy from renewables by 2025, five years ahead of the Energy Transition Act’s 2030 requirements.
Origis Energy acquired the development rights for the Escalante Solar Project from TurningPoint Energy, the project’s original developer. The solar project, located within Continental Divide Electric Cooperative’s (CDEC’s) service area, will serve Tri-State’s members, including CDEC and its ten other members in New Mexico.
Jared Schoch, President of TurningPoint Energy, expressed satisfaction with the partnership between his company and Origis Energy, highlighting Origis’ expertise in delivering utility-scale solar projects.
Gridworks, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is overseeing construction for the project, providing employment opportunities for approximately 400 individuals during the construction phase. Upon completion in 2024, Origis Energy Services will be responsible for operation and maintenance, creating an estimated 4-6 on-site jobs. The Escalante Solar Project is projected to feature around 500,000 solar panel modules, generating power for an estimated 40,000 homes.
In addition to its environmental benefits, the project brings economic growth to the region. Robert E. Castillo, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of CDEC, emphasized the positive impact on the local community and economy, stating, “While the solar project cannot replace jobs at the retired coal plant, the addition of new tax base for McKinley County and our local school district is impactful.” The project is anticipated to generate a significant tax base and contribute to the local school district through an Industrial Revenue Bond negotiated with McKinley County.
The Escalante Solar Project stands as a testament to the ongoing transformation of energy landscapes, demonstrating how the transition from traditional fossil fuels to renewable sources can lead to sustainable economic and environmental benefits.