EL PASO, Texas - El Paso Electric has signed a 20-year agreement to buy power from a large solar plant to be built near Deming, N.M., next year by Element Power, a global developer of solar and wind projects, the companies announced Tuesday.

The 50-megawatt Macho Springs Solar Project will be the largest solar project in New Mexico, Element Power officials said.

The project will use rows and rows of photovoltaic solar panels to produce enough energy for 18,000 homes, the company reported. The power will be used in New Mexico and Texas.

The project must be approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission before construction can begin. Element hopes to begin construction by spring, and have the plant completed by late 2013 to mid 2014, said John Knight, Element Power's director of development for the Southwestern United States, at the company's North American headquarters in Portland, Ore.

The plant will be built on 500 acres of land leased from the New Mexico State Land Office. Element also has a lease on private land in the area, Knight said. The solar plant will be adjacent to Element Power's 50.4 megawatt wind farm, which supplies power to Tucson Electric Power.

El Paso Electric selected Element Power from among 38 proposals submitted to provide power for the company.

The company is now getting power from four major solar plants in New Mexico, including a 20-megawatt plant in Santa Teresa, and three small solar-generating units in El Paso.


It has a requirement in New Mexico to get a certain percentage of its power from solar, wind, or geothermal sources.

Texas has less-stringent requirements.

When the Macho Springs power agreement is included, El Paso Electric will get 5.5 percent of its power generating capacity from solar plants, one of the largest percentages among investor-owned electric utilities, the company reported.

"El Paso Electric is committed to being a leader in the solar industry and will continue to evaluate competitive-based opportunities that will expand its renewable energy portfolio mix," Rocky Miracle, senior vice president of corporate planning and development for El Paso Electric, said in a written statement.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at vkolenc@elpasotimes.com, 546-6421. Follow him on Twitter @vickolenc.

For more information: www.elpower.com; epelectric.com