Origis begins construction on 200 MW Escalante Solar at former coal plant in N.M.

Origis Escalante solar project

Origis Energy has kicked off construction on the Escalante Solar project near Grants, New Mexico. The 200 MW project is at the site of the decommissioned Escalante Station, a 253 MW coal-powered plant that Tri-State closed in 2020.

“We are excited to help create a milestone for Tri-State in their renewable energy goals,” said Tanya Sessions, VP of business development at Origis Energy. “It’s always a celebration when clean, reliable energy is meeting the needs of homes and businesses in a community.”

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has entered into a power purchase agreement for the output of generation from the Escalante Solar project.

“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,” said Tri-State CEO Duane Highley. “We continue to reinvest in the local community and advance our goal of having 50% of the energy used by our members coming from renewable resources in 2025 and meeting the 2030 renewable energy requirements of the Energy Transition Act five years early.”

Origis Energy, one of America’s leading renewable energy platforms, acquired the development rights for the Escalante Solar project from TurningPoint Energy, which originally developed the project. Located in Continental Divide Electric Cooperative’s (CDEC’s) service territory, the project will serve all of Tri-State’s members, including CDEC and its other ten members in New Mexico.

“It is gratifying to finally deliver on the commitment of this project we made to Tri-State and its members back in 2020,” said Jared Schoch, president of TurningPoint Energy. “CohnReznick Capital helped engage us with Origis and we ultimately partnered with Origis on this project because they are uniquely qualified to deliver on utility-scale solar projects in today’s business environment.”

Gridworks, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is providing construction services for the project, employing an estimated 400 people during that time. Upon completion in 2024, Origis Energy Services will provide operation and maintenance services for the project, employing approximately 4-6 on site jobs once the project is completed. Roughly 500,000 solar panel modules will be installed at Escalante Solar, powering an estimated 40,000 homes.

“Tri-State’s investment in Escalante Solar is vital for the community,” said Robert E. Castillo, CDEC CEO and general manager. “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, and we appreciate Tri-State and the project partners for bringing Escalante Solar to our region.”

By adding such a significant solar plant at the site of the former coal plant, a new tax base is being created for the area from power generation, while providing a stable cost of power for Tri-State’s members. Additionally, the project negotiated an Industrial Revenue Bond with McKinley County, N.M., which documents the project will pay approximately $7,100,000 in taxes to the County and $2,400,000 in taxes to the School District over the life of the project.

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