El Paso Electric officials dedicate new solar facility here last Friday

By Robert Morales & Teresa Souza —

El Paso Electric celebrated the addition of a 20-kilowatt (kW) (DC) Van Horn Solar Installation to its power generation mix with a special event attended by Van Horn community members. The facility is located at EPE's Customer Service Office in Van Horn and is part of the ongoing commitment that EPE made to build more solar power in the region.

The Van Horn Solar Installation was constructed by Solar Solutions, Inc. The PV system consists of 80 CentroSolar Poly-Crystalline E250 panels. A monitoring system at the PV facility will allow EPE to measure the performance of each photovoltaic module in order to maximize solar power harvesting. The generation from this system will be enough to power about seven houses throughout the year.

“We continue to look forward to future solar projects and the opportunity for education and the growth of renewable energy technologies in our community and within EPE's service territory,” said Tom Shockley, Chief Executive Officer at EPE. “Projects like the Van Horn Solar Installation allow EPE to be at the forefront of the solar energy industry, which is fitting given our location and abundance of the solar resource.”

Patti Scott, Van Horn Sr. Customer Service Representative, served as emcee for the Friday EPE event in Van Horn. State Representative Poncho Nevarez, District 74, gave the keynote
address for the event. Nevarez is from Eagle Pass and represents the
largest district in Texas.

State Representative Poncho Nevarez, District 74, Eagle Pass, was present at Friday's windy event. “I've got bad news and I've got good news,” he said in his opening. “The bad news is that I lost my speech on the way over here, and the good news is that I have a photographic memory.”

He said that a project such as the new El Paso Electric solar installation signals two things: (1) investment and (2) confidence in the community. He contrasted the Van Horn solar installation to the lignite coal mining taking place in his hometown of Eagle Pass, just across from the Rio Grande in

Mexico. Whereas Mr. Nevarez is “not opposed” to coal mining, he said alternatives, such as the one in Van Horn, are the new wave of the future in terms of environmental and noise pollution, such as the coal mine across the river from Del Rio in Ciudad Acuña.

“We must embrace and appreciate a company like El Paso Electric for taking the initiative to do this project,” Nevarez said. “Even though this is not a large structure, we can expect to see many more of these solar projects because if there's something we have plenty of in District 74, it's sunlight and wind.”

EPE currently has 47 MWs of solar power in its generation mix and recently secured an additional 50 MWs of solar power that should be online by 2014. Within a year, 5 percent of EPE's dedicated generation, which includes long-term purchase power agreements, will come from solar energy. EPE's solar energy output is displayed on its website, www.epelectric.com.