Solar Trade Dispute Affects PNM Power Supplies

A new 50 megawatt solar array at the Jicarilla Apache Nation was dedicated earlier this month. (Courtesy of PNM)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The trade dispute disrupting solar development in New Mexico and across the country now threatens the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s planned summer 2023 power supply, once again raising the specter of potential outages. next year.

That’s because the U.S. Commerce Department’s investigation into tariff evasion or circumvention by solar panel makers in some Southeast Asian countries is cutting off supplies needed for two of four new solar installations slated to replace the San Juan coal plant after it was fully shut down in September, said PNM vice president for generation Tom Fallgren.

These delays mean that nearly half of the 950 megawatts of solar generation and battery storage that were due to be fully online early next year will now not be available until after the summer of 2023.

In addition, about 740 MW of additional solar generation that is expected to replace the loss of power from the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona after two PNM plant leases expire next year will likely also be delayed until 2024. sooner rather than later, Fallgren said.

“We have significant challenges ahead of next summer,” Fallgren told the Journal. “Solar project developers have been unable to secure the necessary supply contracts, and now they need to find alternatives. Everything is saved.

PNM said earlier this year that it faces potential power outages this summer and into the summer of 2023, largely due to pandemic-induced supply chain constraints that are delaying delivery times. San Juan and Palo Verde solar replacement projects.

It addressed power shortages expected this summer by extending operations at one of San Juan’s two generating units, with only one now due to close on the original shutdown date of June 30, and the closure of the other postponed to September 30, after the summer. the peak of electricity demand is over.

The four solar replacement facilities were then to be commissioned on staggered schedules beginning in the fall and ending in early 2023.

But now only two will be operational before summer 2023 – a 450 MW “Arroyo” solar and battery system in McKinley County, and a 70 MW “Jicarilla” solar and battery installation in Rio Arriba County. .

Construction and start dates for the other two projects — a 130 MW “Rockmonth” solar and battery facility and a 300 MW “San Juan” solar and battery project — remain open questions, Fallgren said.

This greatly amplifies the potential issues that PNM was already facing due to delays in bringing the solar replacement installations online for Palo Verde. And, thanks to the trade dispute, the construction and start dates for those solar projects also remain an open question, Fallgren said.

“With the latest supply chain disruptions due to the tariff issue, we are no longer confident that any of these projects (to replace Palo Verde) will be delivered in 2023,” Fallgren said.

The four Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation specifically pointed to problems with the PNM in a joint letter Monday to President Joe Biden calling for a speedy conclusion to the Commerce Department’s investigation.

“The uncertainty created by this investigation will likely put the San Juan Replacement Electricity Project in jeopardy again,” the delegation said. “Additional delays to the four replacement solar projects caused by the uncertainty created by this case will further exacerbate the current resource shortfall challenges facing New Mexico.”

Rosemary C. Kearney