Case Studies:

City of Gallup, New Mexico

  • System Specs | 9.8 MW
  • System Production | The single-axis tracker array is expected to generate more than 20 million kilowatt-hours of power annually providing nearly 10% of the city’s energy use.
  • Environmental Benefits | With nearly 280 sunny days on average each year, Gallup is ideally suited to take advantage of solar-energy resources. The 28,896 solar module single-axis tracker system is designed to maximize production yield for the system.

Solar Builder 2018 Bronze Project of the Year: Gallup River Plain Solar Farm 

Read the Solar Builder Article here!

How to Make Something Out of Nothing 

From a challenging plot of land just outside the City of Gallup, New Mexico, grew something beautiful: a 9.8 MW solar farm that will provide 10% of the city’s energy—clean, renewable energy—for the next 20 years.

Just east of the City of Gallup, New Mexico, lie the red sandstone cliffs of Red Rock Park, distinguished by a series of deep caves.

Around 300 A.D., those caves were home to the Anasazi (Ancient Ones) people, the ancestors of today’s Navajo and Pueblo tribes. And their cliff dwellings in the sides of mountains provided them with the ability to harvest the sun for warmth and fuel in an area of the country that receives plenty of insolation.

Near the former homes of these solar pioneers were 31 acres of floodplain. Restrictions on what can be built on such land rendered the acreage almost entirely useless—until Gallup city officials took inspiration from their ancient ancestors and asked themselves this question: Could they use the land to harvest the sun?

The idea quickly captured the imagination of those officials, but there were two primary obstacles that would have to be overcome.

After all, the land was located in a 100-year-floodplain, which was going to mean finding a company that had the engineering expertise to design a system that would withstand the conditions created by a flood of that magnitude.

More importantly, in an era of tight budgets, the City of Gallup also needed to find a company that could help them find financing for the project as they were not able to fund the project by themselves.

Standard Solar’s $300 million in low-cost capital with which they could help the city fund the project was an answer to the city’s prayers—and their expertise in working with challenging project footprints helped resolve the project’s most pressing challenges.

Right On The Money
The City of Gallup operates the third largest municipally-owned utility in New Mexico by energy sales and second in terms of total electric customers, providing electric services for approximately 11,000 accounts in the greater Gallup area. With nearly 280 sunny days on average each year, Gallup is ideally suited to take advantage of solar-energy resources.

But as with many cities, the financing of this revolutionary solar system was the most persistent stumbling block. Try as they might, the array wouldn’t pencil out unless the city could find a well-capitalized partner who could put up the money for the project. In addition, the partner must have the wherewithal to fund the project over time to help the city manage its electricity budget more effectively.

That’s where Standard Solar’s financial stability, provided by its parent company Énergir, came to the rescue. With more than $300 million in low-cost capital, Standard Solar negotiated a power-purchase agreement that did not require any upfront cost to complete the installation of the solar power plant. Even better, the city will pay the solar firm a flat rate for the production generated by the system over 20 years.

Unlike other possible capital projects, the solar farm will pay dividends starting on day one. And the ongoing budgetary stability and savings are expected to increase going into the future as the flat rate hedges against future energy-price escalation.

Essentially, the partnership between the city and Standard Solar turned a plot of challenging land into a power plant that generates ongoing revenue for the city—and improves the environment of its citizens, too.

Flooding, Controlled

Standard Solar didn’t only provide the funding for the project, their talented team of engineers provided critical input to help solve the project’s trickiest technical problem, too: What equipment would be up to the task of withstanding a 100-year flood?

After all, as a flood plain, Gallup’s land required specific design and engineering capabilities that would allow the farm to survive 100-year-flood conditions, should they arise. Fortunately, Standard Solar and its partners possessed the proper expertise to design just such a project.

The team had to decide what racking system would be able to handle 100-year flood conditions. Through an intense vetting process, the team found a company that could design both the racking system and the pile foundations supporting it. Through the company’s design process, they determined the major factor contributing to the pile design shouldn’t be the base-flood elevation condition, but the wind load—and designed it accordingly.

A Budget-Saving Civic Asset

The array will provide 10% of the City of Gallup’s electricity needs for at least 20 years, proving a clean-energy solution for the citizens of an area that takes environmental protection seriously.

On an annual basis, the system is expected to generate enough energy to power more than 600 homes and offset the pollution and emissions produced by driving 36 million miles or burning 16 million pounds of coal.*

Going forward, the city will only pay for the production generated by the system at a savings from their traditional energy procurement sources, ensuring budget savings can be used to meet other city requirements.

“This project gave us the opportunity to leverage every aspect of our expertise, from financing to engineering to construction,” said Scott Wiater, president and CEO of Standard Solar. It’s these kinds of ‘let’s work together and get it done’ projects that our entire team enjoys.”

* Calculations were made using the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. 

Just outside of the City of Gallup, New Mexico, lay a flood plain, sitting fallow generating no benefit to anyone. Struggling with how to use the land, creative minds in the city discovered it could provide a significant benefit by becoming home to a solar array that would supply 10% of its electricity needs.

The only question became: Was there a company that could supply them with a financing package that would fit the city’s budget?

Ultimately, Standard Solar’s financing capacity, with $300 million in low-cost capital, provided the city with the money it needed to complete the project. In addition, Standard Solar also provided input into the system’s design—helping to make the resulting flood resistant solar farm convert virtually useless land into a budget-saving civic asset.

 As a result of the innovative array, previously unusable land will now provide 10% of the City of Gallup’s electricity needs for at least 20 years. The system will power more than 600 homes and offset the pollution and emissions created by driving 36 million miles in your average car or burning 16 million pounds of coal each year. In addition, the city will only pay for the system's production at a rate that saves it money over its traditional utility procurement, meaning the money saved on electricity can fund other city priorities.

 

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