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Air Force goes solar; New Mexico ventures into solar; SolarWorld donates to Haiti

January 19, 2010 |  5:56 pm

The United States Air Force today announced a partnership with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures of San Francisco to lease part of a base for a potential massive solar array. For an undisclosed sum, the Air Force Real Property Agency agreed to lease 3,288 acres of land at Edwards Air Force Base in the Antelope Valley for Fotowatio to develop an installation producing up to 500 megawatts.

The deal, called an Enhanced Use Lease, gives Fotowatio exclusive access to the site initially to conduct environmental and transmission studies. The company’s worldwide portfolio includes projects producing more than 130 megawatts and more than 1,000 megawatts in development across the U.S. and Europe. Construction will not begin until 2013. More than 30 Enhanced Use Leases are in development around the country.

Solar activity was also heating up in New Mexico. PNM, the state’s largest electricity provider, signed a contract with First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz. to construct 22 megawatts of photovoltaics.The Albuquerque company, which serves about 500,000 customers, said the power generated could supply 7,000 average New Mexico homes.

In PNM’s service area, First Solar will use its advanced PV panels to build on five separate sites that will be chosen based on factors including cost, availability, level of local support and environmental considerations. If the plan is approved by state regulators, the first site will start construction by 2011, with the rest of the sites completed within the year. The project is expected to create 100 construction jobs.

Once finished, PNM will own the sites.

Also today, SolarWorld Group of Bonn, Germany, said it was donating 10 kilowatts of solar modules to Haiti to provide clean water for earthquake survivors, shipping the modules through its U.S. sales hub in Camarillo. The modules will power 10 pump stations run by the nonprofit Water Missions International around the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince, which was devastated by a Jan. 12 temblor. Another 25 water stations will receive discounted modules, SolarWorld said.

-- Tiffany Hsu