Geothermal energy in New Mexico

PNM included 10 megawatts of geothermal-generated electricity in its 2013 renewable energy procurement plan, submitted to the Public Regulation Commission on April 30.

If approved by the PRC, the utility would sign a 20-year power purchase agreement with Cyrq Energy Inc., which is investing $100 million to construct the “Lightning Dock” geothermal electric plant near Lordsburg. The plant, expected to come on line in January 2014, is the first utility-scale geothermal project under construction in New Mexico.

Including geothermal in PNM’s energy mix is important because it provides “base-load energy,” offering a steady electric supply 24/7. That helps offset the intermittent nature of solar and wind power, which shut down when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind energy doesn’t blow, said Gerard Ortiz, PNM’s executive director of retail regulatory services.

“It will produce energy pretty much around the clock,” Ortiz said.

Including geothermal in PNM’s renewable portfolio helps the company meet the PRC’s “diversity requirement,” which calls for the state’s public utilities to derive at least 20 percent of their renewable energy from solar, 20 percent from wind power, 1.5 percent from customer-owned generation such as rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and 10 percent from “other sources,” such as geothermal or biomass.

PRC Commissioner Jason Marks said diversity is critical for the smooth integration of renewables on the grid.

“We need base-load, dispatchable resources that are clean and renewable to balance out electricity from more abundant, but intermittent resources like solar power and wind energy,” Marks said.