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First Solar’s New Mexico Project May Get Less Than Coal

First Solar Inc., the world’s largest thin-film solar manufacturer, may receive the lowest rates ever for selling U.S. solar energy, less than power from new coal plants, for a project it acquired in New Mexico, according to a regulatory filing.

First Solar bought the Macho Springs project from Element Power Solar, according to a statement today. El Paso Electric Co. agreed to buy the electricity for 5.79 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to a Jan. 22 procedural order from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

That’s less than half the 12.8 cents per kilowatt-hour average price for new coal plants, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Thin-film photovoltaic power typically sells for 16.3 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The price would be “the lowest solar power purchase agreement price we have ever seen,” Aaron Chew, an analyst at Maxim Group LLC in New York, said today in an e-mail. It’s less than half the price that First Solar will get for its Antelope Valley, Topaz, and Agua Caliente projects, he said.

El Paso Power has until tomorrow to submit additional information on how renewable-energy credits related to the 50-megawatt project may affect the utility’s costs.

Alan Bernheimer, a spokesman for Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, wouldn’t confirm the rate in the regulatory filing. “That information is usually confidential,” he said.

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