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SunEd Inks 50 MW New Mexico Deal

SunEd inks a deal to build large-scale solar projects in New Mexico, but the size of the deal suggests that a booming market for large-scale solar in the U.S. is still light years away.

ST. PETERS, MO. (

TheStreet

) --

SunEdison

has reached a deal with

Xcel Energy's

(XEL) - Get Report

regional operating company,

Southwestern Public Service Co.

, to build five 10-megawatt photovoltaic solar installations in New Mexico

The sites -- which, combined, will be one of the largest solar projects in North America -- will be fully operational by the end of 2011, SunEdison said in a statement.

New Mexico's renewable portfolio standard requires that regulated electric utilities meet 15% of their electricity needs through renewable energy sources by 2015, and 20% by 2020.

SunEdison is financing the deal under a 20-year solar-power services agreement with Xcel Energy, which will buy the solar power generated by the plant. SunEdison was recently acquired by

MEMC Electronic Materials

(WFR)

TST Recommends

.

This project eclipses the 8.22-MW system that SunEdison activated for Xcel Energy in Alamosa, Colo., in December 2007.

Though the New Mexico project is relatively large for North America, it is, in the larger scheme of things, a baby step, since the U.S. large-scale solar market remains in its infancy.

Indeed, the solar-power ramp-up in the U.S. has seen its share of pitfalls. First Solar, for example,

recently abandoned five large-scale U.S. projects that would have generated some 2.6 gigawatts.

-Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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