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Solar project shines at Picuris

January 8, 2018 GMT

The partnership between Picuris Pueblo and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is one to watch — and, eventually, for other tribal and rural communities to emulate.

What has happened in Northern New Mexico, where a small Indian pueblo joined with the electric cooperative on a solar energy project, needs to keep happening all over New Mexico. Last month, pueblo officials and others turned on the tribe’s 1-megawatt solar array, enough to generate electricity for all of the tribe’s 110 homes.

The utility company has been an enthusiastic partner. Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, after all, has set a long-term goal of generating 100 percent of daytime energy needs in the Taos County area from solar by 2022. The Picuris solar array is another step toward that goal. Started as a way to lower electricity costs for tribal members, the idea gained power and now even offers the tribe a chance to earn money. Picuris Pueblo owns the array and can sell energy to Kit Carson under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

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The solar panels will connect to existing electricity lines, with enough energy to power some 600 homes. That’s about a third of the homes in the Peñasco Valley. The tribe hopes to add two more solar arrays and eventually be able to power the entire valley. Considering how power outages are commonplace in rural Northern New Mexico, the addition of solar power could mean more reliable service for residents.

The project was funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the first such solar project on tribal land in New Mexico paid for by the agency. Think of the potential for tribes — reliable energy, jobs and a chance to sell power and bring in revenue.

Picuris Pueblo’s solar array should be the first of many, a move to renewable energy at the grass-roots level that benefits everyone involved.

All charged up

Speaking of partnerships between utility companies and local governments, the city of Santa Fe and Public Service Company of New Mexico recently dedicated an electric vehicle charger at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

That’s good news. After all, it makes little sense for people to drive electric vehicles if charging stations are few and far between. Yet, if Santa Fe is to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040, reducing fossil fuel emissions by trucks and cars is necessary. More electric vehicles on the road will help make this goal a reality.

PNM provided the charging station at no cost to the city or to utility customers. The city will be paying for electricity so that electric vehicle drivers can plug in and recharge, also at no cost. Even better, the charging station was purchased locally from Linograt EV Charging Stations, a local business.

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Partnerships — with industry, government and private businesses coming together — can help speed the move to renewable energy. Currently, there are 18 public electric vehicle chargers in the Santa Fe area. Because PNM and the city worked together, charging an electric vehicle in Santa Fe is more accessible and affordable. That’s progress.