Senator Udall Introduces Renewable Energy Legislation

Last month NM Senator Tom Udall and his cousin Colorado Senator Mark Udall introduced legislation that would establish a national renewable energy standard. Utilities would be required to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar or other renewable sources. The bill would start with a 6 percent requirement by 2013 with gradual increases to meet a 25 percent goal by 2025.

Tom Udall says he is committed to fighting for passage in the senate. “NM has lead the way with a 20% standard by 2021. As a result we are seeing dramatic increases in clean energy jobs in both renewable electricity generation and manufacturing across NM,” Udall said. “Now it is time for the nation to take similar action to create clean energy jobs and keep America’s economy competitive for decades to come.” Udall also said the legislation would reduce energy bills, revitalize rural America, and slow global warming.

A total of twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have renewable generation standards with various timelines and targets. The legislation would not pre-empt states that have stronger standards.

USDA Makes Millions Available for Renewable Energy Projects

Applications for funds to increase production and use of renewable energy are currently being taken for the USDA’s Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance Program, and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.

The Biorefinery Assistance Program provides loan guarantees to develop and construct commercial-scale biorefineries or to retrofit existing facilities for the development of advanced biofuels. Applications must be received by May 10. A major project is being considered in Columbus, NM. Sapphire Energy has applied for a loan guarantee to build an integrated algal biorefinery process to cultivate algae in ponds, which will ultimately become drop-in green fuels such as jet fuel and diesel.

The Repowering Assistance Program encourages the use of renewable biomass as a replacement fuel source for fossil fuels used to process heat or power in the operation of biorefineries. The deadline to apply is June 9.

The Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels supports expanding production of advanced biofuels by advanced producers. The deadline to apply is May 10. Advanced biofuels must be produced from renewable biomass, excluding corn kernel starch, in a biofuel facility.

To apply or to find out more, contact USDA Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Service by calling Ms. Jesse Bopp at 505.761.4952 or e-mail: jesse.bopp@nm.usda.gov.

Gov. Martinez Signs Renewable Energy Law

A new law signed by Gov. Martinez may encourage more solar panels and other renewable energy systems on government buildings. The law creates a development incentive by exempting certain government entities from renewable energy procurement charges on their utility bills if they own renewable energy generation systems. The government entities will be able to invest 2.5 percent of their annual energy costs in their own energy systems rather than paying utilities to purchase renewable energy for them.

CFV Solar Test Lab Opens

A testing and certification lab at the former Advent Solar building at the Mesa del Sol community in south central Albuquerque has opened.

The CFV Solar Test Laboratory includes a five-acre testing area with solar tracking systems from Albuquerque-based CleanSwitch Inc., which supplies solar thermal and photovoltaic products and installation services.

The test lab includes a “module breakage tester,” that uses a wrecking ball to smash PV panels, a machine that fires ice balls at panels to simulate hailstorms, climate chambers that subject the panels to extreme heat and cold, and other tests to artificially age panels to demonstrate how they hold up.

The CFV laboratory offers certification for PV technologies, including flat panel, thin film and concentrating PV systems. The facility will help manufacturers enter the market more rapidly and at lower cost.

The Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE), one of the lab’s owners, will also operate a solar research and development lab at the facility.

Concentrating Solar PV Power Plant at Tailings Site Completed

One of the largest concentrating photovoltaic solar power plants in the nation has been built at the tailings site of Chevron Corporation’s molybdenum mine near Questa in northern NM. Chevron is evaluating the technology and using the site to demonstrate utilizing a contaminated brownfield for renewable energy development.

The 1-megawatt solar plant is on 20 acres. Its 173 solar trackers are capable of generating enough electricity to power about 300 homes. Concentrating PV systems use lenses that collect, magnify and focus the sun’s rays onto layers of solar cells. The solar cells used are now 25 percent more efficient than they were a decade ago.

Chevron has also turned an old refinery site in Casper, Wyoming into a wind farm and used another refinery near Bakersfield, California to build an experimental solar farm.

Four Corners Power Plant Ranked Number One for Smog-Forming Pollution

NM power plants emit more smog-forming pollution than power plants in 39 other states in the U.S. according to a new Environment New Mexico (ENM) report. The high emissions are largely due to the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington.

Emissions such as nitrogen oxides chemically react with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight to form ozone pollution, commonly referred to as smog.

The ENM report says that in Albuquerque there were 15 days in 2009 when smog and other air pollutants reached a level deemed unhealthy for children, older adults and people with lung disease. According to the American Lung Association, more than half the people in the U.S. live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog.

Children who grow up in areas with high levels of smog may develop diminished lung capacity, putting them at greater risk of lung disease. Additionally, children exposed to smog in the womb can experience lower birth weight and growth retardation. Even for healthy adults, repeated exposure over time permanently damages lung tissues, decreases the ability to breathe normally, and exacerbates chronic diseases like asthma.

Smog also negatively affects species’ habitats in watersheds, impairs visibility in national parks, and damages forests. Smog exposure can also reduce yields for economically important crops such as soybeans, kidney beans, wheat and cotton.

Power plants in the top eleven most polluting states—including NM—were responsible for 50 percent of the total nitrogen oxide pollution emitted from power plants that year.

ENM’s report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is set to finalize a standard in July to help reduce smog pollution. Some members of Congress and industry lobbyists are attempting to block the EPA’s rules.

PNM Seeks to Overturn Landmark Carbon Pollution Rules

The NM Environmental Law Center has filed motions on behalf of New Energy Economy (NEE) to intervene in two pending appeals filed by PNM against the Environmental Improvement Board’s (EIB) adoption of the state’s carbon reduction rules. PNM is appealing both the NM Environment Department’s cap and trade rule, and NEE’s greenhouse gas cap rule – both adopted last year.

NM Gov. Susana Martinez is adamantly opposing greenhouse gas regulation and, citing the adoption of these regulations, fired all of the former EIB members on her first day of office. The new, Martinez-appointed EIB met behind closed doors with its attorney and is actively opposing NEE’s intervention in the pending appeals.

“The carbon pollution reduction rules were adopted based on their scientific and economic merits,” said Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director of NEE. It is clear that Gov. Martinez’s EIB has an ideological bias against the carbon pollution reduction rules and has prejudged the merits of this important public policy.”

PNM’s efforts to stop or repeal the carbon pollution reduction rule have previously been rejected by the NM Supreme Court and the former EIB. A previous attempt by the Martinez administration to stop publication of the rule was ruled unlawful by the state Supreme Court in January. The carbon reduction rule also survived the 2011 legislative session intact despite the introduction of seven bills to repeal or undermine it.

For more info, visit www.nmelc.org.

Share the Gifts from Your Garden with Hungry People

With “Plant a Row for the Hungry” The Food Depot is encouraging home gardeners to plant an extra row in their backyard gardens and donate the produce for distribution to people in need. Gardeners can drop their donations off at The Food Depot, 1222 Siler Road in Santa Fe or an emergency food pantry or soup kitchen in their community.

“We’re committed to providing healthy nutritious food to our partner agencies and those in need. While we pick up produce from grocery stores, the farmers’ market and local farmers, we simply cannot obtain enough produce to meet the growing need,” said Sherry Hooper, The Food Depot’s executive director. “The cost of procuring good produce continues to rise due to increased fuel prices. “Plant a Row for the Hungry” offers a simple way for our community’s gardeners to get involved in the battle against hunger,” said Hooper.

The Food Depot is committed to ending hunger in northern NM. As the food bank for nine northern NM counties, program provides food to 120 not-for-profit agencies including emergency food pantries, hot meal programs, homeless shelters, youth programs, senior centers, homes for the mentally disabled and shelters for battered persons. The food bank distributes an average of 300,000 pounds of food and household products each month, providing more than 400,000 meals to people in need – the most vulnerable – children, seniors, working families and those in ill health.