2,099 Work in NM Solar Industry

The Solar Foundation, a trade group representing solar power companies, reports that New Mexico has 2,099 people working in the industry, which puts the state No. 13 in the nation. The top 10 states in order were: California, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The foundation and Green LMI Consulting conducted the survey with help from Cornell University. The report may be viewed at www.thesolarfoundation.org.

Schott Solar Facility Achieves LEED Certification

Schott Solar, Inc. has achieved certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for the company’s $100 million, 200,000 square-foot solar products manufacturing complex near Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque facility opened in 2009 and employs more than 300 local workers. It produces receivers used in parabolic trough, utility-scale and concentrated solar power plants (CSP), as well as receivers for CSP used alongside photovoltaic (PV) modules. Long-term plans call for the building to expand to 800,000 square feet with 1,500 employees, representing a total investment of $500 million.

REAP Grants Awarded

Santa Fe Brewing Company has received a $20,000 grant to offset the cost of installing a solar power system. The total cost of the project is $80,000. The grant was made through the USDA’s Rural Energy for American Program. The REAP Program helps farmers, ranchers and small businesses in rural America with grants and loan guarantees totaling up to 75% of the cost to install renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency. The grant to SF Brewing will help pay for the installation of 90 solar panels. It is estimated that the company will see an energy saving of over a thousand dollars a month as a result of the new system, which was completed last month.

Blue Skies Consulting, an aviation photography company in Belen, has received more than $13,000 through REAP to offset the $54,000 cost of installing a new PV solar power system at its hangar at the Alexander Municipal Airport.

Positive Energy Appoints New CEO

Positive Energy has selected Regina Wheeler as its new Chief Executive Officer. Wheeler is leaving her position as Environmental Services Director for the city of Santa Fe. Prior to that she was the Environmental Services Manager for Los Alamos County.

Positive Energy is an employee-owned business established in 1997. The company has almost three million watts of solar power and more than 560 PV systems installed and serviced all over New Mexico. In September the company installed a new PV system at the Santa Fe Transit Division to power about 45% of the Transit Division’s energy needs. Positive Energy’s first Photovoltaic System Grant was recently awarded to the Santa Fe Girls’ School. A PV system valued at $15,000 was installed last month as part of a New Mexico Solar Energy Association class.

PNM’s Solar Storage System Online

On Sept. 24, with U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in attendance, PNM dedicated the nation’s first solar storage facility that is fully integrated into a power grid.

The PNM Prosperity Energy Storage Project, located south of the Albuquerque International Sunport near Mesa Del Sol, is now online. The $8.7 million demonstration project adjacent to a 2,158-panel solar array can produce 500 kilowatts of power and uses high-tech batteries to create dispatchable energy, which smoothes the solar panels’ output. It is the first of 16 smart grid projects partially funded by stimulus monies to be fully operational.

Albuquerque-based Schott Solar manufactured the PV panels, and Cameron Swinerton and Positive Energy of Santa Fe constructed the array. Several components were first-time technology developed specifically for the project, which PNM is promoting as “a significant first step toward making renewable energy reliable energy.” The utility contributed $6 million to the project, and expects to recover its costs through a renewable energy rider to be filed this month.

Speakers at the dedication also included representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of New Mexico, Northern New Mexico College, Sandia National Laboratories and East Penn Manufacturing, who manufactured the 1,280 lead-acid batteries housed inside eight climate-controlled containers.

New Solar Arrays in New Mexico

Alamogordo Solar Project Completed

The fourth of five solar plants that PNM will complete this year to support the utility’s compliance with NM’s renewable portfolio standard was dedicated in Alamogordo on Oct. 20. Comprised of 78,000 panels that fill 50 acres, the Solar Energy Center can produce up to 5 megawatts on sunny days. It is expected to generate enough electricity to power over 1,600 average-sized NM homes over the course of a year. Construction of the project employed more than 100 locals, but it will not require ongoing full-time jobs.

PNM solar plants are currently also running in Albuquerque, Los Lunas and Deming. A Las Vegas, NM facility is to be completed by the end of the year. The five plants together are expected to produce 51 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power 7,000 homes. They are projected to offset 44 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 4,500 cars from the road. PNM expects to have 47 megawatts of solar power on its system by the end of this year: 22 megawatts from the five solar plants and an additional 25 megawatts from customer-owned solar systems. The utility also has 200 megawatts of wind energy capacity from the NM Wind Energy Center, which was added to PNM’s system in 2003. New Mexico will require 15% of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015.

Smiths Food & Drug Stores

Another solar project recently completed is the installation of photovoltaic panels on two Albuquerque Smith’s Food & Drug Stores. The solar energy output from these two stores is 320,000-kilowatt hours combined, completely eliminating the need of fossil fuel sources. The systems on the roof of each store consist of 442 panels, which convert sunlight into DC power. A news release from the company says the energy savings from the two systems could heat and cool 30 homes in NM for one year; the equivalent of planting 57 acres of trees or removing 40 cars from the road. Affordable Solar installed the system. Smith’s has also launched energy conservation programs within all of the company’s 25 NM stores.

NRG Roadrunner at Full Capacity

NRG Solar’s 20-megawatt Roadrunner facility near the New Mexico border with Texas is now operating at full capacity. The facility uses groups of solar panels that track the sun’s movement. The facility sits on 210 acres of private land near El Paso, Texas. The electricity generated is being sold to El Paso Electric under the terms of a 20-year agreement.

Solar Power Plants in Lea and Eddy Counties

Three solar power plants that make up the 53.5-megawatt project overseen by SunEdison and Xcel Energy near Carlsbad, NM were activated on Sept. 22. The site will eventually include five solar plants and generate enough renewable energy to offset the carbon emissions of 288,000 cars after 20 years of production. The solar farm is expected to power over 186,000 average U.S. homes per year. It will be fully activated by the end of this year. The electricity generated will be sold to Southwestern Public Service Co., a subsidiary of Xcel Energy. Wells Fargo provided $200 million in financing.