October 2015

City of Santa Fe: Renewable Energy on City Facilities and Energy Performance Contracting

John Alejandro

In an effort to reduce the use of fossil fuel-based electricity and save money on its electric bills, the city of Santa began installing renewable-energy and energy-efficiency technologies in many of its facilities. Since 2007, 13 renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects have been completed, largely funded by $1.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus funds). Currently, 10 renewable energy systems generate 4.8 MW of electricity, meeting approximately 25 percent of all city facility power needs:

  • Buckman Direct Diversion Project: 1.0 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) system, and an additional 1.5 MW PV system located at Booster 2A;
  • Transit Division: 165 kilowatt (kW) PV system;
  • Community Convention Center: 91 kW PV system;
  • Fire Station #3: 24 kW photovoltaic (PV) system, along with a solar thermal system for heating water;
  • Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant: 100 kW hydroelectric plant;
  • Wastewater Treatment Facility: 1.1 MW PV system and a 100 kW PV system located at the Compost Facility;
  • Water Division Administration Building: 81 kW PV system that also powers two electric-vehicle charging stations;


  • Genoveva Chavez Community Center: 600 kW PV system.

Energy efficiency retrofits include:

  • Energy-efficiency retrofits include:
  • Lighting retrofits at 26 city buildings;
  • HVAC upgrade and building controls installed at the Municipal Court Building; and,
  • Boiler and building-envelope upgrades at various facilities.

Stimulus funds were also leveraged to assist in the purchase of 11 compressed-natural-gas solid-waste vehicles.
A goal of the city is to further reduce energy used by its facilities, and in an effort to achieve that, it will be assessing energy equipment such as HVAC systems, boilers, chillers and other technologies to identify items that can be upgraded to help its buildings be more energy efficient and use less electricity.

To help pay for these upgrades, the city will be developing an energy performance contract program. Energy performance contracting has been used by federal, state and local governments for nearly 30 years to improve energy use in government buildings. In a nutshell, an Energy Service Company (ESCO), comprised of energy experts with extensive experience in energy systems, works closely with a local government to identify and evaluate a host of potential energy savings throughout its facilities, and then installs a combination of energy-efficiency and water-saving equipment, renewable-energy technologies and smart-energy controls to make the savings a reality. The resulting savings from the reduction of energy used by the facilities is then used to pay for the costs of the projects.

The city will be participating in the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources’ Local Energy Efficiency Performance program, which will help guide the city through the energy performance contract process, along with access to a certified third-party reviewer who will help assess energy audits performed on city facilities.

Successful implementation of this program could save Santa Fe taxpayers approximately $300,000 in natural gas and electricity bills from the energy-efficient and renewable-energy investments made. Not only will such investments save money; they will also help reduce carbon emissions by lowering the amount of fossil fuel-based electricity used and improve the indoor environments of the city’s public buildings that are used by the public and city employees every day.


John Alejandro is the Renewable Energy planner at the city of Santa Fe.



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