October 23, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Conditions are Great for Going Solar in New Mexico

"People are making their own power all over the state"

By Polly White

Santa Fe Business Musings

Polly White is a local business owner, active community member and astronomy geek.

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More individual homeowners and businesses could be looking at going solar. Equipment prices are at an all time low; there are numerous financing options and tax credits that pay for 40% of the system. The equipment is far better now than in the early days of solar. Solar PV systems now pay for themselves faster than ever and provide years of clean free energy. The solar energy industry has matured a lot in the last 20 years, and solar energy is now accessible to everyone. New Mexico is #1 in the amount of solar energy produced per capita. It is nice to be #1 for something so good for our economy and our environment.

People are even able sell energy back to PNM at a reasonable rate, helping PNM to fulfill its obligation to provide 20% of its energy from renewable sources. The PRC will soon be considering a proposal from PNM to reduce the amount they pay per kilowatt hour (kWh) to individual solar energy producers. This of course, would save PNM money, generate more profit and reward their shareholders. But this is short-term thinking. This is not the right trend for our state, our country or the world. PNM needs to continue to pay 9 cents per kWh so that systems pay for themselves in less than 10 years, which is a reasonable planning horizon for New Mexico families. The PRC should remind itself of the big picture here: a comprehensive renewable energy procurement plan will ensure continued growth and sustainability for the whole state.

Some ask why government and industry should offer these incentives. One key reason is to invest in our infrastructure. Even if you don’t subscribe to the argument that the planet needs a break from the fossil fuels, solar and diversification of our energy sources makes good financial and homeland security sense.  After the break-even point, these systems provide decades of clean, free energy. 

Another key reason is that the incentives are successfully developing an industry that is creating jobs in New Mexico.  Many of the people employed in this emerging industry lost jobs when the housing market crashed.  Since the economic difficulties beginning in 2008, the solar industry has been able to re-train local people (mostly from the construction industry) and provide great clean energy jobs for them. These jobs are not outsourced, not short-term or low paying; they are local, long-term, well-paying jobs with a real future.

There are many local solar providers, but the one we chose for our system is Positive Energy Solar (positiveenergysolar.com).  We installed my system years ago and since that time Positive Energy Solar has emerged as a leader in the solar industry. They opened in 1997 and have grown to 50 employees, and have offices in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos and Las Cruces. They not only design and install high performing solar systems, but they participate in the legislative and regulatory processes. The sun’s still shining 300 days a year and New Mexicans are powering their homes and businesses with all that beautiful New Mexico sunlight.

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