Renewable Energy

N.M. Co-op Reaches Solar Milestone

By Todd H. Cunningham | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 13th, 2012

An electric cooperative in New Mexico has reached a milestone in establishing the state’s first community solar gardens, beginning sales of the 420 solar panels in the first phase of the program.

Artist’s rendering shows solar panels installed above the parking structure in front of the Taos Charter School. (Photo Courtesy of KCEC)

Artist’s rendering shows solar panels installed above the parking structure in front of the Taos Charter School. (Photo Courtesy of KCEC)

On June 11, Taos-based Kit Carson Electric Cooperative began contacting members who had expressed an interest in purchasing the 235-watt panels, to be installed at the Taos Charter School. Installation will be completed by June 30, according to Steve Fuhlendorf, co-op public information officer.

When the solar garden becomes operational, consumers who purchase the $845 panels will receive a credit on their monthly bills for the energy produced.

The project is expected to produce about 160,000 kilowatt-hours of energy annually. It represents the first phase of a 1.2-megawatt agreement between Kit Carson EC and the Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado company that has pioneered the community solar model for energy production.

Under the model, Clean Energy constructs, maintains and warranties the solar gardens, and Kit Carson EC acquires the power they produce. Panel owners receive tax credits and electricity discounts as if the panels were installed on their own roofs.

The community solar concept allows all co-op members to utilize solar energy, including renters and those with properties not well suited to solar collection.

According to Luis Reyes, Kit Carson CEO, the partnership “makes sense for us as we move to a new level of making solar energy affordable and available to all of our members.”

The Taos initiative is the latest solar undertaking for Kit Carson EC, which ranks second among the nation’s electric co-ops in solar usage per consumer and fourth in total solar production.

The co-op’s first solar project, the 5,280-panel, 1.25-MW Amalia 1 solar array, became operational on June 4. Kit Carson will buy the solar output under a 25-year agreement with project developer Standard Solar.

While the projects are different in size and technology—the Taos panels are fixed, while Amalia uses a tracking array that follows the sun’s path—both represent Kit Carson EC’s commitment to solar power.

“We have more than 300 days of sunshine,” Fuhlendorf noted. “And because of our high elevation—7,000 feet—solar panels are especially effective because of cooler temperatures.”

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