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06/08/2012 11:04 AM     print story email story  

Community Solar Gardens, A First for New Mexico

SustainableBusiness.com News

Yesterday we reported on legislation that would promote community renewable energy in California and an energy coop that's forming in San Diego.

Today, we learned of a different model for community solar, this time in New Mexico.

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, the city of Taos and the Clean Energy Collective of Carbondale, Colorado have entered into a 1.2 megawatt agreement to launch New Mexico's first community solar gardens. 

Under this model, members can buy solar panels located in community arrays, on the roofs of schools and parking lots.

The Clean Energy Collective builds and maintains the solar gardens, and the local utility agrees to buy electricity from them. Members receive the same tax credits and electricity discounts as they would if the panels were installed on their own roofs. The panels have warrantees for 50 years. 

This makes it possible for people to use solar even if they are renters or have properties that can't accommodate solar, and  makes solar accessible to people of more income levels.

Kit Carson ranks second among US coops for solar use per member and fourth in total solar production. A decade ago, former Governor Bill Richardson officially named Taos as the "Solar Capital of the World." 

The first phase is under construction on the roof of Taos Charter School. Solar will also be on top of carports, which protect cars from the weather and provide charging stations for electric vehicles.

A local solar installer is finishing the project this month. 

Kit Carson is taking reservations for solar panels, which cost $845 each. Members receive monthly bill credits for the power produced by their panels.

"We are so excited to have Taos Charter School become the site of the first community solar garden in New Mexico. We want to teach our students that the use of clean, renewable energy can be a normal way of life. We hope to see many more community solar gardens in the future," says Mary Emery, a  parent who spearheaded the campaign to bring community solar to the school.

Formed in 1944, Kit Carson Electric Coop has almost 30,000 members and is one of 13 electricity coops that serve rural New Mexico communities.

Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective develops community-based renewable energy and has pioneered the model of delivering clean power through large-scale facilities that are collectively owned by participating utility customers.

Its proprietary RemoteMeter® system automatically calculates monthly credits and integrates with existing utility billing systems, enabling all utility customers to easily have renewable energy credited directly on their monthly utility bills, without modifying their home or office.

Kit Carson Cooperative Community Solar website:

Website: www.kcecsolar.com/



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