As part of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative's 2009 solar power program, American Capital Energy and its partners Erickson Construction and Paradise Power of Taos, New Mexico have begun construction on the 500 kilowatt Klauer Campus solar array. Site work was recently completed by Iron Enterprises and the tracking system is being provided by Array Technologies of Albuquerque, NM. When complete in July, the solar electric generating facility will provide 100 percent of the power needs of the UNM-Taos Klauer Campus and will be the largest solar array to date in New Mexico.
Since the talking phase, it has taken almost five years to get to this point in the solar array project on the UNM-Taos campus.
With support from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative CEO Luis Reyes applied for a zero percent federal grant to install several solar generation plants throughout northern New Mexico. Under the stewardship of Senator Jeff Bingaman, a five million dollar bond was awarded to Kit Carson Electric Cooperative.
The UNM-Taos array is the first of these projects, and when completed this summer will be the largest solar array in the state of New Mexico. It is expected---and hoped---that this distinction will be short lived, however, as other utilities throughout New Mexico move toward smart grid renewable energy production.
The 3 ½ acre solar array will contain well over 2,700 photovoltaic panels and will generate 500 kilowatts of power---more than enough to serve all the power needs of the UNM-Taos campus. Any additional power will go back into the electric grid for use by Kit Carson Electric Cooperative customers.
The solar panels are mounted on a tracking system that tracks the sun from east to west daily - meaning they follow the path of the sun, remaining perpendicular to the suns location in the sky - to generate maximum solar power. At the end of the day, the panels reset to the east, awaiting sunrise the next day. This allows for roughly 20% more power production that a fixed tilt system.
The Taos branch campus will be the first community college of its kind in the nation to be 100 percent powered by renewable solar energy. The facility will support both the UNM-Taos green jobs initiative and academic courses in sustainability.
The fact that this project has come to fruition in a small, isolated, rural, multi-cultural community with no heavy industry to support it is a testament to the vision, skill and resourcefulness of individuals and both local and national companies: in particular, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, American Capital Energy, Array Technologies and Paradise Power.