By Bill Knief
Wednesday, July 1, UNM-Taos hosted Energy Independence Day to celebrate the construction of the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative 3 ½ acre solar array—to date, the largest solar generation plant in the state of New Mexico. When completed this month the 500 kilowatt facility will provide 100 percent of the power needs of the Klauer campus, making UNM-Taos the first community college of its kind in the nation to be completely powered by solar energy.
With a crowd estimated at 350 and dozens of local and statewide VIP’s on hand including Senator Jeff Bingaman and Congressman Ben R. Lujan, the Energy Independence Day event was one of the largest ever held on the Klauer campus, and the excitement was palpable. Ken Eske’s Paradise Balloons donated free tethered balloon rides. Children from the Kid’s Campus sang a spirited song to the sun. More than twenty booths, most of them championing renewable energy and a sustainable lifestyle, kept attendees busy. There was food, free commemorative T-shirts, an unveiling of the new library plans, and a live broadcast of the entire ceremony by solar station KTAO FM. Two sponsors helped make it all happen: Kit Carson Electric Coop, which was also responsible for obtaining the funding that made the solar array a reality, and UNM-Taos Student Government.
A word about student government. Every time someone enrolls in a class at UNM-Taos, a small part of the tuition is set aside to fund student government. Student government members manage this money on behalf of the student body, and in the past couple of years they have taken this fiscal responsibility seriously, doling out money carefully in order to make UNM-Taos a better place of learning. At the Energy Independence Day celebration, Members not only provided crucial funding; they were everywhere, giving out T-shirts, managing the crowd, producing the show. It couldn’t have happened without them.
Declaration of Energy Independence
In her keynote address, Executive Director Dr. Kate O’Neill delivered the following proclamation:
In just a few short days we will celebrate the historic declaration by the founders that this country would henceforth be an independent and sovereign nation. In that same spirit of brash optimism we gather now, to declare our independence from unsustainable methods of energy production and announce that there’s a new day dawning, and a new sun shining on us all.
And just as the defiant words of the founders proved prophetic over the years, so too will our words and deeds set the standard for future generations to follow.
Therefore we hereby proclaim this day, July 1st, 2009, Energy Independence Day.
As we look out over beautiful Taos Valley to the ancient homeland of our neighbors at Taos Pueblo, we are reminded that there is nothing new about the philosophy of sustainability. Look to the mountain and you will see the air is clean and the waters run clear thanks to the wisdom of living within the bountiful balance of nature which has sustained their community for thousands of years.
Today we rededicate ourselves to that simple truth.
This solar array, the largest to date in the state of New Mexico, symbolizes not just independence from the tyranny of foreign oil and the toxic effects of carbon based fuels. It also represents a commitment to future generations.
In recognizing the importance of this commitment, we celebrate a defining moment in our shared history, and dedicate ourselves to the vision and hard work ahead that will ensure a self sustaining and continually evolving world for generations to come.
Enacted this day, July 1, 2009 at the Klauer Campus of the University of New Mexico, Taos
For those of you who would like to sign the Declaration of Energy Independence and pick up your own copy, come by the Administration Office at 115 Civic Plaza Drive, where we have the original document on display.