By Bill Knief
It’s a really big deal.
To date, it’s the biggest built in New Mexico. See for yourself—click on our webcam at taos.unm.edu.
When completed, the 3 ½ acre solar generation station currently under construction on the UNM-Taos Klauer campus south of town will produce 500 kilowatts of power—more than enough to run the entire campus. What’s left over goes into the grid.
That doesn’t mean we get free electricity. Just like every other member of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, we’ll get a bill each month. UNM-Taos provided the land and the Coop funded the construction, owns the hardware and is responsible for maintenance and repairs. The difference is, the energy is clean, it’s renewable and it comes directly from the sun by way of advanced technology and the forward thinking of community and national leaders.
Join us at Klauer on Wednesday, July 1 for the first annual Energy Independence Day celebration. Sponsored by UNM-Taos Student Senate and Kit Carson Electric, it’s a way of recognizing the significance of the new solar generation station not only to the Taos community but to the entire state.
Among a long list of state and local dignitaries, Senator Jeff Bingaman and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan are planning to be there in person, along with a representative from Senator Udall’s office. You’ll learn the history of the project from Kit Carson CEO Luis Reyes and get a first hand look at the site, slated to go online in about a month. We’ll be out there from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with booths, demonstrations, a first look at our plans for the new Library Learning Center, free commemorative tee shirts and more. But try to get there at high noon, because that’s when the official ceremony gets started with a Declaration of Energy Independence. Our own home grown solar radio station KTAO will be broadcasting events live from the campus that day, and we are hoping to get coverage on the Albuquerque broadcast television stations.
Why all the fanfare?
It has taken more than two years to get to this point since Reyes first applied for a five million dollar, zero percent federal grant, and with the help of Senator Bingaman started to realize his vision to make “renewable energy…the strongest engine for economic development in Taos County”.
The impact on the community college will be substantial. The demonstration site will be the focus of an expanded curriculum of courses in sustainability and renewable resources, and our green jobs program will start producing opportunities for students to enter the burgeoning job market.
Tom Anderson, Southwest Business Operations Manager for American Capital Energy, the national firm responsible for overseeing the construction of the array, emphasized that “UNM-Taos is the first campus of its kind in the nation to be completely powered by renewable solar energy”.
He went on to express his appreciation for the positive reception the project has had in Taos.
“It’s all about how to get renewable energy out to the grid dependably and efficiently, and that’s important because more sustainability equals more self reliance. Taos understands that. I’m seeing widespread excitement around this progressive vision, and our company has been able to put local resources to bear on the project. The roughly 24 local jobs we have provided represent a base of trained people with experience in renewables that will be around long after we have gone.”
If we measure success for Taos in terms of building a healthy community that supports a healthy environment, this truly is a defining moments in our history. Come join us July 1 to celebrate Energy Independence Day.
One more important event on July 1: our friends at the Harwood are hosting a groundbreaking ceremony starting at 10 a.m. at their fine facility over on Ledoux street to commemorate the start of their 5 million dollar expansion. State and local officials are invited, and it is a great time to get a look at their ambitious plans for the museum.