October 2020 Sustainability Newsletter

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October 2020 Newsletter

Let the Sunshine In


pv system

County Completes 17th Solar Installation

2020 has been a hard year, but one thing we can be happy about is the growth of renewable energy. We're in the midst of a massive energy transition, shifting away from fossil fuels towards clean energy sources. Last year, for the first time ever, solar and wind made up the majority of new power generation across the globe. Also in 2019, the U.S. consumed more electricity from renewable resources than from coal for the first time since the 1800s. Almost all major US banks have banned funding of drilling in the Arctic. And a report released last week shows that 47 of 50 states could reach 100% renewable electricity with their own resources. The future is bright!

Santa Fe County is proud to be a part of this transition. County operations are on track for 100% renewable electricity by 2024, well in advance of the 2045 date mandated by New Mexico's Energy Transition Act. Approximately 60% of this will come from solar panels on County facilities, 40% will come from PNM's Solar Direct Program, and any remaining amount will come from utility renewable energy programs. Santa Fe County now has 17 facilities that are equipped with solar panels. The latest additions are two 15 kW solar systems at the County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall (pictured above) and Agua Fria Fire Station. The 17 facilities have a total system capacity of over 1.5 MW, representing 52% of the total electricity use of County operations. The PV systems produce nearly 2.4 million kWh of energy annually, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 4.2 million miles driven by a passenger car, or the amount of carbon sequestered by 2,200 acres of U.S. forests in one year. This renewable energy powers services such as fire stations, community centers, convenience centers, and provides clean drinking water. 

The next facilities to be equipped with solar panels are the Rancho Viejo Fire Station (system currently under construction) and the Public Safety Building. In addition, the County received $325,000 from the state legislature this year to continue its solarization efforts. In 2019 alone, the County's PV systems saved residents $284,000. Moreover, these systems reduce approximately 1,870 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, improving air quality in New Mexico and increasing our climate resiliency.

solar tax credit

State Solar Market Development Tax Credit Application Process Now Live 

New Mexico's New Solar Market Development Tax Credit is here! Up to $6,000 per year, this 10% state tax credit is available for both photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Applications are now being accepted online. Download the application form and accompanying instructions, or find them on the EMNRD website here.

This new state tax credit comes at a critical time as the federal solar tax credit for residential solar is set to expire at the end of 2021. From now until December 31, you can still enjoy a 26% federal tax credit for residential solar. In 2021 this will decrease to 22%. After December 31, 2021, the tax credit expires for residential solar, but will remain at 10% indefinitely for commercial solar installations. Here are some tips on how to take advantage of the federal solar tax credit before it's too late. And don't forget to check out our list of local solar installers!

community solar 2

Community Solar Gains Traction

Community solar names the concept whereby a photovoltaic (PV) array generates power off-site for a group of subscribers. The primary purpose of community solar is to allow members of a community the opportunity to share the benefits of independently-generated solar power even if they cannot, or prefer not to, install solar panels at their own home. Key benefits include lower electricity costs and less greenhouse gas emissions. In some states, including Colorado, the programs are called solar gardens, because they are akin to community vegetable gardens. However, in solar gardens, the sun's energy gets harvested!  

Community solar has been debated in the state legislature for over a decade, and we anticipate that in 2021 New Mexico will join the sixteen states that have passed community solar legislation.  When the 2020 community solar bill did not clear key legislative committees, the state legislature passed Senate Memorial 63, which determines a consensus-based process for developing a replacement bill for the 2021 legislature. Currently Senator Elizabeth 'Liz' Stefanics and Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero host biweekly open discussions on key bill concepts including: 

  • making a significant part of the power affordably available to low-to-middle income populations,
  • creating opportunities for local tribes,
  • array size limits,
  • fair compensation the electric utilities for the use of the grid, and 
  • whether to allow solar gardens in cooperative utility service areas.

Let us know if you'd like to be part of the group community solar discussions and please, let your legislators know you support more equitable solar access!

solar avo

Sustainability Technical Assistance Services

Did you know Santa Fe County’s Sustainability Office also provides free, impartial technical assistance? Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of residents answer a variety of sustainability related questions, everything from composting, recycling, and energy efficiency, to help with monitoring domestic wells, and of course, advice on going solar!

We have several curated resources on our website to help you go solar:

  • An Excel-based PV analysis tool for a step-by-step guide on how to calculate your solar system size, select a solar installer, and calculate the return on investment over the lifetime of your system
  • A list of local solar providers (installers, let us know if we've missed you and would like to be added)
  • A checklist of energy efficiency steps to take before going solar
  • And a general flyer about the services we provide, available in both English and Spanish

Need assistance navigating our Excel PV analysis tool? Or do you have questions about other sustainability related topics? Drop us an email or give us a call today! Through our website page, select the topic you need help with, and the contact information of the person on our team who specializes in the topic is located at the bottom of the page; don't be shy to reach out!

Larry PV system

What Can I Do? Go Solar!

Larry gives his solar experience two thumbs up!  County resident, Larry, recently installed a solar system (see photo).  Sustainability asked him about his experience. We thought you might enjoy hearing his responses:

Q: Why did you decide to install a solar system at your homeLarry: We’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about it for a while.  When a solar sales person knocked on the door, we decided to do it.

Q: Did you seek financing?  Larry: Our solar company offered very attractive 20-year financing – we didn’t have to put out any cash.  We paid down our loan with our federal tax credit and now we pay $54/ month on the loan, which is a little less than our average monthly PNM bill was before. 

Q: What has been the impact on your utility bills?  Larry: We only pay PNM a monthly service charge of about $8.  Plus, we added more panels than we need right now so that we can convert our natural gas heat to mini-splits in the future.  Then we’ll save even more money!

Q: What do you want people to know who might be considering installing a solar systemLarry: It was really easy!  Our installer was fast, efficient.  We’re really glad we have it. It feels like a good thing to do.  I’m surprised that more people haven’t done it!

Our October Picks

(Click on orange title and text below for associated links and information.)

solar doc

Solar for All

Watch the Emmy nominated documentary series about Washington DC's initiative to bring solar to 100,000 low- and moderate-income families.

nmsu webinar

Ready, Set, GROW!

Tune into NMSU's webinar series about home gardening. October's talks are about herb gardens and seed saving.

solar tour 3

National Solar Tour

Connect with solar owners and supporters at this year's all-virtual National Solar Tour, the nation's largest grassroots renewable energy event. The event runs from Sept 28 - Oct 4.

deb haaland

Soil Stories with Congresswoman Deb Haaland

Join Congresswoman Deb Haaland on October 20th at 5:30 pm for an online conversation about soil health, followed by a conversation with participants (You!).

drive electric 3

It's National Drive Electric Week!

This year's line up includes a virtual electric car show, an EV 101 class, tips on pairing EV with solar, and so much more. A must-do for those wanting to make the switch to EVs! Tune in until October 4.

land witness

 Land Witness Project

Listen to New Mexicans share stories about the impact of climate change on their lives and livelihoods on October 26 at 6:30 pm.

Sustainability Comments or Questions?

We are your local advisors on all things sustainability in Santa Fe County. Call us about anything from water conservation, cleaner transportation, solar and renewable energy, composting, recycling, etc. Or let us know what you would like to learn more about in our newsletter. 


Claudia Borchert, 505.992.3044 

Jacqueline Beam, 505.992.9832

Adeline Murthy, 505.992.9862