Journal North: Solar Project Moves Ahead

January 2012

By Kiera Hay

Plans are moving forward for Santa Fe city government to partner with a local nonprofit to build a solar energy system at a fire station on Cerrillos Road.

Santa Fe has built, or plans to build, around eight solar energy projects on city property. But if the City Council agrees, Fire Station No. 3 will be the only one where the city is evenly splitting the cost with a private entity.

Santa Fe government has previously stuck mainly to “power purchase” agreements where another party builds a system at a city facility and the city gets better electricity rates.

“This would be the first one where I’m saying the city should put up the money and buy it and that’s because with a donation of 50 percent it’s almost as good as if we could take advantage of state and federal tax credits and all those good things,” said Nick Schiavo, the city’s Housing and Community Development director said.

Santa Fe-based New Energy Economy, a nonprofit that works to create clean energy economic opportunities, initially approached the city about working together.

“New Energy Economy said, ‘If we gave you some money, would you match it do a photovoltaic system in the city?’ I said, ‘Without a doubt,’” Schiavo said.

After talking with New Energy Economy, Schiavo did a little research and decided the Fire Station No. 3, off Cerrillos Road and close to Ashbaugh Park, fit the bill.

The station already has several solar panels in place and a parking lot big enough for a larger system. It’s also located in a highly visible area – the better to raise awareness about solar energy initiatives.

Perhaps most importantly, a system can be built at the fire station for the right price: around $80,000.

The cost of the project will be split evenly between the city and New Energy Economy. The city’s portion will come from PNM lighting retrofit rebates.

Specifics haven’t been mapped out, but the general idea is to mount solar panels on a pre-fabricated carport in the station’s parking lot, which fronts on Cerrillos Road.

Schiavo said the system will provide about 25 percent of the station’s electricity.

“We’re getting something for half the price, so I don’t have to wait 15 years to get my money back from energy savings. It’s closer to like eight years,” Schiavo said.

A resolution directing city staff to “review the feasibility” of entering into the partnership was approved last week by the city’s Public Safety Committee. It goes before the City Council for final approval Jan. 11.

If passed, staff will go back to the governing body two weeks later with information including the legality of entering into a financial partnership with New Energy Economy and whether the fire station is a good candidate for a new photovoltaic system.

To Continue Reading: Solar Project Moves Ahead

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