NEE's Sol Not Coal Projects Highlighted at Gathering of the Council of Environmental Cooperation with Gina McCarthy!

photo.pngHello friends! Marisol Fernandez y Mora here, New Energy Economy's Summer Intern Coordinator. I just wanted to share about our wonderful recent trip to table at the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) annual gathering in Boston, and to thank all of you for making it possible! The experience was amazing! I was joined by Josue Damian Martinez, one of Earth Care's Youth Leaders who was there to share the benefits of our Sol Not Coal Zona Del Sol solarization project which, through a collaborative project with Earth Care, Positive Energy, and NAPECA, brought solar to the youth and family center located on the southside of Santa Fe where he and hundreds of other young people in Santa Fe receive training in environmental stewardship, social justice, and community services.

We were the representatives from Santa Fe there to speak about how New Energy Economy has partnered with local nonprofits, public agencies, and local farms to bring the benefits of solar to the community through not only our Zona Del Sol project, but 7 other Sol Not Coal solarizations. People from Mexico, the United States, and Canada visited our table and learned about how feasible these projects are and how they save money, reduce carbon, and provide enormous health benefits. 

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Harvest the Sun

This spread in Local Flavor magazine tells the story of the solarization of the Pueblo of Tesuque's greenhouse and the significance of NEE's past solar projects on fire stations, community centers and tribal facilities. In demonstrating the benefits of solar to hundreds of people at a time and repurposing funding back into vital community services, we are exposing the vision of what is possible even in the face of a monolithic, outdated monopoly utility that stands by expensive, dirty energy sources.

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KUNM: The Sunshine Gang

March 2012

Santa Fe’s youngest environmentalists are the main subjects of a new mural at Warehouse 21, in the heart of the city’s Railyard community.

The mural, up for the next two years, is the work of graffiti artist John Santos and photographer Ann Stavely. Eventually, seven high school activists will beam down from the wall with larger-than-life optimism.  Today, with a small crowd looking on, the first couple went up.

Continue Reading The Sunshine Gang »

SFPS Spreads its Solar Footprint with New Power Projects at Eight Schools

August 2014

By Robert Nott
The New Mexican

On their return to school in a couple of weeks, students, staffers and visitors at Capital High School will see a field of 600 sun-power panels — part of Santa Fe Public Schools’ effort to leave solar footprints at eight district schools.

At some schools, such as the new El Camino Real Academy off N.M. 599, the solar panels are installed as shade structures in parking lots. At Capital, they are being placed in an unused field between the campus and a nearby residential neighborhood. Consolidated Solar Technologies of Albuquerque began installing the solar panels at Capital High in July. The project should be complete by the end of August.

The Capital High portion of the solar initiative cost about $980,000 in capital outlay funds. But that investment can pay off down the line in energy savings of up to $45,000 per year. The solar panels have a 25-year warranty.

Lisa Randall, Energy and Water Conservation Program coordinator for the district, said SFPS already is seeing annual savings of about $115,000 in its electric bills from Public Service Company of New Mexico through other solar projects.

The district used $235,000 from a 2009 general obligation bond and another $2 million from the 2013 bond cycle to initiate solar projects at three new schools — Amy Biehl Community School, Nina Otero Community School and El Camino Real — as well as five older facilities: Capital, Santa Fe High, Piñon Elementary, El Dorado Community School and Gonzales Community School.

In some cases, the impact and savings are minimal. For instance, 11 Schott Solar panels mounted in the wall at Gonzales in January 2013 nets about $1,000 in savings each year.

At El Camino Real, 228 solar panels installed under a shaded parking canopy this past month are projected to save $20,000 per year. The impact is similar at Amy Biehl Community School at Rancho Viejo, where 288 panels installed in April 2013 save the district about $21,000 in a year.

Nationwide, many school districts are going solar. The Tucson Unified School District recently announced it is bringing solar energy to more than 40 of its schools and projecting $170,000 in savings the first year and more than $11 million in energy costs over 20 years. More than 200 public schools in California have incorporated some sort of energy-saving solar devices. The Lafayette school district in Louisiana installed four rooftop solar panel devices several years ago and projected savings of $500,000 over a period of 10 years.

The efforts are not without controversy. Some critics argue the up-front costs of installation are still too expensive to recoup energy costs, especially when calculations are done for maintenance and replacement of panels.

But Mariel Nanasi, executive director of Santa Fe-based New Energy Economy, said school districts are finding it more cost effective to go solar “than pay PNM in the long run. They are taking long-term planning into account, realizing savings and putting them back into the schools for other important needs: new teachers or art classes or whatever services their kids need.”

Plus, she said, students will get accustomed to the idea that “solar is the norm, and that is what they are going to demand from policymakers.”

Randall said cost and space limitations make it unrealistic for the district to entirely move into solar territory, but the district will continue to push for as many solar panels as it can. It may have to wait until the next general obligation bond cycle in 2017 for more money to finance that push.

In April, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized Amy Biehl Community School in Santa Fe as one of 47 schools nationwide to attain a Green Ribbon from the Education Department. The annual award acknowledges schools that prove they have reduced energy costs and created healthier environments for students, among other measures. Amy Biehl is the only school in New Mexico to receive that award.

On Friday, PNM honored Santa Fe Public Schools, along with four other business — The Home Depot, Brewer Oil, St. Elizabeth Shelter and the State Employees Credit Union — as the top energy-efficiency organizations in town.

On a related note, the school district reports that its annual water use, estimated at 55 million gallons in 2011, has dropped to less than 32 million for fiscal year 2014.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or

Tesuque fires up station’s new solar panel system

August 2013

Tesuque-area residents, volunteer firefighters, solar energy advocates and Santa Fe County officials on Wednesday evening celebrated the completion of a solar installation project at the Tesuque Fire and Rescue Station — the first county firehouse with solar power.

The $18,900, 6.1-kilowatt solar panel system, a project that began in May, was half-funded by the county under a May resolution sponsored by County Commissioners Robert Anaya and Danny Mayfield. The rest of the money for the project came from the nonprofit New Energy Economy as part of its “Sol not Coal” campaign, which works to bring solar panels to area buildings through community donations.

“What we’ve done is fundraise from our community, and a number of businesses were involved,” said Mariel Nanasi, New Energy Economy’s executive director. “One of the ways that we fundraised was to have a table outside La Montanita Co-op — and these are dimes and nickels and checks helping to raise the money.”
Powered entirely by energy from the solar panels during the day, the Tesuque firehouse will send excess power back into the Public Service Company of New Mexico grid during the day, and take power from the grid at night.


Continue Reading at the Santa Fe New Mexican website »

Solar Panels Reflect Traditional Wisdom

July 2013

When growing up I was taught a lesson that I believe many young New Mexicans learn. When faced with a new problem, it is often best to look to the past for guidance. Nationally, we are faced with a growing list of problems. These problems span across environment, economy and employment. Locally we are facing the same problems. In New Mexico, one out of four high school students suffer from asthma; our job crisis has gained national attention; our economic development is marred by ever-increasing prices on energy; and, perhaps most importantly, our current energy sources are continuing to emit carbon, contributing to the heat wave and raging wildfires that now threaten life and land all across New México.

Continue reading at the Albuquerque Journal website »

Soaking up sun: City, community join for latest solar project at Fire Station No. 3

November 2012

interns and major

Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Friday, November 09, 2012 - 1

If the city of Santa Fe’s energy specialist, Nick Schiavo, had his way, all the electricity needed to power municipal buildings would come from renewable energy.

But that would take more rooftops, land and money than the city can drum up at the moment. Still, with support from city officials, local businesses and the community, Schiavo said the city is on track to rely on solar for 20 percent of the total power demand used by the municipality by next year.

Currently, the city has a little more than 2.5 megawatts of installed direct current available, mostly from solar photovoltaic panels. Planned solar power systems will add another 1.7 megawatts in the next year.

All the solar photovoltaic systems are tied into the electric grid managed by Public Service Company of New Mexico. The solar power is tracked separately and reduces the city’s electric bill from PNM. It also reduces the amount of electricity the city needs from PNM’s coal-fired power plants.

The latest addition is at the city’s Fire Station No. 3 on Cerrillos Road, which now sports 62 solar photovoltaic panels on the facility’s roof and on ground trackers. The panels will produce about 28,000 kilowatt-hours of power a year, or about a third of the electricity used at the facility.

High school students, local businesses and the nonprofit group New Energy Economy raised money for the system, which was installed by Santa Fe-based Positive Energy. The project also was used to train students from Santa Fe Community College’s green technology program.

Other solar projects are located at the city’s wastewater treatment facility, at the joint city-county river diversion project near the Rio Grande, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and at the municipal transit yard. Most of the solar photovoltaic projects cost the city almost nothing to install. Third-party companies, such as SunEdison, leased space from the city and installed the systems.

The companies get solar tax credits for which the city doesn’t qualify. In turn, the city doesn’t have to pay up front to install the systems but can purchase the electricity produced at a set rate. The city will be able to buy the systems from the companies after 11 years “at a greatly reduced price from the original construction cost,” Schiavo said. “I still think it is a great investment for the city to buy at that juncture.”

Schiavo estimates the solar power systems save the city more than $200,000 a year.

The city and county, which jointly own and manage the Buckman Direct Diversion Project at the Rio Grande, intend to install a second solar PV system next year but will purchase the panels outright. The system will help power a booster station that pumps the water 1,100 feet uphill from the Rio Grande and through 11 miles of pipeline to a treatment plant. Funding for the project is coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the New Mexico Finance Authority.

Schiavo said he intends to buy solar panels outright to install on parking covers at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center as well. “Costs have come down considerably for panels,” he said. Five years ago, PV cost about $10 per installed watt. The price now is about $3 per watt.

He’s looked at wind power and geothermal, but right now solar remains the most viable renewable-energy option for Santa Fe. “At the end of the day, we get such good sun, that’s where we should keep putting our money,” he said.

Santa Fe County also is adding solar to the new courthouse under construction on Sandoval Street. The county’s energy specialist, Erik Aaboe, said Positive Energy will install a 100-kilowatt system on the roof that will supply about 20 percent of the building’s electrical needs. The total cost of the project is $350,000, and Aaboe estimates a 5 percent rate of return on the investment from the offset cost of buying PNM’s electricity and from a credit paid by the company.

Aaboe said the county’s bigger focus right now is reducing the energy used in existing buildings. As heating, cooling and lighting equipment wears out, the county is buying more energy-efficient replacements.

There is only so much public roof space and public open space available to install renewable-energy systems. Schiavo is looking at what other towns, such as Taos, are doing to increase renewable energy after available municipal roof space is used. Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos is trying an unusual community solar project that Schiavo thinks might work in Santa Fe.

Third-party nonprofits that can’t take advantage of solar tax credits — such as schools and churches — offer roof space for a solar PV system. Residents purchase the solar panels and get the power. Kit Carson manages and maintains the system. Currently, a resident can buy a panel for about $845, far below what it would cost to install a complete system on their own rooftop.

Schiavo said he plans to meet with PNM and discuss Santa Fe’s options.

PNM has 527 customers in Santa Fe who have their own solar power systems interconnected to the utility’s grid, with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts of electricity, and 40 applications are pending. Statewide, more than 2,800 solar photovoltaic systems are interconnected with the utility’s grid, with a power capacity of 17 megawatts. Another 400 applications are pending for the program, according to PNM. “The program has experienced double-digit growth since 2006,” said Susan Sponar, PNM spokeswoman.

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