Watch us go solar at Fire Station No. 3

November 2012

By Delaney Covelli, Originally Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on November 3, 2012.

We are at an energy crossroads. We can either continue investing in harmful, dirty coal or help build New Mexico’s clean energy economy by investing in solar. It doesn’t take a college degree to know the right decision is to utilize the abundant solar energy New Mexico holds. But for too long, Public Service Company of New Mexico has chosen to use energy that requires drilling into our land, polluting our skies and wasting our water.

Currently, 60 percent of our state’s energy needs are met by the combustion of coal, which is bad news for our economy, environment and health. Long-term solutions are needed to shift energy production from coal plants to cleaner, nonpolluting technologies.

The choices we make now will determine my future.

I’m 17 years old, a senior in high school, and I have made my choice. I believe I have the right to breathe clean air, and I won’t stand by and allow corporate executives to endanger my health, my life or my chances. I may have my entire life ahead of me, but like every other member of my generation, I will have to adapt to climate disruption. Our state’s version of Hurricane Sandy has already happened! We’ve had the two greatest wildfires in New Mexico’s history, back to back. Even Gov. Susana Martinez acknowledges we are experiencing severe drought conditions. New York City floods. We burn.

If we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption, we need to transition off fossil fuels within the next 15 years. That means we gotta get going in earnest.

Every day after school, I walk my talk. I’m working on the Sol Not Coal campaign with New Energy Economy to solarize Fire Station No. 3 on Cerrillos Road, because I believe clean energy is the right choice for our health, our community and our planet.

I want to show that together, we can make a difference. So for the last year, Ariana Maestas and I have been fundraising from ordinary Santa Feans. We tabled outside of La Montanita co-op, we asked local restaurants to hold “Feast for the Fire Station” fundraisers, we held a dance party and raffle at Second Street Brewery.

Four area restaurants hosted “Feast for the Fire Station” nights and donated the proceeds toward making the fire station solar. They are Mu Du Noodles, Il Vicino, Counter Culture Cafe and Tecolote. Many, many local businesses donated items for raffle prizes. After months of collaborative fundraising and some grant writing by my boss, we were able to obtain solar panels to put on the roof and two solar trackers (like sunflowers, they follow the trajectory of the sun) to power Fire Station No. 3.

Other Santa Feans were involved in other ways. An Advanced Photovoltaics class at Santa Fe Community College (urban designers, city planners, electricians seeking their solar certificates) analyzed the electric consumption of the station and helped choose the best solar system size. They conducted a site survey and determined feasibility. Some students were actively involved in the technical installation under the tutelage of the local solar installation company Positive Energy.

The city of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Fire Department have been remarkable allies in this process. I need to give a special shout out to energy specialist Nick Schiavo, who went out of his way to help our project succeed. Mayor David Coss and the city councilors also have been behind us from the beginning. The community has made this solar installation a reality, and with your presence, it will be the community that celebrates together.

Please join us at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Fire Station No. 3 for a green-ribbon-cutting celebration. There will be dignitaries, elementary schoolchildren, funding partners, firefighters and, hopefully, all of you. Baskin-Robbins is donating free ice cream — mint, of course. The theme is green — so we can create the kind of resilient community we need today and for our collective future.

Delaney Covelli attends Santa Fe High and is an intern with New Energy Economy.

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