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Our view: Keep solar projects moving along

May 2013

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2013 7:00 pm [appeared in print Monday, May 27]

The New Mexican | 0 comments

In a state where the sun shines 300-plus days a year, solar energy is good business. Bringing solar panels to the state Capitol complex also makes sense — which is why a citizens’ group, Go Solar, was able to persuade the state legislators to allocate $185,000 to design and build a photovoltaic solar array. The money was to go to the Legislative Council Service, landlords for the state Capitol, to put solar panels on a parking garage. Despite the support of the Legislature, including the 15 legislators who forked over their capital projects dollars for the project, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the appropriation.

The solar supporters say they will return next year to try again. They should, but in the meantime, they should sit down with the governor or her representatives and find out how to put together a solar package she will support. According to the governor’s spokesman, Martinez issued the veto because she didn’t think the solar proposal was well thought out. She also was concerned that it wasn’t fully funded. Those are both good reasons.

However, just as we urge supporters of the solar project to talk to Martinez, we’d like the governor to investigate solar without a nudge from the citizenry. After all, utility bills run around $70,000 a month for the state Capitol and its north annex, with another $5,000 a month spent at the nearby parking garage, according to figures from the Legislative Council Service. With solar power, utility bills would go down and taxpayers would save money — eventually. (And even without switching to solar power, the state could start reducing its bills by shutting off lights in parking lots at night after workers go home. Light pollution would be reduced and so would electric bills.)

In the meantime, while the state project is stalled, we would like to salute the city of Santa Fe for aggressively adding solar energy to the mix of buildings across the city. Santa Fe has solar panels at fire stations and other buildings, with as much as 20 percent of energy for city buildings expected to come from solar power by the end of 2014. Now, Santa Fe County will be installing solar panels at the Tesuque Fire Station, what backers of the renewable energy hope to see as one of the first of many more such installations. The placement of the panels in Santa Fe County are part of the Sol not Coal campaign from New Energy Economy. (The nonprofit also helped get solar panels installed on Fire Station No. 3 along Cerrillos Road.)


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