SANTA FE – Today, a coalition of solar companies and advocates representing various interests in New Mexico launched SOLution New Mexico, a campaign to increase access to solar energy for all New Mexicans, and rebuild New Mexico’s economy and rural communities with clean, locally produced community solar. The coalition is calling on New Mexico legislators to pass community solar legislation that would increase access to solar energy, create local jobs and invest in New Mexico’s economy.
Community solar refers to small, local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bill for their share of the power produced, saving them money. Community solar makes solar savings more accessible by eliminating the primary barriers to rooftop solar, like upfront costs, owning your home or office building, or having a suitable roof. The projects are often co-located on local farms or underutilized land, providing significant opportunities for New Mexico farmers and landowners to generate additional monthly revenue by leasing portions of their land to community solar developers.
“A robust community solar program can bring more than just homegrown energy and savings to customers and businesses. It can bring desperately needed investment, tax revenue and jobs into communities that are struggling,” said Kevin Cray, regional director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access, a national coalition of businesses and nonprofits working to expand community solar. “These projects are also proven to increase property values while helping to preserve family farms by giving farmers a new revenue source. And best of all, they do all this without raising taxes.”
Community solar projects throughout the U.S. produced more than 2,000 megawatts of energy through the end of 2019, according to a report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. While 20 other states permit these types of arrangements, New Mexico’s utility laws currently prevent community solar projects from being constructed and operated.
SOLution NM partners advocate for equitable policy baselines, which ensure accessibility and participation, particularly for low-income customers and communities disproportionately harmed by the health and environmental impacts of fossil energy extraction.
“Strong community solar policy will advance the goals of Tribal Nations in pursuing energy sovereignty by encouraging investment and reducing financial energy burden,” said Mayane Barudin, Regional Manager & Tribal Liaison for Vote Solar, and tribal member of Kewa Pueblo.
“New Mexico communities have been asking for enhanced access to solar energy generation for years,” said Ben Shelton, Policy and Political Director for Conservation Voters New Mexico. “This legislation will have the potential to ensure that equity and access is a central theme in New Mexico’s transition to renewable energy.”
Advocates for community solar point to large numbers of jobs created in states with legislatively enabled community solar programs to prove what is possible in New Mexico. In Minnesota, for example, the state home to one-third of the nation’s community solar projects, community solar employed more than 4,000 workers as of 2018.
“Our coalition of local governments supports community solar as a way to reduce greenhouse gases, provide targeted benefits for low income households, create more green jobs, and expand renewable energy choice for our community members,” said Beth Beloff, Executive Director, Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico.
Last year the New Mexico Senate passed Memorial 63 which requests “the New Mexico Legislative Council to arrange for a third-party facilitator to convene a working group to review statewide community solar initiatives and develop recommendations for the implementation of those initiatives.” The working group is composed of community members and representatives from various public and private interests from across the state. The working group will report its findings and recommendations to the appropriate interim legislative committees this fall in advance of New Mexico’s 2021 legislative session, which begins on January 19th.