The future of Albuquerque’s renewable energy industry is about to get a lot brighter.
This past week, the city of Albuquerque announced a $25 million project to increase its production of solar energy.
The project, which will place solar panels on city-owned buildings, is expected to begin construction this summer.
“The installation of these photovoltaic panels makes sense on so many levels. It provides clean energy to a growing city, provides much needed job opportunities and utilizes a resource that is very abundant in New Mexico — energy from the sun,” said Professor Donald Davis of UNM’s Applied Technology department.
Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton, who proposed the project, have secured federal funding in collaboration with Senator Martin Heinrich.
This project is the first step towards actualizing a resolution which Davis and Benton sponsored late last year.
The resolution, which passed in the city council in September, appealed to the city to increase the percentage of Albuquerque’s energy produced by solar from three to 25 percent.
This resolution is, in part, an attempt to reduce the city’s dependence on fossil fuels.
“As of 2010, the State of New Mexico emits nearly 55 million metric tons of carbon pollution a year from fossil fuel combustion,” the resolution document stated.
According to the document, fossil fuels release toxic pollutants, creating poor air quality and an unhealthy environment for Albuquerque residents.
The process of creating energy from fossil fuels also requires more water than solar electricity.
One kilowatt-hour of energy created through the solar electricity system requires approximately one-ninth as much water as producing the same amount of energy from a combined cycle fossil fuel plant, and one-seventeenth as much as a coal-fired plant.
The installation of new solar panels will also create more jobs in the ever-expanding solar energy sector, one that has increased by 54 percent nationally from 2015 to 2016 alone, according to the 2016 National Solar Job Census.
All of these efforts take into account the need to better utilize a readily available resource in New Mexico: sunshine.
“The State of New Mexico receives more than 300 days of sunshine per year, thereby granting it the second-greatest solar potential of the 50 states in the country,” according to Davis and Benton’s proposal.
Davis said, New Mexico has one of the “highest solar resource levels in the country.”
“Our state should be a showplace for solar technology for the rest of the United States,” he said, adding that the Solar Technology Program at UNM Los Alamos can help train the workforce involved in this project and, hopefully, many additional solar projects throughout the region.
Hannah Eisenberg is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo.