Back to business: New Mexico must tap solar, wind energy – Las Cruces Sun

June 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

LAS CRUCES – Hanging out atop the third-floor rooftop of the Regency Pointe Apartments Wednesday, sweat dripping off my forehead and eyeballing a newly-installed solar array that will power the common areas of the complex while I gazed out over the city of Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley, I was reminded of two things.

First, we have an abundance of sun and wind. Second, we are not doing enough, as business owners and as individuals, to harness that power.

It’s pretty simple math, if you think about it. I know businesses, including the Sun-News, are trimming energy costs by installing solar arrays. I have friends across the city and state who are powering their homes with solar energy and even making a few bucks on occasion by putting green energy back into the grid.

Seems like a no-brainer, right?

But here’s the rub. We don’t have the transmission capability to harvest all of the lovely sun and wind that make our state a potential green energy hub. Nor are we currently able to get it to the larger markets and our neighbors to the west — namely Arizona and California. We have made great strides with the recent resolution reached between the Department Of Defense and the Bureau of Land Management that would require the private company, SunZia, to bury five miles of its proposed transmission line underground. That would eliminate conflicts with military training and weapons testing that is conducted in White Sands Missile Range’s northern extension area.

This move has been a missing piece of the puzzle in getting central New Mexico wind farms to ramp up development. The same holds true for larger-scale solar developments.

The timing is good, given President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will force reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide. Currently, New Mexico gets most of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. The new federal guidelines call for cutting those power plant emissions nationally by nearly one third over the next 15 years.

The EPA wants our state to reduce those emissions by 33 percent of the 2012 levels, when we spewed some 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

But that, too, comes at a cost. Gov. Susana Martinez has brokered a deal with the state’s largest utility to phase out two units at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico.

Now, we must, all of us — from homeowners and business owners to our elected officials — turn our thoughts to fostering the green-energy revolution and ensure that our fellow New Mexicans are well-trained and properly equipped to step in and fill that void. To paraphrase my friend, Carrie Hamblen of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, it is the right thing to do, both economically and for the environment.

Jason Gibbs may be reached at 575-541-5451.

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