Climate conference comes to Taos

Example of solar arrays similar to ones KCEC is installing around Taos County.

With the completion of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative's newest solar array, Taos County’s reputation as a center for clean energy continues to grow. 

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the 3-megawatt array, adjacent to the Taos Wastewater Treatment facility in Ranchos de Taos, is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Friday (Oct. 29). The new array was constructed in partnership with the town of Taos, which leased 30 acres of land for the project. 

According to Luis Reyes Jr., chief executive officer of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), the ribbon-cutting event will honor the integral partnerships involved in the process, as well as the co-op’s commitment to combating the effects of climate change. 

“We want to celebrate,” said Reyes. “We’re advancing our renewable energy goals. We’re doing it with local labor. We’re doing it with local partnerships. And we’re addressing both energy issues and climate change issues ... We did it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Reyes hopes that Friday’s ceremony will also help accentuate the good that’s happening in the community. 

In the wake of increasing global temperatures and rising costs of everything from food to natural gas, it can be easy to focus on the negatives, Reyes says. But KCEC holds the view that, “there are some really positive things going on in the community.”

Saving the planet, and your wallet

Taos County is a leader in clean energy, but the push toward renewables in recent years spans the globe. The world’s most popular renewable, solar power, is more affordable and more prevalent in the U.S. than ever before. More than 3 percent of the nation’s power now comes from solar energy, according to a report from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. 

On both a national and local scale, an increased reliance on solar energy equates to greater cost savings for consumers. As for costs at the consumer level, renewable energy “starts to lower them, and starts to fix them,” says Reyes. 

According to him, the current cost of power in the region from all sources is 6.5 cents per kilowatt. With the arrays, the cost drops to between 5.5 and 5.7 cents. That reduced rate is expected to hold steady for 25 years, or the life expectancy of the new array. 

Solar energy also helps mitigate the uncertainty that often surrounds energy prices, which can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors. In 2021, for instance, the price of natural gas increased, and electricity costs have risen alongside it. 

“The more we fix, then the more certainty you have, and then we kind of buffer the fluctuations in price,” said Reyes. “And little by little, incrementally, with partnerships, you start to really build a renewable energy infrastructure.”

Solar energy at the heart of Taos

Cloudy days and a lack of storage facilities are among solar’s biggest drawbacks, but those are a small price to pay for greater certainty in power supply and cost. In addition, KCEC is working to address those potential issues within the local community.

Residents of Los Cordovas and Ranchos, who live close to the new array, will soon “start to see more solar during the day to meet their needs, which means we become less and less dependent on fossil fuel resources,” said Reyes.

For its part, KCEC is working toward its goal of reaching 100 percent daytime renewable energy by 2022, as well as increasing its storage capacity. Construction of the 15 megawatt Taos Mesa array is now underway near the Taos Airport.

With that project, all of Taos County – to include Taos Canyon and Taos Mesa – becomes all daytime solar, says Reyes, and the region will also have battery backup for days with minimal sunshine. 

“There really isn’t any downside [to solar energy],” said Reyes. “At least for a community like us, who really love the outdoors.” 

In the end, Reyes believes that sustainable actions can build stronger communities. “You start to build a mindset. Kind of the soul of the community is to be sustainable and clean. And we don’t just talk about it. We actually have arrays and partnerships … Pretty soon, it [sustainability] becomes the rule, not the exception.”

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