El Rito campus breaks ground on new solar array

Financial support for restored community college rests on Taos, Santa Fe, Río Arriba voters

Posted 9/19/19

The Northern New Mexico College campus in El Rito hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a solar array on Friday (Sept. 13). Over 100 people attended the event that was followed by a …

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El Rito campus breaks ground on new solar array

Financial support for restored community college rests on Taos, Santa Fe, Río Arriba voters

Posted

The Northern New Mexico College campus in El Rito hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a solar array on Friday (Sept. 13). Over 100 people attended the event that was followed by a luncheon at the Alumni Hall.

"This array is the visible manifestation of a transformation and a rebirth not only on this campus but in the entire area of Northern New Mexico," said Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey. "We are incredibly grateful to all our community partners that have made it possible."

The construction of the 1.5 megawatt solar array marked the culmination of two years of effort and teamwork between Northern New Mexico College, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and Guzman Energy.

"These three organizations are on the forefront of change and transition in the energy economy today," said Christopher Miller, Guzman Energy chief operating officer. "The new solar array will create a source of renewable energy and electricity that will help lower local energy rates and provide an increased tax base. Essentially, it will be a technological beacon to show and demonstrate there are opportunities for collaboration and change that will bring about greater developments in El Rito and other local communities."

"This is about energy, collaboration, partnerships, education and bringing people together and giving them the opportunity to survive in the tough environment we live in," said Luis Reyes, chief executive officer of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative.

New Mexico House District 41 Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, and District 40 Rep. Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde, also attended the ceremony. They were instrumental in helping a Senate bill for Northern's new Community College Initiative pass through the House of Representatives unanimously.

"El Rito is an amazing community," said Herrera. "Great things happen in small places and I am very proud of this project."

The array will power not only the campus, but several hundred local homes and businesses as well. It is expected to provide 100 percent renewable daytime energy by 2022.

"It's our hope to make sure that these arrays are built everywhere in our territory and that they are built by locals," Reyes said. "This can bring the community together to address the environmental issues and the economic development opportunities that we have here."

The solar array was always intended to be the catalyst event for the revitalization of the El Rito campus and the reintroduction of career and technical education, said Bailey.

The college, founded in 1909 as the Spanish-American Normal School, later became a campus of NNMC. Many of the programs and classes had left the campus by 2014.

While the Senate bill established Northern's branch community college, voters from Río Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos counties still need to answer a ballot question in November about a two-mill increase in property taxes to fund it.

"If the mill levy is approved, we expect to open it with career technical programs in fall 2020," said Bailey. "And to celebrate the groundbreaking now on the cusp of this historic vote is incredibly exciting."

The Spanish version of this story is on Page C4.

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