Taos Spa and Tennis Club goes solar ... but keeps it local

By Doug Cantwell
dcantwell@taosnews.com
Posted 8/16/19

It’s taken owners Pam and Ray Guyer a year and a half to realize their vision of making Taos Spa and Tennis Club, at 111 Doña Ana Drive, a solar-powered facility, but they agree it …

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Taos Spa and Tennis Club goes solar ... but keeps it local

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It’s taken owners Pam and Ray Guyer a year and a half to realize their vision of making Taos Spa and Tennis Club, at 111 Doña Ana Drive, a solar-powered facility, but they agree it was worth it, in spite of some roadblocks and detours. “For me personally, the environmental aspect was my number-one motivation,” said Pam Guyer. “It was the best feeling to be able to do something positive in light of what’s been going on. We’re doing some other things inside the club as well.”

Construction is 95 percent complete, and the Guyers expect to be fully online by mid-September. The two arrays, which will provide 115.44 kilowatt capacity, are tied into the grid and will offload surplus power to Kit Carson Electric Cooperative during peak production hours and draw power from the grid when the sun goes down or clouds get in the way. The account will get trued up every April to reconcile ingoing with outgoing flows and determine who owes what to whom. 

Early on, the Guyers found financing the project to be a struggle. “We started with the big nationwide banks,” said Ray Guyer, “but none of them would accept the arrays as collateral on the loan.” There were times, his wife added, when they gave up on it. Locally owned Centinel Bank was at first skeptical, but Charlie McGarity at PPC Solar, the Guyers’ contractor, interceded to smooth the way and bring the two parties to the table.

“We’ve always done business with Centinel,” Pam Guyer said, “so it was great that we ended up working with them and keeping it local.”  

McGarity also applied for a grant on the Guyers’ behalf from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s REAP program, which reimburses small businesses for 25 percent of the cost of a renewable energy installation once the project has been up and running for one month. On the downside, McGarity noted that the federal tax credit for installing a renewable system is being sunsetted.

“You’ll still be able to take a 30 percent tax credit for 2019,” he said in a phone call with the Taos News, “but over the next three years, it will drop to 26 percent, then 20, then zero.”

New Mexico’s 10 percent tax credit for going solar has expired as well, though there’s discussion in the legislature of reinstating it. The state still offers a gross receipts tax waiver on equipment and labor that go into a solar array. “If we don’t have to add tax onto your installation cost,” said McGarity, “it will save you thousands.”

At the federal level, there’s still an IRS clause that lets you depreciate 100 percent of the cost of a solar array the first year.

McGarity mentioned one more caveat: you have to own your building to qualify for renewable energy grants and tax incentives. But he quoted one of PPC’s other customers who recently remarked, “If you own your own business and you’re making money, going solar is a no-brainer.”

When the Guyers first approached PPC, McGarity called in a third-party firm to survey Taos Spa and assess how and where the facility could reduce its power consumption. “They came up with a savings of 106,000 kilowatt-hours per year,” said Ray Guyer, “which just about blew us away.” Based on that number, McGarity then worked up a report showing how large an array Taos Spa would need, what the all-up cost would be and how long it would take to pay for itself. 

“This has been heartfelt,” said Pam Guyer. “Ray and Charlie both worked tirelessly to make it happen, and it’s turned out to be a really gratifying project all around. Our panels and our business are big enough to be visible, and maybe it will inspire others when they see somebody’s trying to do something positive even though the environment for this kind of thing is so negative right now.” 

“It’s been great to watch the members of Taos Spa as the arrays go up,” said McGarity. “They’re really excited and feel that they’re a part of it. They walk by [the front parking lot] and wave to our guys, thanking them for doing something good for the community.”

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