Community solar moves forward; developers chosen to set up renewable energy facilities

By: - May 23, 2023 4:45 am
Workers install a solar panel on the roof of a building.

“The PRC’s staff has put in a great deal of effort to make this program a success,” Commissioner James Ellison said in a news release. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)

After weeks of delay, New Mexico’s push to get solar energy to communities like apartment renters and low-income households is progressing again.

InClime, a renewable energy-affiliated company, chose 45 solar facility projects out of over 400 proposals, giving companies the green light to start the process to set up farms they’ll soon operate for New Mexico’s community solar program.

New Mexicans could be able to officially start signing up to be part of the program next month.

The project announcements on Monday came weeks later than state officials anticipated, after multiple companies that applied to set up and run solar facilities filed complaints with the state’s Public Regulation Commission alleging InClime had errors in its program application process.

The PRC put the community solar process on hold while sorting that out.

“The PRC’s staff has put in a great deal of effort to make this program a success,” Commissioner James Ellison said in a news release. “The PRC is proud to play a role in bringing community solar to New Mexico.”

Over half the solar facilities InClime chose will be located in southern New Mexico.

The solar energy that’s eventually generated will go to customers of the three investor-owned utilities in the state — the Public Service Company of New Mexico, the Southwestern Public Service Company and El Paso Electric — who choose to opt in. PNM customers will get a majority of the energy.

Renters, homeowners and businesses that choose to be part of community solar don’t have to purchase and install solar panels themselves, according to the PRC. The legislation that enacted community solar also specifies that participants will get a break on their utility bills for being part of the program, and at least 30% of the solar energy generated has to go to low-income communities.

Developers will start reaching out to eligible New Mexicans in the next few weeks to try to get them to participate in community solar, according to the PRC. The commission said project disclosure forms are scheduled to be released in June, then communities could start signing contracts to be part of the program.

Meanwhile, the companies setting up these solar farms need to get on preexisting energy grids. The PRC said the chosen developers will work with the investor-owned utilities to sort this out in coming weeks as well.

If any of the companies InClime chose can’t meet predetermined commitments or drop out of the community solar program, there’s a waitlist with dozens more companies that can step in instead.

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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.