Kit Carson’s new solar farm a step on the path toward 100% renewables
EAGLES NEST, N.M. – Another 4,000 solar panels have been erected in the service territory of Taos-based Kit Carson Electric, part of a determined push by the electrical co-op to harness solar power in sunny northern New Mexico.
With this latest installation near the Angel Fire ski area, Kit Carson now has 10 megawatts of solar capacity, enough to supply 25 percent of the daytime load of the cooperative members. More than twice that amount of solar energy is scheduled to be completed yet this year.
In 2016, Kit Carson broke from its long-time electrical supplier, Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Tri-State provides power to a broad swath of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, including Durango, Telluride, and Crested Butte. It has been expanding its ownership of renewable generation but still remains heavily invested in coal-fired generation.
In breaking with Tri-State, Kit Carson aligned with Guzman Energy, which purchases power on the wholesale market to supply the needs of Taos and outlying areas. It also committed Kit Carson to investing heavily in solar energy. Kit Carson and Guzman say that hitching their wagon to solar, instead of coal, will save the co-op’s 30,000 members $50 million to $70 million during the next decade.
With Guzman as financier, Kit Carson plans to develop up to 35 megawatts of small solar arrays by 2022. That will meet 35 percent of all electrical demand and 100 percent during daylight hours on sunny days.
In coming months, Kit Carson also plans to implement a battery technology demonstration project.
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Kit Carson was chosen by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a study of how solar energy can be used to improve the affordability, reliability, and resilience of the electrical grid serving rural areas. The study will embrace tools of the Solar Energy Innovation Network.
Luis Reyes, chief executive of Kit Carson, says the goal of the project is to “demonstrate that renewable energy can be technically integrated into a rural grid in a way that allows all members access to renewable energy, rather than only a few members. This project will provide a pathway for other rural cooperatives, municipalities and communities to enter into the deployment of distributed energy resources given the fast pace of the changing market and member desires.”