New Mexico is the second sunniest state in the country, yet we lag behind cloudier states like Massachusetts and New Jersey in solar energy production.
That should change. New Mexico can be a national leader in solar energy and as the state’s largest city, Albuquerque can pave the way.
The Albuquerque City Council has an opportunity to put Albuquerque at the top of the list for solar energy. The Council will vote on a resolution on Monday that will set a goal to get 25 percent of the electricity at city facilities from solar energy by 2025. Currently, the city only gets 3 percent of its electricity from the sun.
Solar energy creates well-paying, homegrown jobs. Almost 2,000 New Mexicans are employed in the solar industry. In fact, the solar industry is second only to the health care sector in job growth in our state.
The solar industry represents sustainable jobs and incomes for Latino families throughout New Mexico. According to Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership, “The installation sector is generally more diverse than other energy sectors, hiring African-Americans and Latinos at a faster rate than the oil, gas, coal and construction sectors.” In fact, the Solar Jobs Consensus found that nearly 40 percent of solar workers in the state are Hispanic.
By reaching this goal, the city of Albuquerque will save approximately $3.5 million each year. Those savings will really add up and can be used for other important purposes, such as clean drinking water, community gardens, litter reduction, parks and public transit.
In addition, investing in solar energy locks the city into a fixed cost for electricity and protects against future electricity rate increases, saving more money down the road.
Solar energy does not use any water in its production – an added bonus in arid New Mexico. As we face drought year after year, we must conserve as much water as possible. By getting more energy from renewable sources that do not use water, we can save the little water we do have for agriculture and urban use.
Finally, solar energy is a pollution-free source of energy and can help improve public health by decreasing air and water pollution. This has a positive impact on all New Mexicans across the state.
Air quality is a problem in many parts of New Mexico, including Bernalillo County, which received an F grade in the American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report. Juntos, a program of Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund in partnership in Chispa, a program of League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, has organized for and with Latino families in Albuquerque for clean air and clean energy for more than three years.
In a community survey of about 500 Latino families this winter, we found that 63 percent said they are strongly concerned about air quality in Albuquerque. By pushing our city to utilize more clean energy such as solar, we can take an important step forward in addressing our air quality issues.
We’re glad to have city councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis sponsoring this solar resolution and encourage our other city councilors to vote for this smart resolution. Setting a goal of 25 percent solar by 2025 would set a bold example for the rest of the state and help to make us the leader in solar energy we should be.