Something new is coming to the land in north central New Mexico, thanks to a group of ranchers called the Rio Costillo Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA). And it’s not another thousand head of cattle.
No, this time the ranchers, who have been running stock here for hundreds of years, are bringing in solar panels. To be precise, 5,280 of them – an array that is expected to produce 1.25 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable solar energy per year, or enough to power 376 average homes in the area.
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), a rural electric cooperative which is participating in the buildout, expects to have the project completed in May. Standard Solar of Rockville, Md. – with the help of Paradise Power Company of Taos, N.M., and Amalia Construction Company of Costilla, N.M. – is the installer of record, and when the solar farm is completed it will be owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Systems of Herndon, Va.
The RCCLA Amalia Solar Array 1 covers 14 acres, and when completed the solar power supply will be added to that from a 1-MW concentrating photovoltaic solar farm completed in April 2011 by a Chevron subsidiary in northern New Mexico on a mine tailings site in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Then, according to KCEC officials, all businesses and homes in north central New Mexico will get their electricity from solar power on sunny days – which is practically every day in New Mexico, whose yearly average is 278 days.
Operating at an efficiency premium thanks to single-axis tracking, the RCCLA Amalia Solar Array 1will deliver more than 2.9 million kilowatt-hours per year in an area bigger than 15.5 football fields with a carbon offset value of 2,000 metric tons, or the same as preserving 19.8 acres of mature forest, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.