The final phase of a solar array at Albuquerque’s main airport has been completed, translating to one megawatt of power.
The Sunport estimates that the total amount of power produced will save in excess of $300,000 in annual electricity costs.
The last photovoltaic (PV) installation on the airport’s parking lot consists of five arrays, added to the eight arrays already that were completed three years ago. The existing arrays provide power to to the parking structure, and have already reduced the energy bill for the building by 75 percent. The five new additions will be used to supply the terminal building.
Known as the Sunport, the airport is the largest commercial flight hub in New Mexico and welcomes over six million travelers a year.
The solar project was paid for in the main with a $1.8 million VALE (Voluntary Airport Low Emissions) grant from the FAA.
The New Mexico energy utility PNM has agreed to buy the renewable energy certificates associated with every kilowatt-hour of electricity the solar arrays produce. This will help offset the airport’s investment and allow PNM to achieve state energy requirements.
The Southwest of the U.S has seen a proliferation of solar projects in recent years although considering the region’s potential solar output it still lags some way behind big solar states like California.
A cooperative of ranchers in north central New Mexico recently announced plans to install over 5,000 solar panels.
The Rio Costillo Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA) are funding an array consisting of 5,280 panels, which 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.
Meanwhile in October a consortium made up of Xcel Energy, Wells Fargo and SunEdison announced the completion of three solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants near Carlsbad, N.M. The sites are the first three phases of a project that will ultimately consist of five solar plants with a total capacity of 53.5 megawatts (MW).
Once completed, it is expected to be among the largest PV projects in the country, generating more than 1.9 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity over 20 years – enough to power more than 186,000 average U.S. homes for one year.
The media mogul Ted Turner has gotten in on the act too, installing a solar farm on a 364-acre plant site close to his Vermejo Park Ranch. The farm will supply energy to 9,000 local homes.
The Sunport was the first U.S. airport to receive a VALE grant for an on-site solar project. The first grant was in the amount of $2.4 million and provided for six solar arrays.
The VALE grants were set up to pay for projects that directly reduce emissions at an airport facility. The city of Albuquerque’s administration made the case that a PV array would lower emissions on site and regionally, by reducing dependence on coal-based power.