By Ellen Miller-Goins
Sangre de Cristo Chronicle
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative officials and partners at Guzman Energy celebrated the launch of the latest solar array July 25 near Eagle Nest Lake.
The 4,000-panel solar array is the latest project completed as part of KCEC’s goal of providing 100 percent of its customers’ daytime power needs from the sun by 2022.
In February 2017, Guzman Energy announced an exclusive partnership with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative to generate renewable energy for KCEC customers in Taos, Colfax and Río Arriba counties with the goal of saving the co-op’s 30,000 members $50 million to $70 million over the next 10 years.
In April this year, the cooperative announced it had been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to participate in a collaborative research effort to explore new ways solar energy can improve the affordability, reliability and resiliency of the rural electric grid.
More than 900 electric cooperatives operate in the United States, covering approximately two-thirds of the land mass with more than 42 million electric meters, many of which are evaluating the opportunities and value of deploying renewable energy for their members. KCEC is one of only nine teams selected to join the program, which is known as the Solar Energy Innovation Network.
“KCEC has been working towards providing resilient, renewable energy for all our members equally since 2002,” said Luis A. Reyes, CEO, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, Inc. “The importance of this work 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.”
The Solar Energy Innovation Network will provide financial, analytical and facilitation support as KCEC works to anticipate and address new challenges and opportunities stemming from solar energy and other distributed energy technologies for the Enchanted Circle in Northern New Mexico.
The solutions developed and demonstrated by KCEC will serve as a blueprint for other communities facing similar challenges and opportunities.
The goal is to demonstrate that solar and battery storage can play a significant role in the energy mix, thereby minimizing reliance on fossil fuels. The intent is to build a broader model that enables rural electric cooperatives to integrate renewable energy with storage into their portfolios for increased resiliency.
Specifically, KCEC’s project will create an energy road map to develop up to 35 megawatts in small solar arrays by 2022 that will result in providing 34 percent of the total electricity demand and 100 percent during daylight hours on sunny days. KCEC will also implement a battery technology demonstration project, thus further advancing the network’s objectives.
KCEC currently has approximately nine megawatts of solar renewables online, which accounts for 24 percent of the daytime load, according to the company. An additional 10 megawatts of solar energy are planned and scheduled for construction in 2018.
These solar arrays–ranging between one and three megawatts–will be placed in various locations around the county, allowing for maximum efficiency and flexibility in providing power to customers, according to Reyes.