SANTA FE, N. M. – A federal solar impact statement released this week will foster the development of renewable energy on public lands in six western states, including New Mexico. It provides a roadmap for large-scale solar energy development on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and allows New Mexico to move ahead with development in a Solar Energy Zone in Doña Ana County.
District 1 Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks says rooftop solar and wind energy are important, but he calls this week’s announcement “a roadmap to our future.”
“In order to truly displace the fossil fuels in our region, we’re going to need to do large-scale solar projects.”
The federal program, known as a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), identifies large areas where it’s possible to do large-scale solar development with low environmental impact.
Marks, who has been an active proponent of solar energy, points to policies he has helped implement at the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) that have led to the addition of 170 megawatts of solar power to the state’s electric grid, to serve more than 65,000 homes. The Solar Energy Zone near Las Cruces could produce more than 3,000 megawatts of power, by the BLM’s estimate.
“It wouldn’t be quite all the electricity in the state of New Mexico, but it’d be more than half.”
The solar industry is flourishing, adds Marks, and the cost for large-scale solar has come down about 50 percent from where it was five years ago. But New Mexico energy users may have to wait a while to see the benefits of more solar production.