New Mexico Business Weekly by Kevin Robinson-Avila, Senior Reporter Date: Saturday, March 31, 2012, 7:00am MDT
The national Solar Energy Industries Association has ranked New Mexico No. 1 in the nation for installed solar power per state resident in 2011.The association’s annual Solar Market Insight report, released in mid-March, said New Mexico installed 116 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity last year, the fourth highest amount among all U.S. states.The report says New Mexico has reached a total of 166.9 megawatts of cumulative installed solar generation, equal to 77.3 watts of solar power per capita.That makes New Mexico No. 1 in the U.S. for solar per person, and No. 1 in per capita additions in 2011, said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.“New Mexico provides a great example of how effective state and federal policy can open new markets for solar energy,” Resch said. “The state is now one of the most important markets for solar energy in the U.S.”Many public officials and green energy advocates say New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is the central factor driving the growth. The RPS requires the state’s public utilities to derive at least 10 percent of their total electricity from renewable sources in 2012, 15 percent in 2015 and 20 percent in 2020.Jason Marks of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission said the standard, combined with PRC rule making to make sure utilities comply with the standard and commission have generated a surge in solar development.In the past five years, the number of solar generating systems installed by residential and commercial utility customers grew from 46 to 2,700, Marks said. At the same time, utilities have deployed 15 large-scale solar projects statewide, providing enough power for more than 50,000 homes.