Talon News - Good Local News

SOLAR RENAISSANCE?

Solar Technology, not just for well sites anymore

 

J.R. Sykes

This solar field, owned by Hydro Pure Technology, Inc. In Aztec helps the company enjoy $36,000 a year in savings

The sun's power has been understood to varying degrees throughout history by diverse cultures. Ancient Greeks utilized solar technology in home building and even the entire city of Olynthus was layed out for maximum solar gain. Socrates, in his innate wisdom, said, "In houses that look toward the south the sun penetrates the portico in winter, while in summer the path of the sun is right over our heads and above the roof so that there is shade." The Anasazis of Chaco, Mesa Verde and Aztec built their homes in south-facing cliffs to capture the warming life-sustaining sunrays. The Romans used mica in their south-facing windows to create 'heliocaminis,' solar furnaces, as plate glass was not invented until the 17th century.

It stands to reason that passive solar design is the fundamental principle for employing the sun's power. However, the application of photovoltaic panels to capture and convert sunlight to electricity has proven to be equally functional, thus, it's proliferating worldwide. The design and efficiency of photovoltaics has steadily increased and its price has lowered significantly. The average cost of solar components is down by 80% over the last six years. Also, the federal government and many states offer strong incentives. "On top of a 30% federal investment tax credit, these states: CA, MA, HI NJ, AZ, VT. NM, NY, DE, NH, CT, LA, have added their own solar subsidies, resulting in big enough savings over grid power to pay back the costs of the average $19,000 rooftop system in as little as five years." (Forbes, September 2016)

Now we're seeing local municipalities, schools and hospitals undertaking major photovoltaic solar projects. San Juan Regional Medical Center's $3.8 million solar installation will generate 325 watts: about 30% of electrical supply, with 5,396 PV panels on nine acres adjacent the hospital. It's scheduled to go online at the end of March. Since July 1, 2016, the City of Aztec has generated 4.2% of electrical supply needs by producing about 1 megawatt of solar electricity at high noon, to supplement the 43 million kilowatts it provides customers yearly. And that percentage is expected to increase as the days grow longer. More solar projects are part of Aztec's 5-7 year plan.

Aztec Municipal Schools went online August 15, 2016 with a 139 kilowatt PV system projected to provide 60% of the electrical power for their administration building, saving $30,000 annually. They plan, by using virtual metering, another very large project at McCoy Elementary that will produce 543 kilowatts, intended to be enough to offset all school district electrical consumption. Bloomfield has installed solar panels on its Parks and Recreation maintenance building. The City of Farmington is planning a solar project, as well.

As we know, the oil/gas industry has been using PV panels at their well sites for years. Exxon and other oil corporations are deeply invested in solar technology. The debate likely will rage on between so-called 'fossil fuel' and nuclear proponents and those aligned with renewable energy sources like sun, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric. But rational thinking, common sense and a nod to the law of diminishing returns bespeaks that certain industries negatively impact the environment more than others.

J.R. Sykes

This home, also in Aztec has both electric and heating panels and supports almost much of the homeowners energy needs

The solar industry will not go away; it will only develop with greater efficiency to create measurable economic and environmental benefits. Did you know: "enough solar energy hits the earth's surface in about an hour to equal a year's worth of worldwide energy consumption from all sources put together"? (www.sandia.gov)

The nature of man, 'most' men and women that is - is to seek greater self-sufficiency and independence - in relation to their homes and energy needs. In our region of abundant sunshine, taking full advantage of the sun by using solar technology is one plain and practical step in the right direction.

Germany is fully engaged with solar technology; Denmark is married to windpower. The United States lags behind because we're not effectively utilizing our manpower, resources and knowledge, to manufacture, market and install renewable energy technology. Regardless, the solar renaissance is moving forward rapidly, and won't look back, except, hopefully, to 'relearn' what the ancients knew.

 

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