Albuquerque earns berth in “sweet sixteen” for solar power

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

Albuquerque, NM – Albuquerque has more solar panels than most major American cities, ranking 12th among major metropolitan areas analyzed in a new report. The Duke City’s berth in the “solar sweet sixteen,” just behind San Francisco and ahead of Sacramento, was owed primarily to individuals installing solar panels on their homes.

“Albuquerque is a star when it comes to solar power,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center.

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix topped the list for most solar power installations in the Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center analysis, Shining Cities: Harnessing the Benefits of Solar Energy in America.

Solar power is on the rise across the country, with another panel or project installed every three minutes last year. Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming and energy independence, federal and state tax credits and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of the pollution-free energy source.

The prevalence of solar energy in Albuquerque has been assisted by the state tax credit of solar installations. The New Mexico Legislature just passed an extension of this tax credit with strong bipartisan support. This bill will extend the solar tax credit gradually reducing the percentage from 10% – 5% over the next 10 years.

The tax credit has helped boost the solar industry, which is rapidly growing in New Mexico. From 2012 to 2013, the number of solar jobs in the state increased 73 percent to employ 1,900 New Mexicans. These jobs are high-paying and cannot be outsourced. The solar industry is the fastest growing segment of our economy.

“New Mexicans are making it clear that they want clean, affordable, renewable energy. This demand is creating jobs for New Mexicans,” said Regina Wheeler, CEO of Positive Energy Solar. “The solar industry added jobs at a rate nearly 20 times the national average last year; in 2014 alone, Positive Energy Solar added 30 new employees to our team. We’re excited to be a part of one of America’s major cities helping to lead the clean energy revolution.” 

According to researchers who examined solar power installations in 65 American cities in nearly every state, Albuquerque had enough solar energy online at the end of last year to power just over 5,600 homes. On a solar-per-person basis, Albuquerque ranked 14th.

While solar power is growing in New Mexico and throughout the nation, utility companies are campaigning intensely to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model. PNM has proposed to charge $6 per kW of installed capacity per month for residences with solar energy, which would hinder those who desire to invest in solar energy.

The solar tax credit extension, which passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, is currently waiting for Governor Martinez’s signature.

Environment New Mexico and other advocates urge the Public Regulatory Commission to reject PNM’s attack on solar, and urge Governor Martinez to sign the bill to extend the solar tax credit.

“With prices going down and concern about global warming going up, solar power is growing rapidly in our state,” said Moore. “We need state leaders to continue the policies that allow solar to shine.”