Northern New Mexico College (Northern) has partnered with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) and Guzman Energy to construct a solar array on Northern’s El Rito Campus. This array helps to move the college and the entire KCEC membership and communities west of the Rio Grande served by KCEC toward achieving 100 percent daytime solar power.
A groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Friday, September 13 beginning at 10 a.m. on Northern’s El Rito Campus, located at 1190 NM-554.
“El Rito is a key part of Northern’s history,” Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey said. “Now we can ensure that El Rito will be part of our future, and the future of green energy in New Mexico.” Bailey said he intends for both the El Rito and Española campuses to run fully on renewable energy within the next 10 years.
Local interest in, demand for and support of renewable energy has led to the development of these arrays, as the communities served by KCEC have already seen a significant impact through the development of additional renewable sources.
The 1.5 MW solar array will consist of 6,000 panels and will power the campus and approximately 850 homes and businesses. Each MW of power keeps about $1.1 million in the community through local construction labor, taxes and commerce.
The El Rito array is one of three arrays KCEC is constructing in partnership with Guzman Energy, including one in Sunshine, NM and one at the Taos Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. The arrays are part of the co-op’s ongoing efforts to achieve 100 percent daytime solar energy by 2020 and an eventual complete transition to carbon-free electric sources.
“We greatly value our community partners and the commitment they are making to renewable energy in New Mexico,” said Luis Reyes, CEO of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative. “This solar array at El Rito is an important step in our energy transition efforts.”
Northern’s El Rito Campus began as the Spanish American Normal School, founded in 1909 to train teachers to educate the region’s rural and Spanish-speaking population. The Normal School graduated its final class in 1969 and the El Rito site evolved as a campus of Northern New Mexico College. Over the last 50 years, various community and education programs have been offered at the campus. A mill levy initiative this November, if passed, would allow trades programs, including plumbing and pipefitting to return to Northern’s El Rito campus.