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New Mexico spends millions on solar power not knowing how much power it will get

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(The Center Square) – New Mexico’s Economic Development Department announced plans this month to spend millions of dollars on “energy transition” projects with the goal of meeting climate change metrics and creating jobs. The only problem is she doesn’t know how much they will help in meeting those goals or how many jobs they will create.

According to a statement from the department, it has funded nearly $6 million for “four projects that will diversify the economy and create jobs unrelated to fossil fuel development or use. The projects are part of an effort “to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040, with accompanying targets for utilities and co-ops to reach zero-carbon resources by 2045 and 2050, respectively.”

In three of the four projects, a spokesman for the department admitted to The Center Square that it does not have an estimate of the amount of clean energy that will be created by the effort. Nor does the department know how many jobs will be created by any of the projects.

“Job creation estimates were not one of the required submittals in the RFP process,” wrote Bruce Krasnow, public information officer for the department in an email.

Experts say it is standard in government grant programs to have estimates for jobs created and measures of how they will advance stated goals like clean energy production.

“New Mexico, flush with oil and gas revenues, is busy throwing money at all manner of ‘green’ schemes including wind, solar, EV’s and their charging stations and more. When it comes to wind and solar there are usually at least estimates of how much electricity will be generated when those projects are fully operational, but alas even that seems to be too much to ask of New Mexico’s political establishment.” said Paul J. Gessing, president of the right-leaning Rio Grande Foundation.

Jodi McGinnis Porter, deputy communications director for the governor, notes that one of the projects totaling about $1 million of the nearly $6 million cost has a 245 kW capacity and says about the rest, “Indigenous farmers are integral to our state’s fabric, and supporting their transition to renewable energy is a priority. The awarded projects, including Northern New Mexico Indigenous Farmers Inc.’s endeavor, demonstrate our commitment to empowering these communities and revitalizing rural economies.”

The three projects without estimates include:

About $3.6 million “to replace the Hogback Water Pumping Station and a solar-powered pumping station with microgrid and energy storage capabilities.”About $1 million to support the City of Farmington in “its solar generation and battery storage proposal … with the addition of renewable generating and storage capacity to the Farmington Electric Utility System.”About $190,000 to support “a project with Positive Energy Solar for the installation of three separate solar arrays located at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in rural Abiquiú.”

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the grant-making process has been a mess, “None of the selected projects were part of a 2020 request for information process, when 26 companies submitted plans on how to use the energy dollars. Nor were the projects any of the four proposals that were suggested in October 2023 by an advisory committee … whose job was to help advise the state on how to award the dollars.”

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