A bill aimed at creating guidelines for a statewide community solar program is making its way through the New Mexico legislature, having passed a Senate vote on Mar. 4.
The bill, SB 84 would call on state regulators to evaluate existing community solar programs and develop rules for a state program to be adopted by April 2022. The bill sets its own rules for regulators to use to form the program:
- Projects are capped at 5 MW in capacity
- The program initially will be capped at 100 MW statewide
- Each project must have an “anchor tenant,” defined as a customer that would subscribe to no more than 40% of a project’s capacity
- Each project needs at least 10 subscribers before construction can begin
- The program must have a mandatory 30% capacity carve-out reserved for low-income customers and low-income service organizations.
The provisions for minimum subscriber counts and an anchor tenant would offer some certainty of a financial return to project developers.
The bill also calls on regulators to develop a list of low-income service organizations and programs that may pre-qualify low-income customers. This feature has been identified by Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Advisory Committee as a way to ensure successful and equitable solar expansion programs.
In February, the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research released a report that found that a single 5 MW community solar facility could create up to 38 jobs, $1.47 million in labor income, and $5.17 million in output.
If signed into law, the bill could also help chip away at New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard, which is currently set at 50% by 2030, 80% by 2040, and 100% by 2045. Solar and wind generation currently make up more than 30% of the state’s electricity sales.
The bill passed the Senate by a 27-14 vote, with all votes against coming from Republican senators. It heads to the House next, which is controlled by Democrats, 44-25, with one independent.
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