New Mexico gains a community solar program


New Mexico has become the 21st state to enable community solar, following Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) signing Senate Bill 84 into law.

SB 84 calls 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 guidelines for regulators as they form the program:

  • Projects are capped at 5 MW capacity
  • The overall program initially is capped at 200 MW across the state’s three investor-owned utilities for the first three years, with electrical co-op participation being over and above of that cap
  • Each project may have an “anchor tenant,” defined as a customer that subscribes to no more than 40% of a project’s capacity
  • Each project needs at least 10 subscribers before construction may begin
  • The program must include a mandatory 30% capacity carve-out per project, reserved for low-income people and related service organizations.

Kevin Cray, Mountain West regional director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access welcomed the law and said his organization looks forward to working with regulators to develop program rules to ensure the program is in place by early next year.

The law’s twin provisions for minimum subscriber counts and an anchor tenant are intended to offer greater certainty of a financial return to project developers.

The law also calls on regulators to develop a list of low-income service organizations and programs that may pre-qualify low-income customers. Similar features have been identified by Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Advisory Committee as a way to ensure successful and equitable solar expansion programs.

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