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New Mexico gets massive $156M boost for solar equity

New Mexico has received a huge $156 million-dollar boost from the Biden Administration to put more solar energy in many low income and disadvantaged communities across the state.

The cash injection comes directly from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar For All program – which distributed nearly $7B in aid to 60 selected applicants to create new or expand existing low-income solar programs.

Here in New Mexico, that cash will go to the state’s Energy, Minerals, & Natural Resources Department to “expand access to shared solar” beyond the state’s current community solar program.

Michael Barrio is senior principal with Advanced Energy United, a policy think tank working to bring clean energy across America. He said that it’s going to be a painstakingly slow process to implement solar in some of these places, but it’s well-worth the investment.

“Renewable energy is not something that's a phase or a fad,” Barrio said. “It’s not something that’s going away. This is literally the industry of the future, right?”

While some details of how the state will prioritize this group of New Mexicans are unclear, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office says the over $156 million will allow the state to give grants and low-interest loans to both homeowners and renters to provide solar power access in low-income and rural households.

Though, with this large win, Barrio says the state needs to make sure this money goes to the right places – and urges stakeholders to get together to hash out next steps.

“This is something that is on everyone's mind, Barrio said. “It doesn't make sense financially, fiscally, whatever, economically, to not pay attention to this.”

Current state models show Solar for All will add 21 megawatts of solar energy capacity to the state’s power grid and 8.1 megawatt hours of storage in cases where there isn’t enough sunlight to generate power.

Experts estimate that 1 megawatt can power anywhere between 164 to 600 households, depending on a house’s energy consumption and efficiency.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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