Earth News Journal 24: Sharing Solar Energy

An innovative idea is sweeping the American southwest, as more conscientious consumers are looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

With global warming scares on the rise, those seeking to aid the Earth are turning to renewable sources of energy instead of relying on non-renewable fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These three methods of obtaining energy are beneficial in the short-term but have damaging effects on the environment, if burned over a prolonged period of time.

Marketing for renewable, longer-lasting sources of power has substantially increased over the course of the twenty-first century, and analysts predict a rise in renewable energy investments as fossil fuel volumes begin to dissipate. The four most common methods of renewable energy include solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric, and biomass – all of which are currently being researched and tested.

An October article from National Geographic’s online feature The Great Energy Challenge depicts one of the successful advantages to investing in solar energy. In United States territories, such as New Mexico and Arizona, the sun shines bright almost every day of the year – what better place to invest in solar energy than in the southern belt of the USA?

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative of New Mexico has introduced a garden-style renewable energy community, in which customers can purchase “plots” of solar energy and reap the benefits of solar collection, without having to install solar panels on their own rooftop.

There are several disadvantages to investing in a single-unit solar energy panels, including installation costs, inconsistencies in the credibility and quality of sellers/installers, limited space, and challenges of maintenance. By subscribing to a community of solar energy, however, one would eliminate the hassle of individual upkeep, while still contributing in a positive manner to international reductions on greenhouse gas emissions.

Kit Carson consumers can “buy panels outright or subscribe to their output, and the ‘fruits’ of their part of the garden are delivered to them over the cooperative’s distribution lines.” Los Alamos National Laboratory has partnered with Kit Carson Cooperative and has since sponsored a project that provides “essentially all of the electric energy requirements for the Taos campus of the University of New Mexico.”

As technology improves and the buzz of affordable, conscious solar energy investments circulates throughout the American southwest, solar energy garden-style communities are becoming a noteworthy feature amid rich Native American history and the culture of this Land of Enchantment.

Reflection

I am a proponent for the widespread development of renewable resources across the country – across the entire world. While the reality of a single garden of solar energy is a remarkable feat, I would love to see more projects that depend on renewable energy sources (solar, wind, water, biomass) expand more rapidly over the remainder of the century. It’s not enough to supply solar energy to just a small portion of the American southwest, although it is a start. I commend those at Kit Carson Electric for designing such an ingenious method to distribute solar energy, making it both convenient and revolutionary for the consumer.  

Collier, Steven. “Solar ‘Gardens’ Let Communities Share Renewable Power.” National Geographic. N.p., 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.

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