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Village of Santa Clara Senior Center Goes Solar

For Santa Clara's Centro de Amistad Community Center, installing solar panels means the money once spent on electric bills can be used to feed senior citizens. (New Energy Economy)
For Santa Clara's Centro de Amistad Community Center, installing solar panels means the money once spent on electric bills can be used to feed senior citizens. (New Energy Economy)
November 12, 2018

SILVER CITY, N.M. – At the heart of an economic development effort in the Village of Santa Clara in southern New Mexico, a rooftop solar system is now part of the senior center.

It's known as the Centro de Amistad Community Center, and Mayor Richard Bauch says solar's longevity makes it a great investment in a state with so much sunshine.

"This particular project, the payback on it is like six or eight years, and the life expectancy is between 25 and maybe 30,” he points out. “So, we have a number of years after the system pays for itself that we can reap the benefits."

New Energy Economy funded the $63,000 solar project for this community of 2,000 residents through grants and crowdfunding campaigns. Money saved on the center's electric bills will now support the senior meal program.

Grant County Assessor Raul Turrieta says the project demonstrates the viability of New Mexico's abundant solar resources that could stimulate employment with the added benefit of creating a clean energy economy. He hopes it's just the beginning of similar projects in the area.

"I think the majority of these commercial buildings need to go solar, honestly,” Turrieta states. “You know, you pay a little bit of money up front, but it's worth it down the road on saving energy."

It's estimated the solar project will save $115,000 in electricity costs and 353,000 gallons of water, and it will keep the equivalent of 367 pounds of coal from being burned in the next 25 years.

Centro de Amistad Community Center also serves seniors from the rural towns of Hurley and Bayard.

Because of dramatic cuts in federal funding for rural social services, April Hunter, Grant County senior services program manager, says the center is often the only place many people can eat or socialize.

"It spurred a lot of interest among the participants of the program, but also people in the community about solar and about possibilities of solar,” Hunter relates. “It just kind of made people start having the conservation, which I think is really valuable."

Hunter says the rooftop solar project will stabilize the center's budget by covering 80 percent of its electric bill.

New Mexico is ranked second in the nation for solar potential, and sixth for wind power potential.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM