Solar in New Mexico: The Dream and the Reality


Didn’t make it to the the New Mexico Solar Energy Association’s 2015 “Solar Fiesta”? No worries, the Foundation was on hand for all the silliness.

Keynote presenter John Perlin, the author of Let the Sunshine In: The 6,000 Year History of Solar Energy, offered plenty of predictable bromides. The self-proclaimed “Indiana Jones of solar energy” argued that “a lot of ‘progress’ has been regress,” “the sun wants to cooperate with us,” and “the sun belongs to everyone.” His look at the use of passive solar in China, the American Southwest, and Europe was interesting, but he stumbled badly when describing modern times. For example, if photovoltaic technology goes back to the 1950s, why does it make such a paltry contribution to electricity generation today?

Tom Solomon, representing the New Mexico chapter of “,” gave a glowing overview of a preposterous proposal by “The Solutions Project.” The scheme is to “transition to 100% clean, renewable energy” by 2050 — hey, it’s got to be feasible, because it’s backed by Mark Ruffalo! What’s standing in the way of the death of “fossil” fuels? One of Solomon’s slides was a picture of the Titanic, which he said was under the command of “Captain David Koch.” (Memo to Solomon: Describing the wonders of your Tesla is not the best way to appeal to the rather hefty portion of the population that cannot afford a vehicle with a $100,000 price tag.)

Other speakers toed the eco-left line. A local “futurist and philosopher,” warned of “catastrophic global warming” unless per capita energy use was restricted. He recommended “local products for local consumption,” public transit, and “permaculture.” An employee of Sandia National Laboratories swooned about federal loan guarantees for solar projects, particularly molten-salt power plants. A lobbyist with the Sierra Club boasted of the group’s “climate action teams” in New Mexico, and described a trip she took with other activists to the EPA’s recent methane hearing in Denver. A representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists bashed Governor Martinez’s state energy plan because of its reliance on natural gas.

It was same old, same old. Lots of conspiracy theories (most involved “Big Oil”) and apocalyptic ravings about “climate change.” But little about how paltry a role solar plays in New Mexico’s energy demand. Despite the federal and state subsidies speakers extolled, and our status as the fourth-sunniest state, just 1.1 percent of the Land of Enchantment’s electricity comes from the sun. And need we revisit the state’s disastrous “investments” in solar companies?