Thursday, April 9, 2009

Albuquerque's Mayor Details New Energy Projects

New Mexico Business Weekly/Megan Kamerick/April 7, 2009

The city of Albuquerque is getting $5.1 million in energy efficiency block grants, much more than the $3.2 million officials originally anticipated.

The funds, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, will be used for solar installations at city-owned parking facilities, the purchase of 20 to 25 hybrid vehicles, such as Honda Civic Hybrids and Ford Escape Hybrids, and new “cool roofs” for city buildings that will allow the installation of photovoltaic systems.

The list of projects came from an energy task force of business and government leaders convened to prioritize the spending of the ARRA funds. At a news conference, Mayor Martin Chávez referred to the team good-naturedly as a collection of “geeks and nerds, but very attractive ones.”

Chávez made the announcement beneath one of the oldest solar arrays in the city, installed by Sacred Power Co. for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in 1999. Sacred Power’s founders were part of the task force.

Of the funds, $2.75 million will go toward solar installations on four city multi-level parking structures that are good candidates for solar systems. The average structure has a monthly energy bill in excess of $3,000, said John Soladay, director of environmental health for the city. A 10-kilowatt photovoltaic system, the minimum design size for such a structure, would bring cost savings of about $4,788 annually. Initial estimates suggest the city can install 150kW on the structures, which could save between $75,000 and $100,000 annually in energy costs.

The parking structures also would have sites to allow people to charge electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles, including the general public and city officials, who will be driving new hybrid vehicles that will be purchased with $750,000 of the block grant funds.

About $1.5 million will be used to re-roof a number of city facilities that currently are not engineered to hold new photovoltaic systems. This will prepare the buildings for the installation of thin-film PV systems.

Soladay said between 30 and 50 structures could be re-roofed, representing between 125,000 and 150,000 square feet. Bids are out now to find qualifying vendors, he said, who should be selected within the next 90 days.

The next step would be to get funding for the PV systems, and the city could pursue the many competitive grants in the ARRA funds for that purpose. It could also use Clean Renewable Energy Bonds or seek a partnership agreement with a power services company to achieve that next step.

More than 500kW of installation is possible in the next 18 to 24 months, according to city officials, with an annual energy cost savings of between $350,000 and $500,000.

Chávez said the city will try to buy the solar technology locally, but that will be dependent on federal regulations. There are at least four companies up and running or opening soon here that manufacture solar components: Advent Solar, Emcore, SkyFuel and Schott Solar (which is building a plant at Mesa del Sol).

The $5.1 million is formula-based funding under ARRA. There is a whole wave of competitive grant funds that the city plans to pursue, Chávez said, and it will look for partnerships in the private sector to land that money.

See the original article here

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