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State tops in solar energy

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New research from the leading solar industry trade association indicates New Mexico sits atop national lists in two categories for installed megawatts of solar energy in 2011 and has moved up considerably in other areas.
The Solar Energy Industries Association’s most recent Solar Market Insight Report, which presents an annual perspective on the country’s solar energy production, shows that New Mexico reached 166.9 megawatts of cumulative installed solar electric generation. This is equal to 77.3 watts of installed solar power per state resident last year.  
At 77.3 watts per capita, New Mexico is first in the U.S. in the amount of solar per person. The state also ranked first for 2011 per capita additions of solar generation.
Further SEIA research shows that New Mexico moved from #7 to #4 overall in annual installed PV and moved from #9 to #5 overall in cumulative installed PV, while ranking sixth overall in total electric generated from concentrated solar power and PV.
“New Mexico provides a great example of how effective state and federal policy can open new markets for solar energy,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “The state is now one of the most important markets for solar energy in the United States. New Mexico is blessed with some of the best solar resources in the U.S, and is poised to greatly expand its solar energy market in the coming years, leading to thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in local investment.”
New Mexico was a leader during the nation’s first solar boom in the late 1970s, which focused on solar heating.  Moreover, New Mexico ranks very high for solar power potential, based on the quality and availability of solar radiation that is present. Yet, the deployment of solar electric generation in New Mexico lagged behind other states, both in absolute numbers and in per-capita measures.
Now, things have changed as a result of policies put in place by the PRC, especially the 2007 rules championed by current District 1 Commissioner Jason Marks and former PRC commissioner and current United States Congressman, Ben Ray Luján, that set specific utility targets for solar energy and distributed generation.
Consequently, in just five years, the number of solar generating systems installed by residential and commercial utility customers from 46 to more than 2,700. At the same time, New Mexico utilities have deployed 15 large scale solar projects across the state, providing enough power to serve more than 50,000 homes.
“By 2007, it was clear to many of us that kick-starting the development of New Mexico’s excellent solar resources was critical to our future,” Marks said. “We created the right regulatory framework and then worked through the details on a project by project and program by program basis.”
Marks also said his and Luján’s balanced approach to building support for solar producers in the state kept costs controlled.
Luján echoed Marks’ sentiments, adding that building support in New Mexico’s communities was an important part of creating future success for green energy in the state.  
“New Mexico has always had the potential to be a leader in renewable energy,” Luján said. “As a result of our hard work on the PRC a few years ago and a growing awareness in our communities of the importance of making the most of our renewable resources, we are starting to see these efforts pay off.
“We laid a strong foundation to encourage development of a clean energy economy that creates good jobs in our communities while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”