A bill that would require new schools that receive grant assistance from the state’s capital outlay funds for construction to be built with enough solar power capacity to provide the majority of the school’s power needs passed the Senate Education Committee on a 4-2 vote on Friday and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.
Senate Bill 60 is sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces.
Upon Soules’ request, the bill was amended to specify that it doesn’t apply to schools that are already planned and fully designed. Instead, should it pass, it would only apply to new schools that are being designed after July 1.
Later, based on concerns the Hobbs School District superintendent had about the size and space requirements of a solar array to fully power the school, the bill was amended so that, instead of requiring a solar array capable of providing all of the electricity, it would only need to provide at least 51 percent of the energy needs.
Soules said, by providing electricity on site, the operational costs of powering the schools will reduce and that more money can be spent in the classrooms.
“As we move to more renewable energy, this just makes our schools more sustainable,” he said.
He acknowledged that it will increase the cost of building the new schools by “a couple of percents,” however, he said, it typically pays for itself after 10 to 12 years. He said, after that, it is a “big win” for the district.