May 9, 2023

PRC delays community solar project selection

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and its contractor, InClime, postponed the announcements of the selected and waitlisted community solar projects due to a complaint filed by one of the applicants.

Selected projects were initially supposed to be announced on Tuesday.

The complaint by Lightstar Renewables and its subsidiary NM Solar 4000 is based on the scoring of the applications in which Lightstar alleged that it should have ranked higher but alleges that InClime did not accept its permitting plans that were stamped by a licensed engineer because the stamped plan’s date was after the closure for applications to the community solar program. The company states that it had submitted plans that were signed by a licensed engineer and was told that they needed to be stamped instead of signed.

Lightstar maintains that the Community Solar rules state that the plans should be signed.

The PRC has asked InClime to review and rescore Lightstar’s proposals as well as others that may have been similarly affected. 

InClime is now expected to announce the selected projects on May 16 and they will be published on the community solar website.

Despite the delay, InClime presented information about its process to the commission on Tuesday.

InClime Community Solar Lead Miana Campbell said the review process was “nothing short of meticulous.” 

The review process began in February after the request for proposals closed.

Some of the areas that the team reviewed included financing, timelines for the projects’ development, community outreach plans and experience working with low-income communities.

There were more than 400 projects submitted and only a limited amount of megawatt capacity for the community solar program to start off. 

Each investor-owned utility has been allocated a certain amount of megawatt capacity for community solar.

That means there can be limited numbers of community solar arrays built in each service territory.

A community solar project will allow customers to subscribe to receive at least a part of their energy needs from the array. That solar energy will be distributed to customers using the investor-owned utility infrastructure.

This is intended to help people who might otherwise not have access to solar. That includes people who live in apartments or who rent and people who cannot afford solar panels for their properties.

Campbell said some of the project developers may drop out and, if that happens, waitlisted projects will move up to take their place.

“We will manage the list to ensure that projects that are not initially selected for the program’s participation can be added to the program if selected projects drop out,” she said.