Bill to make solar more accessible for local governments advances

After evaluating ways to be better prepared for wildfire, the Dixon Volunteer Fire Department in Rio Arriba County chose to install solar panels and battery storage.  Chief Steven Jenison announced that, two days ago, “we flipped the switch on our solar system, that 7.5 kilowatt system that has large storage capacity.”  In the case of […]

Bill to make solar more accessible for local governments advances

After evaluating ways to be better prepared for wildfire, the Dixon Volunteer Fire Department in Rio Arriba County chose to install solar panels and battery storage. 

Chief Steven Jenison announced that, two days ago, “we flipped the switch on our solar system, that 7.5 kilowatt system that has large storage capacity.” 

In the case of an emergency, the fire department can now serve as an emergency response center that has access to reliable power.

Jenison spoke in favor of the Local Solar Access Fund, which would make it easier for local governments and tribes to complete solar projects like the one the fire department recently installed.

The Local Solar Access Fund, HB 108, passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on a 6-3 party-line vote Tuesday. It now heads to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

The bill would lead to a $110 million appropriation to support solar and storage projects for public buildings or infrastructure like water and wastewater treatment plants. This grant funding could be used to plan, design, construct, purchase, install and equip solar energy systems.

According to the Fiscal Impact Report, the funding could support 1,500 to 2,000 individual projects depending on the size of the project.

Related: Legislators look to create a local solar access fund

In particular, this could benefit small, rural communities that do not necessarily have the budgets to make those projects possible on their own. 

Grant County Commissioner Harry Browne said the county hospital and the detention center both are large users of electricity and have room for solar arrays. While the county has discussed equipping them with solar, there have always been other priorities such as increasing pay for law enforcement officials and repairing roads.

Browne said the Local Solar Access Fund could remove funding barriers and allow Grant County to move forward with the solar installations, which would translate to savings due to lower utility costs.

“It would be a huge boon to rural communities such as ours that don’t have the resources to address climate change and to make long-term investments,” he said, adding that it would save Grant County tens of thousands of dollars annually on utility bills.

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