What is NMSEA’s Role and Purpose in New Mexico?

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What is NMSEA's Role and Purpose?

The New Mexico Solar Energy Association (NMSEA) is one of the main solar advocacy organizations in the state of New Mexico. A non-profit, its stated mission is, “We Promote Clean, Renewable Energy & Sustainability in New Mexico through EDUCATION, EMPOWERMENT, COLLABORATION, and ADVOCACY.”

The NMSEA is an important force in the promotion and development of solar energy within the state of New Mexico. We’ll cover a bit more of their history, purpose, and role.

History of the NMSEA

The NMSEA is a state-level chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). Boasting 40 chapters, the ASES is a respectable force in the nonprofit world of solar. Let’s cover a bit of the history of both organizations.

History of the ASES

NMSEA’s parent organization, the ASES, was first founded in 1954. This was the same year that the first silicon solar cell was patented — not a coincidence. Originally founded in Arizona as the Association For Applied Solar Energy, the ASES went through numerous name changes over its several decades of existence. During that time period, it served as a force in the solar world, with 50 national solar conferences and 34 years of publishing Solar Today.

NMSEA and Its Relationship With the ASES

The NMSEA is a chapter of the national ASES. Originally founded in 1972 by an environmentally conscious collective of solar advocates, the NMSEA was based out of Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. From there they began advocating for solar energy, which they envisioned as a key element in creating a network of local, independent communities. 

NMSEA ran into a rough period in the 80s, when President Reagan began to cut funding and research into solar energy. Interest in solar energy waned until the 90s when public opinion began to support solar again. The organization began to pick up steam in the early 2000s with the organization of the Solar Fiesta — a high school fair teaching students about solar energy, which has since become an annual event. Currently, the NMSEA has seven local chapters, along with the state-wide organization. 

What Is the Purpose of the NMSEA in New Mexico Solar Today?

Despite being one of the best states to go solar in, New Mexico is still dominated by the fossil fuel industry. Wind power represents about 21 percent of the total energy production in New Mexico, making it the largest renewable energy source in the state by far. That said, even with wind power and the growing solar industry, fossil fuels make up the vast majority of energy production. Additionally, fossil fuel extraction has continued to grow in New Mexico, with New Mexico being one of only three states that increased their fossil fuel extraction from 2019 to 2020.

With the prevalence of wind, natural gas, and coal, it’s difficult for solar to make any headway. This is true even with the many favorable factors for going solar in New Mexico. It is for this reason that the NMSEA formed and why they continue to advocate for solar in all levels of New Mexico’s society. 

The Sun Chaser — What It Is and How it Works

One of the key tools that NMSEA uses to teach the state about solar power, and how it’s used, is the Sun Chaser. The Sun Chaser is a trailer that utilizes passive solar and solar technology to educate curious New Mexicans. NMSEA is producing an updated Sun Chaser, with such technology as solar water heating, energy-efficient appliances, and passive solar climate control. 

The Sun Chaser, which is currently being built with help from an Albuquerque area charter school, will be used as a mobile education device. It can be driven from place to place to raise awareness of solar, then can be used to demonstrate how solar technology works. The NMSEA has also said that they are planning to move more educational efforts online, which can help them reach a wider audience. 

NMSEA’s Solar Resources 

On top of the Sun Chaser program, NMSEA has a database of solar resources available for any solar-curious New Mexicans. These range from basic solar education, like what a solar PV panel is, to resources for school teachers who want to bring solar to the classroom. NMSEA uses these resources to teach children about the uses and benefits of solar, in the hope of creating a more environmentally friendly future. 

The Role of NMSEA in New Mexico’s Solar Community

Now that we’ve established the purpose of the NMSEA, it’s time to look at the role that it plays in New Mexico today — that of a leading solar advocate. 

New Mexico’s climate and solar incentives are some of the best in the nation, yet solar is just a fraction of New Mexico’s total energy production. This will likely change as solar continues to grow across America, but the role of solar advocates is a key part in that continued solar growth. 

Solar advocacy is particularly important in a state like New Mexico, where the fossil fuels industry keeps a tight hold over the state’s energy sector. Coal and natural gas companies are known to have deep pockets and wide-ranging influence across federal, state, and local governments. Some will say that their money gives them an outsized voice when it comes to American energy policy.

On the other side stand solar advocates. These advocates are often driven by a love of nature and the desire to help their neighbors and the environment. Solar education groups, like the NMSEA, are often grassroots organizations that continue on for a love of what they do. Even if lovers of solar energy don’t have the money and connections that the fossil fuels industry does, their commitment to renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources sustains them. 

These are voices that we need in these difficult times, with the threat of climate change looming over our heads. New Mexico, already a hot and dry state, will be hard hit. Luckily, there are ways to use solar to combat the heat and stay cool. However, without widespread adoption of solar and other renewable energy sources, New Mexico will have trouble on the horizon. While New Mexico has been making some steps, such as the adoption of community solar laws, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

If you’re interested in doing your part to combat climate change, then consider going solar. Solar energy is not only environmentally friendly but also cost-conscious. Solar panels can reduce your carbon footprint, lower your reliance on fossil fuels, and give you energy security. 

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