Get Big Pivots

New Mexico cooperative moves forward with money for microgrids at Taos ski area and Picuris Pueblo


by Allen Best

In Taos, evolution of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative continues to move along. And we’ll get to that bus quote in a bit.

Kit Carson and its wholesale supplier, Guzman Energy, announced in February that they have another solar-plus-storage (8.76 megawatts of solar and 17.5 megawatts of battery storage) at Amalia, N.M.

This is north of Taos, near the Colorado border, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The closest place on the map is Costilla. The array is on land of the Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association, which wants to be known as “caretakers of the land.”

Luis Reyes Jr.

Luis Reyes Jr.

Luis Reyes Jr., the long-time chief executive of Kit Carson, said the siting was a “great example of renewable energy development planning starting with discussion and listening in the local community. Understanding the goals and concerns of the land keepers was critical in getting project planning agreement.”

Luminace, a national renewable energy developer, will build and maintain the facility.

Kit Carson has gotten ink lately from various publications, including one called Decentralized Grid Magazine.

“Think Community Energy can’t Work? Tell that to Kit Carson Electric?” tells the Kit Carson story competently: the refusal in 2006 to extend its all-requirements contract with Tri-State G&T to 2050, the departure from Tri-State in 2016 after paying $37 million, the hookup with Guzman Energy and the triumph in 2022 of being able to generate enough local generation (solar) in 2022 to be able to meet local needs.

Here is a delicious quote from that story by Reyes, talking about its uncertain future after getting its independence from Tri-State.

“Getting a power supplier that cared about our members and our missions to get more renewables – that was difficult. We were the dog that caught the bus, and now what do we do with it,” he said.

Astrid Atkinson, chief executive of Camus Energy, a software company that works with Kit Carson (and at least one utility in Colorado, too) had this to say:

“They are leading the charge on transitioning to a more local grid model and have been really innovative in their approach – how they think about everything from the economic model to the local system impacts of the resources that are being added.”

As of July 2022 it has 20 solar facilities and 44 MW of solar and 60 MW of energy storage to enable it to meet the daytime peaks of 25 to 40 MW.

Yale Climate further reports the work of Kit Carson to create microgrids, something that Reyes was talking about doing as long ago as 2019 (and likely before). With aid of the $15 million in funding obtained from the federal 2021 law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Kit Carson now plans microgrids near the village of El Rito; at the Taos Ski Valley; and at Picuris Pueblo.

* A footnote on this. In 2019, while in Taos to do a story about the ski area for a ski industry magazine, this writer – then very much attuned to the Kit Carson story — poked around the Picuris Pueblo, thinking it would make for a remarkable story, this mix of the very, very old and the very, very new. It didn’t happen then, but it gave me an opportunity to meet the individual who was the role model for Herbie in John Nichols’ “Milagro Beanfield War.

Top: The solar array at the Picuris Pueblo. Photo courtesy of Kit Carson Electric Association.

Allen Best
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