Sunshine is pretty much synonymous with happiness, if pop music is to be believed. "Sunshine of Your Love," "Here Comes the Sun," "Walking on Sunshine," "You Are My Sunshine," need I go on? So shouldn't we be pretty psyched that New Mexico has so much of it? Sure, it's also associated with harsh and unforgiving conditions, but we've got a lot of those too. The important thing is to take that sunshine and make lemonade, I mean, energy. With science.
And look no further for science than the Santa Fe Community College, which unveils the first of two on-campus solar arrays at 10:30 am today then hosts the New Mexico Solar Fiesta through Saturday.
The array installation, a project done with Positive Energy Solar and Bradbury Stamm Construction, is a 11.8 kW array with a perk: a real-time monitoring system designed to give students insight into the minutiae of the technology.
"Most systems just kind of do their thing" says SFCC Marketing Director Janet Wise. "They're generating power, and we just take them for granted because we can't see what's being done, but through this technology we can see exactly what happens when, say, a cloud comes by. Everything from weather conditions, to how the system stores power, where the reserves are, etc., can be seen in real time. I think it will be interesting to the layperson as well as the students studying the technology."
SFCC has been involved in sustainability training for some time now with programs like sustainable technologies, biofuels, green building systems and solar energy, so the college has good reason to promote and expand its curriculum by creating what Positive Energy Solar's Marketing Director Karen Paramanadam, calls an "outside lab". But that's not all. There's also the financial motivator. When the second, much larger 1.5 MW array is completed on Oct. 1, it's estimated that the two together will be able to generate 40 percent of the college's energy, saving the school about $200,000 per year.
"The arrays are dual-axis," says Paramandam, "meaning they can cover all 360 degrees. Really, wherever the sun is, the technology follows its path. So even in a very small area you can generate a lot of energy."
The ribbon-cutting opens the weekend-long Solar Fiesta, bringing solar and sustainability experts out for workshops, talks, and the development of custom plans to make wherever you live more energy-efficient.
Feel free to bring your kids, too. I wouldn't have guessed that a trade show for sustainable technology would be a fun outing for the kiddies, but with interactive demos, hands-on adobe building lessons, a giant sun oven for cookie baking and more, it's not a bad way to teach the older kids about the importance of careful energy use, and the younger ones the importance of running around and doing things so you'll sleep later. With so much sunshine around, and the technology to harvest it, it looks like New Mexico is warding off its utility bills right along with its Seasonal Affective Disorder.
10:30 am Friday, April 25-5 pm Saturday, April 26
Santa Fe Community College, Trades & Advanced Technology Center
6401 Richards Ave.