Santa Fe County Sustainability offers a free, impartial consultation for residents who are considering solar. Now is a great time to solarize your home, or to encourage your landlord to solarize. We can help you get started, answer your questions about solar, and help you find financial resources to make your solarization affordable. A 26% federal tax credit is available through the end of 2022, so start solarizing today!
Improving your home’s energy efficiency is an essential step before going solar. A few easy changes can make your home much more efficient, such as replacing your light bulbs with LED bulbs, insulating your home, and replacing your appliances Energy Star® rated appliances. See our Energy Wise page for additional energy efficiency strategies, as well as a list of available rebates. Making your home energy efficient will reduce both your electric needs and the number of solar panels required to meet those needs. Fewer panels means a lower cost for you and a lower impact on our environment. Remember, reducing is always the most effective action you can take for sustainability. Download our checklist for simple energy efficiency steps that can significantly reduce the cost of solarizing your home.
After implementing energy efficiency strategies in your home, decide if you want to generate 100% of the energy you use with solar, or just a portion of it. (Most homeowners choose 100%.)
Next, calculate your energy use. Obtain a 12-month usage history from your electric utility. Add up the kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity you’ve used during that period. Divide that amount by 1,800 (the average number of sunlight hours each year in New Mexico). This tells you what size solar power system you’ll need.
For example: an average New Mexico home uses 11,052 kWh of electricity each year. 11,052 divided by 1,800 is 6.14. So, the home would need a 6 kW solar power system to generate 100% of the energy it uses. Energy efficient homes may only require a 1.5 to 3 kW system.
The next step is to estimate the cost of the size of the solar system you select. As with most home improvements, it’s best to obtain bids from at least three different companies. Look for quotes that include details such as:
Solar power has become incredibly cost-effective. Although the cost of solar has decreased by 60% in the past decade, installing a home solar system can still seem out of reach for many residents. Luckily, there are many incentives and financial resources that make solarization affordable today, with significant long term savings, and in some cases, little to no out-of-pocket expenses. In most cases, a solar loan payment is cheaper than the monthly electricity bill you used to pay.
* We’ve received a few inquiries from residents asking if roofs also qualify for the federal tax credit (e.g. if you have to redo your roof in order to install solar panels). Your roof can only qualify for the solar tax credit if it contributes to the production of solar energy to generate electricity, for example, by installing shingles that reflect solar light to help the panels generate electricity. Please consult with your solar installer before roof construction to ensure that your roof upgrades comply with the tax credit.
Residents who opt for ground-mounted solar panels (instead of roof-mounted solar or solar-on-a-pole) can make their solar array pollinator-friendly! By planting seed mixes under your solar panels that benefit local pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and other insects, you’ll be creating wildlife-friendly habitat on otherwise barren land. On top of the benefits for wildlife, the cool micro-climate created by vegetation increases panel efficiency. In addition, pollinator-friendly solar has the added benefit of boosting plant productivity, which is great if you live on or near a farm, or just want to beautify your garden.
Contact Jacqueline Beam with the County’s Sustainability Division at [bot protected email address] or (505) 992-9832