Solar gains a foothold in Aztec

Hannah Grover

AZTEC – Solar energy and electricity were at the center of discussion this evening at the Aztec city commission meeting.

Earlier in the day, the city turned on the solar field located off of Western Drive, electric utility director Ken George told the commissioners at the end of the meeting.

With the electricity produced through the 1 megawatt solar field and the hydropower allotted to the city from Lake Powell through the Western Area Power Association, the city will now be receiving about one-third of its electrical power from renewable sources, Mayor Sally Burbridge commented during the meeting.

As the city diversifies its energy sources, customers are also adding solar to their power sources. The commission approved two solar power agreements that would allow customers to tie in to the Aztec electrical grid and potentially receive credit for the surplus energy that they produce.

The Aztec Municipal School District received the city’s second commercial customer solar power agreement and a residential customer’s solar tie in was also approved.

The school district will be paid 5 cents for every surplus kilowatt while the resident, James Good, will be paid 4 cents. These numbers are based on what the city will pay Guzman Energy starting Friday for electricity.

Because the school district pays a higher base rate — $150 a month — the city agreed to pay the district 5 cents, which is a little more than the 4.2 cents the city will pay Guzman for power.

Good attended the meeting along with Richard Chacon of the Independent Energy Center. Chacon, who has been working with Good on the solar project, said the Goods are not trying to make money. Instead, the Goods have installed a solar system with a battery backup so that they can power medical equipment if the grid goes down.

“It’s essentially insurance for him,” Chacon said, explaining that Good’s wife uses an oxygen system.

City manager Joshua Ray said solar power is something that will become more popular in the future because solar arrays have become more affordable on a residential scale.

Solar does present some challenges for the city. For example, the city will now have to deal with meters that run both forward and backward, which could complicate the billing process. The city will also see a loss of revenue as customers add solar panels.

Ray said he doesn’t expect the school district to be generating surplus power the majority of the year, however the district could generate excess power in the summer months. He said the school district also plans on additional solar projects that could generate additional.

The commission also approved a 90-day agreement with the Farmington Electric Utility Service for it to provide 9 megawatts of power a month to that will be supplied to Aztec customers through the city's contract with Guzman Energy.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.