On May 29, 2012, Mayor Richard J. Berry and representatives from Affordable Solar, PNM, and the Albuquerque International Sunport officially “flipped the switch” on the last photovoltaic solar array on the Sunport’s parking structure. This final phase of the project consists of five arrays that will provide power directly to the terminal building. The eight existing arrays currently provide power to the parking structure itself and since 2009, have reduced the energy bill for the structure by 75%.
PNM will pay the Sunport for the renewable energy certificates associated with every kilowatt-hour of electricity their solar panels generate, making the purchase of solar panels more affordable and helping PNM achieve state energy requirements. PNM worked with the Sunport during the planning phase to help them maximize their investment in solar and assure a safe connection to the grid.
The project was paid for in large-part by a $1.8 million VALE (Voluntary Airport Low Emissions) grant from the FAA. This last phase completes the full project that consists of 13 solar arrays capable of producing nearly one megawatt of power. The amount of energy produced will save in excess of $300,000 in annual electricity costs for the Sunport.
The Sunport was the first airport in the nation to receive a VALE grant for an on-site solar project. The first grant was in the amount of $2.4 million and provided for six solar arrays. Traditionally, VALE monies were only awarded for vehicles and projects that would directly reduce emissions at a facility. The city made the successful case that a photovoltaic array would reduce emissions not only at the facility, but on a regional scale by reducing electricity needs that come from coal-powered sources.