Southwest utilities bet on solar, storage for resilience against wildfires

By District Energy posted 06-09-2021 07:02

  

Energy News Network

Summary

As drought and wildfire risks intensify across the Southwest, utilities are turning to solar, storage and microgrids to bolster electric grid resiliency.

In Taos, New Mexico, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative has two major solar-storage projects in progress that it hopes will provide electrical resilience to nearby customers in case of wildfires.

“This could be the driest summer that we have had on top of the other dry summers,” said Luis Reyes Jr., chief executive of the cooperative. That drought is heightening fire risks and in turn improving the financial case for distributed energy that can operate despite transmission disruptions.

Kit Carson serves electricity to 29,000 members in Taos and two other counties along the Colorado border. Included are four ski areas and the Taos and Picuris pueblos. It’s a place of small towns and roads that penetrate the Sangre de Cristo Mountains like veins and arteries. The cooperative, named for the famed fur trapper and guide who is buried near the central plaza of Taos, has 9 customers per mile of electrical line, compared to perhaps 400 per mile of investor-owned utilities.

Wildfires were uncommon when Reyes was growing up in Taos in the 1960s and 1970s. They remained scarce even after he returned with a degree in electrical engineering in 1984. 

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