The new solar installation at Fire Station #3 in Santa Fe, New Mexico is more than a solar installation. It’s a symbol of community.
Positive Energy Solar worked with New Energy Economy and the city to install 69 solar panels at the station. It will provide 28,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year – enough to power four houses.
But something happened in this solar installation project that doesn’t happen in all of them. “It became about much more than installing solar and offsetting energy use,” said Positive Energy spokeswoman Karen Paramanandam. “This was truly a community project.”
New Energy Economy approached Positive Energy and together they looked for a high profile project either downtown or along the main drag through town where it would raise awareness about solar.
With raging wildfires this summer, they also liked the idea of helping area firefighters. So they approached the city and asked about installing solar at a prominent fire station. The city said would match funding for an installation.
New Energy Economy worked with interns and high school students to raise $22,000 for the project. The city matched it and the installation could have just been installed. But Paramanandam said Positive Energy likes to involve community a little more than that.
The company conducted classes with firefighters about rooftop safety around solar panels. They’re getting more and more common, she said, and firefighters might need to be aware of how to deal with them safely. “Even if they’re disconnected, you know, solar panels are always live as long as there’s sun,” Paramanandam said.
After those instructional courses, Positive Energy worked with area students and used the installation as a training tool for students interested in solar careers. Positive Energy often makes community projects of its solar installations.
The project doesn’t just offset energy costs, Paramanandam said. It helps the firefighters and does something to raise awareness about global climate change. “These wildfires our firefighters have been fighting this year were some of the hottest fires in history,” she said.
The project also brought the community into the fold and almost everyone in town will at least know someone who was involved in some way in making it happen and they can think about that and all the panels symbolize as they drive past the fire station. “There are things anyone can do to promote renewable energy,” Paramanandam said.