Filed under: Campgrounds & RV Parks, Destination Camping & RV Resorts, RV Campgrounds
Santa Fe Skies Solar Power Project
Santa Fe Skies is an 11-year-old family built, owned, and operated RV Park overlooking the beautiful mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This “Big Rig friendly” park offers 20/30/50 amp electric service to all 98 sites. This has allowed the park to remain up to date with the power requirements of the modern recreational vehicle. This does however mean that their annual electric bill is rather high.
As the power company (PNM) asks the Public Regulatory Commission for an electric rate increase, Santa Fe Skies is in the process of building a solar power plant to offset the increase in rates as well as reduce their environmental impact.
Santa Fe Skies RV Park owner John Brown says investing $1.3 million now to install an array of solar panels—and getting 30% of that back in a federal rebate—will make a huge difference in the park’s long-term prospects, reports Woodall’s Campground Management.
“From a park-owning standpoint, not only does this keep us in business, the life expectancy of the panels is 40 years,” Brown said. Financed over 15 years, he added, the solar array will continue to provide benefits for a long time.
Brown said the RV Park’s electricity rates have grown about 5 percent per year for the past several years. The tab for 2010 totaled about $66,000 to provide electricity to the 98 RV camping sites.
To avoid absorbing the increasing costs or passing them along to guests, who typically pay about $38 per night for a site, Brown said he acted to take control after learning that the federal government was offering rebates for certain energy projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Brown benefited from the help of his son, J.B., an electrical engineer who helps in the business and also works for Positive Energy Solar Electric Systems, headquartered in Santa Fe.
J.B. Brown said Santa Fe Skies RV Park may be better suited than some others to take advantage of the sun’s ability to provide energy. Deciding whether an investment in solar energy makes economic sense depends to a great extent on a location’s weather and altitude, he explained.
At about 7,000 feet above sea level and with generally sunny weather, Santa Fe experiences 5.8 hours of solar energy per day. An array of 810 solar panels at Santa Fe Skies RV Park is expected to generate some 192.5 kilowatt hours of electricity per hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each panel is about 1.5 square meters.
John Brown expects the array to be fully commissioned and operational by early spring. All Panels are currently in place and the wiring is in progress. It might be done as soon as Tuesday (March 29, 2011). The grid connections are in submission and the first group was connected last week.
During off-peak hours when electricity use is low, the RV park will actually be adding power to the grid and will be compensated by the local power company at a rate of 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Overall, Brown expects the solar installation to provide about 56% of the RV park’s electricity.
The array is being installed on a 50-by-450-foot strip of land that had once been set aside as right of way for a four-lane road that was never built. Brown was able to reclaim the parcel, which abuts a walking trail at the RV park. “This takes a piece of fairly useless real estate and turns it into a $1.3 million asset,” Brown said, “and eventually it will be its own profit center.”
New Mexico is one of the best states in the United States for solar. While solar energy may only produce for a limited amount of time, it is low profile and low maintenance depending on system type. On average, the Santa Fe area produces viable solar energy 5.8 hours a day every day.
Location: Southeast of Interstate 25 and New Mexico State Highway 14
Northbound: From I-25, take exit 276; turn right at the stop light and continue through the first stoplight and go straight past the Allsups/Phillips 66 station. Santa Fe Skies RV Park is ½-mile up the road on the left.
Southbound: From I-25, take exit 276; turn left at the stop sign and go under I-25, continue through the first stoplight and go straight past the Allsups/Phillips 66 station. Santa Fe Skies RV Park is ½-mile up the road on the left.
Contact: (505) 473-5946 or (877) 565-0451
Address: 14 Browncastle Ranch, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508
Rates: $35-$38 including tax with Good Sam discount
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.
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