Renewable Energy Resources Strong in Albuquerque, NM
Solar energy is a natural fit in Central New Mexico, because the region enjoys more than 300 sunny days annually.
Arnold Leitner, president and chief executive officer of SkyFuel LLC, has good reasons for operating a research and development facility in Albuquerque.
SkyFuel develops large solar power generators, and New Mexico has plenty of sunshine – more than 300 days of it annually.
But for businesses like SkyFuel, which opened in 2005 in New York, New Mexico’s economic climate is as pleasing as its weather.
New Mexico is one of the most progressive states when it comes to making solar energy a major initiative, Leitner says. “It is very attractive for our company to be associated with a state that is so forward-thinking.”
Advent Solar, which develops solar cells and modules used in the pro duction of photovoltaic panels, also calls Central New Mexico home.
Yet solar energy is not the only driving force behind the renewable-energy sector’s growth. New Mexico ranks sixth in the nation in the capacity of wind-energy installations.
“In a way, we are the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy,” says Jim Norton, director of the Environmental Protection Division at the New Mexico Environment Department. “We have abundant wind and solar resources.”
New Mexico lawmakers are harnessing those resources to spark the economy and improve the environment, and the commitment starts at the top – with Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. secretary of energy.
“Living in New Mexico, he knows the importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels that both come from unstable parts of the world and cause severe climate-change problems,” Norton says.
U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Pete V. Domenici are both on the Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, with Bingaman serving as chairman. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez spearheads the city’s effort to meet Kyoto Protocol standards.
As evidence of its commitment, the state offers a host of renewable-energy tax incentives, including the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit for companies that generate electricity from wind, solar or biomass.
“A suite of tax incentives, training incentives and economic development support industries in the sector,” says Mark Lautman, economic develop ment director for Forest City Covington NM LLC, which is developing Mesa del Sol, a 25-square-mile development that includes commercial, retail and residential space.
Lautman is targeting renewable-energy and sustainable-materials sectors as part of his recruitment efforts.
Advent last year built an 87,000-square-foot building at Mesa del Sol. By March 2007, the company’s migration from its old space should be complete, Marketing Manager Daniel Curado says. The company has about 130 employees, and that number could swell to 1,000 within five years, he says.
Leitner of SkyFuel also plans to have offices in Mesa del Sol. In the meantime, the company is renting space elsewhere in the area.
Mesa del Sol butts up against Sandia National Laboratories, a Department of Energy unit developing solutions in energy, computing and geologic sciences. SNL is a fertile proving ground for skilled scientists and R&D people, such as James Gee, founder and chief technology officer of Advent Solar, who spent 24 years there.
With not only Sandia but also the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico offers companies an ample labor pool. “Recruiting for us is going to be a breeze,” Leitner says.
Forest City Covington hopes to make recruiting even easier by teaming up with DOE to encourage retirees to relocate to Mesa del Sol and work as consultants.
The company also vows to support renewable-energy businesses. “We promised to design and build so that the development uses a fraction of the energy and water that subdivisions in New Mexico typically consume,” Lautman says. “We’re committed to sustainability.”
Leitner is banking on that ready marketplace in New Mexico. While all his reasons for relocating here make good business sense, Leitner also appreciates Central New Mexico’s low cost of living, dedication to the environment and laid-back lifestyle. “I just like New Mexico,” he says.