EERE Success Story — New Mexico’s Forestry Division Saves Money by Switching to Solar

September 12, 2019

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Forestry Office with PV system installed, from the road. Photo courtesy of New Mexico State Forestry – Cimarron District Office, 2019.

The Ute Park wildfire of 2018 was destructive to thousands of acres in the Cimarron and Ute Park communities of northeastern New Mexico. It knocked out power to the Cimarron District Office of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) Forestry Division, and nearby communities. The firefighting operations were put on an on-site backup propane generator. This generator became the single-point supply of electricity – supporting the entire firefighting event. The Cimarron District Office ran on generator power for four days with, luckily, no electrical failures, but the wear and tear on the computers and data processing system was evident.

In early 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), via its direct grantee, the New Mexico State Energy Office, provided nearly $58,000 in financial assistance to install a 10.3 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic system, an 8 kW inverter/battery input and output, and a 16 kW-hour battery bank.

The EMNRD Forestry Division has a long history of enduring numerous power transients, brown-outs, and outages at its District Office in Cimarron. Located at the end of a long radial electrical line, the facility houses sophisticated fire management computers and data processing systems that have been regularly replaced due to poor power quality. The cost of technology replacement has been $1,000 to $2,000 every year for the past four years. The installation of solar and battery storage was completed successfully, and the residents of northeastern New Mexico can rest easier knowing there is one less logistical challenge in the next firefighting event.

Through EERE’S State Energy Program (SEP), DOE invests in states and U.S. territories to achieve greater energy savings, support a range of U.S. industries creating jobs across the country, and deliver reliable domestic energy options that are affordable and efficient. This investment from SEP is one way DOE is working to improve energy reliability and resiliency in the event of an emergency, and it ensures that the Cimarron District will have backup power to keep its information technology networks running and command and control points powered in the event of another major wildfire.