In 2018, Standard Solar completed a 9.8 MW solar array for City of Gallup, New Mexico, and it recently won the bronze award from Solar Builder magazine as its Project of the Year. We caught up with Eric Babcock, Deputy Director Electric Department, from the City of Gallup to find out what they thought about the project and its award-winning status.
Standard Solar: Did you ever expect your project to become as nationally known as it has been, especially now that it’s been chosen as a Project of the Year by a magazine as prestigious as Solar Builder?
Eric: Well, we can tell you we were certainly proud of the project from the beginning. We felt it was an innovative use of land that couldn’t be used for much else and using it to power 10% of our city’s electricity needs was important. But no, we had no idea that we would receive national recognition for it—but we are incredibly excited.
Standard Solar: How did the project come about?
Eric: We had a 31-acre piece of land just outside of town that we owned that was zoned commercial. The problem was that it was in the middle of a 100-year flood plain, so it would have been prohibitively expensive for the usual development options. In the past, you wouldn’t worry so much about a 100-year flood, but with climate change, many communities have learned the hard way that you must take such things into account. When we had the idea for a solar array, we thought, “This just might work.”
Standard Solar: Were there any specific challenges you had to overcome to get this project built?
Eric: The biggest challenges involved in the project were technical. As we mentioned, the land in question was in a 100-year floodplain, so we had to find a company that could deal with the logistics of that particular challenge. We were fortunate to find a partner like Standard Solar (and co-development partners Mangan Renewables and Wiser Capital), who could help with both of those problems.
Standard Solar: How did they help?
Eric: First, they are a well-capitalized firm, meaning that they could bankroll the array upfront without the city having to put up a dime. That was huge. Then they negotiated a reasonable power-purchase agreement with us that allows us to pay off the array over 25 years. As we found out through our vetting process, the ability to work a finance deal like that is rare in the solar industry, and without it, this project would never have been done.
Secondly, Standard Solar’s excellent engineering team worked with Mangan Renewables (the EPC involved) to craft a solution to the floodplain problem. It was complicated, but it had to do with a sophisticated racking system that put the array above the flood line. It is really something to see. In addition, they were willing to hire local labor to build the array, which was important to us and to our local economy.
We are grateful to Standard Solar, its partners and Solar Builder magazine for the recognition this project is receiving. We’re certainly proud of our solar array, and we’re pleased to see it get the national recognition it deserves.
Learn more about the City of Gallup’s solar project here: https://standardsolar.com/project/city-of-gallup/
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