Local Alternatives to Fossil Fuels and Big Polluters
A people-powered effort to move to fossil fuels to alternatives at the local level is building across the U.S. and the globe.
In October 2020, the UN warned that continued inaction on the part of world leaders to reverse the climate crisis will result in the planet becoming an “uninhabitable hell” for millions of people. Given the continued inaction on the part of world leaders and worsening climate crisis, the necessity for less extractive and damaging sources of energy and production is dire.
A people-powered effort to move to fossil fuels and other big polluters to alternatives at the local level is building across the U.S. and the globe.
How Solar Power Projects In New Mexico Fight Against Fossil Fuels
New Mexico’s efforts to solarize local venues paint a vision for a future of community energy self-sufficiency, which could be replicated in other areas.
One grassroots project in New Mexico, SOL for All has brought solar power to various locations across the state in an effort to support alternative energy solutions. They work to bring solar power to local community venues via grassroots fundraising initiatives. SOL for All is a project of the New Energy Economy (NEE), which is a New Mexico-based organization that supports alternatives to the exploitative models of energy generation.
Mariel Nanasi, executive director of NEE, said in 2020 that their organization’s theory of change is a combination of fighting against the expansion of the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy industries, and demonstrating the vision of what’s possible at the local scale to move society toward 100 percent renewable energy.
Since 2011, NEE has organized solarization campaigns across New Mexico annually, including projects for Casa Milagro, an organization that works to bring supportive, therapeutic and safe housing to people who have experienced homelessness in New Mexico and beyond. They have also brought solar power to Crownpoint Chapter House on Navajo Nation, the Taytsugeh Oweengeh Intergenerational Center at the Pueblo of Tesuque (including their senior center), the Hahn Community Center at the Pueblo de Cochiti, small farms, and multiple fire stations in the Santa Fe area, among others.
Nanasi said the solarize projects serve a dual purpose as they demonstrate the viability of energy alternatives to the public and bring awareness to local communities and organizations to shed light on important social and environmental issues.
Nanasi said getting fire stations and firefighters on board with solar has helped to change some political attitudes and influence policy shifts around energy in New Mexico. After they solarized the Tesuque Fire Station in 2013, the station’s electricity bill dropped from more than $115 a month to $8.65 a month. After three months, the utility company sent the station an $11 check because they had overproduced solar energy. This piqued the interest of Santa Fe County officials. The county has since applied state funding toward solarizing fire station after fire station. In 2013 the commission also passed a resolution supporting community solar projects.
She said fighting against what’s wrong is only half of what’s necessary for change.
“We also need to expose the vision of what’s possible,” she said. “We’re a tiny little nonprofit, but we’ve been doing these solar projects year after year because we want to go to localized, decentralized energy that creates self-sufficiency.”