In a three to one vote, the Chama Village Council voted to sign a purchase power agreement, subject to public approval, with Clear Energy Solar New Mexico for construction and operation of a 196 kWh solar farm at the village wastewater plant. The 20-year contract has a set price of .074 cents per kWh.
“The solar plant at the waste water treatment plant will not cost us anything except internet,” said Mayor Billy Elbrock. “And save us $260,000 over the life of the contract.”
Vince Campione, of Clean Energy Solar, said the project was “state of the art” and could be finished by September. The ability to finance the project comes through a Federal Income Tax Credit where investors can buy into renewable energy enterprises and write off nearly 100 percent of their investment in the first year.
“Our investors want the tax credit,” Campione said. “We own the (solar) panels, you own the land. All you do is buy clean energy from those panels, lock in your price and save money.”
Campione is also working with Rio Arriba County and Chama Valley Schools on solar projects.
Elbrock asked, “Will this project go toward the Governor’s (Michelle Lujan Grisham) initiative for green credit?”
The Governor’s Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for 50 percent of the state’s grid energy to be generated from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
Campione said it would apply.
The lone dissenting vote was cast by Councilman Matthew Gallegos.
“I’m all about green energy, but I just want to make sure the people up there (Dos Rios) are OK with it,” Gallegos said. “I want to give the public an opportunity to (have a ) voice.”
Campione said that the panels were eight to nine feet tall, mounted on the ground and make no noise or emissions.
“They may not even see them,” Campione said.
Gallegos said he would go door to door at Dos Rios to find out what the people thought.
Elbrock said the village has a 60-day cancellation clause in the contract and reminded them that the 3-to-1 vote was “subject to public approval.”
First mayor honored
State Senator Leo Jaramillo, District 5, paid a surprise zoom visit to the regular Chama Village Council meeting March 3 and presented Councilor Ernest Vigil, a Leadership Legacy certificate from the 55th State Legislature on the occasion of his father’s, Edward Esteban Vigil, recent death.
“You father was a visionary,” Jaramillo said. “He championed Chama. He was the first mayor, built the first water treatment plant, negotiated water rights with the railroad and brought this town life. And you, Ernest, whom I consider a friend, are in the legacy of leadership.”
Edward E. Vigil died Feb. 13 at the age of 100.
At the meeting all four councilors donated $100 each to The Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.
Later Councilor Vigil said, “It was nice. I didn’t expect it.”
West Hahn, of the Timber Ridge subdivision, which abuts the Sargent Wildlife Management Area, asked the council when home-owners in the sub-division might expect city water.
“We’ve been discussing this matter for two-and-a-half years and I’m just wondering what priority level we are?” Hahn asked.
He said his private well produces one gallon of water a minute and only runs for 30 minutes. His neighbor had nearly $25,000 invested in a well with similar results. He suggested city water at Timber Ridge would also behoove fire-fighting efforts should the Wildlife Management Area or government encampment ignite.
“Seventeen people on Seventh Street are in the same situation as you,” Elbrock said. “Everybody’s a priority. Your needs are not going unheard.”
Gallegos said, “What’s it going to cost, $100,000 or $1 million? Let me research it. I’ll see if the County will work with us.”
New law in town
The mayor confirmed he had signed a law enforcement agreement for Chama with the New Mexico State Police but had yet to finalize termination details with Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan. A Joint Power Agreement between the two law enforcement agencies remains a possibility.
Deborah Ortiz of The Friends of the Chama Library presented a no-personal-contact curbside book check out system as a way to start a partial re-opening of the village library.
“Our books have now been quarantined seven months,” Oritz said. “We can quarantine books between check-outs for seven days.”
Library commissioners Jolen Jones and Scott Flury suggested the plan looked positive and wanted to discuss the matter further.
In a non-agenda item, Austin Phippen, representing his father-in-law and landowner of 247 Pine St., Duane Mulkey, asked for a variance to build three wood-framed single-family residences at the address. The council tabled the request until after the planning and zoning meeting set for later this month in Española.
Read More: Chama Council Inks Deal on Wastewater Solar Array | County