AZTEC — Aztec soon will go solar, if the price is right.

The city's Electric Department wants to add renewable sources of energy as soon as 2015.

Aztec's municipal electric utility does not own its own generation facilities, instead buying its energy from two sources: the Public Service Company of New Mexico and Western Area Power Administration.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 requires energy customers like Aztec to submit an "Integrated Resource Plan" every five years. The last report was submitted in 2007.

A new department plan explores a range of energy alternatives, including greater generating capacity, conservation and efficiency, and renewable energy resources.

The commission will discuss the plan's proposals during a workshop meeting today. The feasibility of two forms of renewable energy - solar and hydro - will occupy the half-hour meeting.

Solar, or photovoltaic, power sounds like a no-brainer in a part of the country that averages over 300 cloudless days each year. But costs are relatively expensive.

"The last time I looked, the cost for renewables was two times what traditional power costs," said Ken George, director of the Electric Department. "If we are going to do it, any renewable energy source has got to come in at or near cost."

The city serves approximately 3,000 such customers each month and uses roughly 8 megawatts of power each day.

According to the plan, the city would build a one-megawatt photovoltaic plant on a 10-acre parcel on city land.


Also considered is the installation of one or more small-scale, 500 kilowatt-per-unit hydro generators, using the city's water rights.

While both projects would bring in less than 10 percent of the city's annual energy requirement, George sees them as paths in the right direction.

George said the city has been putting aside funds each year for renewable projects, anticipating a time in the near future when the demand for more power will outpace the city's current purchasing ability.

Feasibility studies for both projects would have to be complete before any money is spent, but George sees the investment value paying dividends down the road.

"The need is there," George emphasized. "One large industrial customer would put us over the limit of what we can offer."

The workshop meeting at City Hall will run from 5:30 before the regularly scheduled commission meeting at 6:00.