Despite job loss, New Mexico ranks in top third for solar production

By:  Ron Davis

New Mexico lost almost 14 percent of its solar jobs in 2017, but had a strong showcase in solar installations compared to the rest of the country.

A report from The Solar Foundation however, indicates the state is going to be installing more solar in the coming years. The Land of Enchantment ranked No. 29 overall for solar jobs in 2017 with 2,522 employees, but No. 9 for solar jobs per capita. The state also ranked No. 16 in the amount of solar installations installed with 697 megawatts. The Solar Foundation, which did a report on every state, said New Mexico is expected to more than double its installations to 1,695 MW.

Already a power with resources in oil, Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Steve Pearce said New Mexico can be a leader in both energy fields. Pearce said in an interview with Business First on Wednesday that the state can't forget about solar while tapping into the oil-ripe Delaware Basin.

Heinrich cited the Roswell and Chaves County Solar Energy Centers as positive signs in New Mexico's solar industry. After President Donald Trump's proclamation to impose tariffs on imported solar equipment, Heinrich lashed out against the notion. The proclamation has yet to be signed into law.

"I think the industry will see this through," he said in a phone interview in January, "though in the short term, there will be individual jobs — tens of thousands of them — that will be negatively affected."

The The Solar Foundation report found that nationally, the solar field supports nearly 789,000 jobs and has more than an $83 billion impact on the United States's gross domestic product. In New Mexico, Affordable Solar came in at No. 1 for Business First's List of Largest New Mexico Solar and Renewable Energy Companies with $39 million in reported revenue in 2016, while employing 98 workers.