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Trump’s Secretary of State nominee gets a narrow thumbs-up, but his Veteran’s Affairs nominee is put on hold. Also on our rundown: protests against Wells Fargo set for Des Moines today; and cannabis advocates blame Florida officials for “reefer madness.”

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NM Teams Compete to Bring Solar Power to Underserved Communities

Teams in New Mexico are competing for $1 million in prize money to bring solar to lower-income communities. (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Teams in New Mexico are competing for $1 million in prize money to bring solar to lower-income communities. (Flickr/Creative Commons)
May 5, 2017

SANTE FE, N.M. – Low- and moderate-income households represent 40 percent of America's population, but less than five-percent of all solar customers. A national competition is underway to change that, by expanding affordable solar-power access.

A half-dozen teams from New Mexico are among 48 from 23 states and Washington, D.C., selected to compete for a million dollars in prize money.

It's sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy SunShot Initiative and run by SUNY Polytechnic University, where Michael Fancher, the executive director of the Center for Advanced Technology in Nano Materials Electronics says to win, teams must develop a business plan that will work in underserved communities.

"So that long after the program, you have a vibrant community of these professionals able to continue and incorporate what they've learned from each other, and replicating that in other low- and moderate-income communities," he explains.

Various businesses and one school are participating in the contest and will be putting their projects together over the next 18 months. The winning entry must directly benefit low- and moderate-income households, local governments or nonprofits.

The New Mexico teams come two each from Albuquerque, Espanola and Santa Fe.

Fancher says the idea is to match solar installers with agencies that want to make the move to renewable energy.

"Getting the network activated and then working with the not-for-profit community, and the other participants in the low- and moderate-income communities, is really kind of the focus of this program, and you can see that in the allocation of its funding," he adds.

There's a grand prize of a half-million dollars, with other awards of $100,000 and $200,000.

New Mexico currently ranks 15th in the nation for solar energy use, with an estimated 158,000 solar-powered homes and 59 companies developing and installing those services.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service - NM