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Brandon Bellini with Positive Energy Solar works with a team to install solar panels at Casa Milagro south of Santa Fe on Wednesday. A project years in the making, New Energy Economy worked with Casa Milagro to get solar energy for the homeless residence.

Casa Milagro, a Santa Fe homeless facility for people with mental illnesses, intends to brighten its atmosphere with solar energy.

Desirée Bernard, executive director of Casa Milagro, said the stars (including the sun) aligned to provide big benefits for her place on Camino Bajo, south of Santa Fe. First, Casa Milagro’s energy efficiency last year was vastly improved by a Colorado organization that takes on such work for affordable housing programs.

Second, it expects to receive solar panels this week to generate cheap electricity and save thousands of dollars for the house for the homeless for years to come.

“It was a synergy, for sure,” Bernard said Monday of the conversion of energy-related savings. “It was a really lucky break that that happened.”

Santa Fe-based Positive Energy Solar is expected to install solar panels this week at Casa Milagro through a program coordinated by New Energy Economy.

New Energy Economy, a renewable energy advocacy group in Santa Fe, has raised about two-thirds of the $54,000 for the solar panel project.

The organization has generated money for about a dozen other solar panel installations in rural settings, various fire stations in the city and the county, community and cultural centers in Northern New Mexico and other spots. New Energy Economy leader Mariel Nanasi said she expects no difficulty raising the remaining $18,000 for the Casa Milagro solar installation.

Bernard said Casa Milagro last year also was the beneficiary of a Colorado-based nonprofit organization’s work to make affordable housing projects more energy efficient. The International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology improved insulation and duct work in the house, and for the most part, weaned the house off expensive propane gas.

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Richard Vallejos with Positive Energy Solar installs solar panels at Casa Milagro on Wednesday.

Bernard estimated the solar panels and energy efficiency work will save her organization roughly $12,000 a year.

Casa Milagro has been around for more than 20 years and provides transitional and permanent housing to about 12 people at a time.

“Oh, I’m excited about the project,” said Jennifer S. Elliott, 42, who has lived at Casa Milagro for more than three years. “In terms of helping keep this planet clean ... yeah, it’s a good way to go forward.”

Nanasi said Positive Energy Solar gave her close to a 20 percent discount for the solar installation project. California-based Remy’s Good Day Fund donated $20,000 for the solar panel installation. Remy’s contributed through Santa Fe-based Cornerstones Community Partnership’s solar initiative. Nanasi and New Energy Economy are best known for their criticisms of Public Service Company of New Mexico. Nanasi said Monday that her group’s tenets include fighting climate change and moving away from energy reliance on coal, oil and gas.

By using solar energy, Nanasi said, Casa Milagro will be able to apply the savings it achieves to programs and increased self-sufficiency.

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Desirée Bernard, executive director of Casa Milagro, and Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, have worked for years to get solar power to Casa Milagro.

(11) comments

Mike Johnson

All solar installations would be economic, if someone else donated the money to you.......especially if they will not donate money to pay your electric bills otherwise.....I don't see the significance of this at all.

Richard Irell

Given that people are dying due to climate change, I find this very significant.

Under the Dome


Richard Irell

Under the Dome


Mike Johnson

Mr. Irell, I always hate to show the scientific data and facts to someone who is convinced emotionally about their false assertions, but if you will look at these data in Figure 3, you will note what it says: "Figure 3 provides another perspective to gauge the size and frequency of prolonged heat wave events. It shows the U.S. Annual Heat Wave Index, which tracks the occurrence of heat wave conditions across the contiguous 48 states from 1895 to 2020. This index defines a heat wave as a period lasting at least four days with an average temperature that would only be expected to occur once every 10 years, based on the historical record. The index value for a given year depends on how often such severe heat waves occur and how widespread they are." You will note there is no increase in these heat waves that correlates to increasing CO2 over the last 140 years or so. Thus CO2 is NOT causing heat waves in the US. One weather event is just that, not climate, not climate change. But I know you are convinced, so you will ignore the science, as usual for left wing types.


Mike Johnson

Also Mr. Irell, this peer-reviewed research paper should be of interest to you given your emotional attachment to the notion that "people are dying due to climate change", the author states and shows data to prove this: "I will present two general indicators that demonstrate increased resilience: that the number and risk of climate-related deaths have dropped by more than 95% since 1920, and that the fractional cost of climate impacts is not increasing, but actually decreasing."


Paul Davis

Ah, good old Bjorn Lomborg.

A quick scan takes me to this paragraph:

"Yet, because it ignores adaptation, this description exaggerates the problem by up to two thousand times. The misleading narrative is, unfortunately, often encouraged by research that routinely neglects adaptation or treats it as a casual add-on."

So, to summarize: this narrative is misleading because it describes what will happen if we do nothing, but we don't do nothing, so it's absurd to talk about the cost of doing nothing.

Which is a fairly weird argument to make. It's like saying "There's no reason to consider the cost of someone breaking into your house and stealing everything, because you will take steps to make that much less likely, and so that full cost is not a relevant number".

There are quite a lot of people around (though the numbers get smaller every day) who actively claim that we should do nothing about climate change, effectively refuting the entire logic of this part of Lomborg's argument.

There's so much more one can call into question in this paper. Too much for an SFNM comment, so here's a review of Lomborg's most recent book which pours some scorn on the numbers and assumptions that he uses (from 2020)


Mike Johnson

Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus developed an economic model (which won him the prize) that shows adaptation, in this case new technology, is the reason to reject draconian solutions, like the IPCC's 1,5 degree C goal. His work showed doing nothing about climate produced a better economic outcome for the world than spending on things to achieve a 1.5 degree C goal. Adaptation and technology advances are the key to climate change, not draconian solutions that leave the world less wealthy and prosperous. You should educate yourself...


Paul Davis

I know that you know the difference between capital expenditure and expenses. I'm also willing to bet that you (like most people) would be more excited about donating towards capital expenditure that reduces expenses that simply donating to pay for continuing expenses.

But we don't even need to go that far. All solar installations are economic right now, even without somebody else paying for them. Payback time is 7-12 years max, depending on the labor cost of installation. My own self-installed 6.6kW system will pay for itself in 8 years, without any tax breaks. With tax breaks, closer to 6.5 years.

Mike Johnson

My economics was not so good in my rural area. My current low cost per KWH, combined with the 220 volt service needed for wells, a basement full of batteries for backup, etc. showed a payout of 20+ years with subsidies. Not economic for me at all.

Emily Koyama

Good to see Positive Energy Solar on this job, and not some out of state outfit.

PES put a solar system and Tesla batteries at my house and it was a great experience from start to finish. My electric bill is 8 bucks a month.

Robert Fields

Big congrats and just in time to take the uncertainty out of rising fossil fuel bills this winter!

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