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March 8, 2021


Angie Poss, Assistant Commissioner of Communications


Commissioner Garcia Richard Approves First-Ever Municipal Renewable Energy Utility Leases

Solar generation sites part of City of Las Cruces ‘Green Initiative’

SANTA FE, NM – In a first-of-its-kind effort, New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard today approved four applications for municipal solar energy development from the City of Las Cruces.The applications with the State Land Office (SLO) will serve as a component of the City’s ‘Green Initiative,’ which seeks to put Las Cruces government buildings and public utilities on a path to a renewable energy future. The four leases represent the first time a municipal entity has been approved for renewable energy development for utility generation on state trust land.

The four solar project sites, which will total 2.2 megawatts (MW) of power annually, will be built in conjunction with existing water production leases between the SLO and the City. When completed, solar power generated on the leases will replace existing power to four utility scale water wells serving Las Cruces residents and businesses.

“This is a huge development for New Mexico’s renewable energy future. Our hope is that the leases signed today become a framework for other municipalities as they seek alternatives to either power or provide utilities with clean energy,” Commissioner Garcia Richard said. “In order to meet the demands for more sustainable energy sources and reach the goals set in statute by the Energy Transition Act, New Mexico communities and government entities need to work together on innovative, clean energy solutions – such as this example between the State Land Office and the City of Las Cruces.”

The leases are set to be in place for 25 years, with the City set to pay roughly $20,000 annually to the SLO for the use of 10 acres of state trust land in different areas of Las Cruces. The SLO manages and stewards nearly nine million surface acres and 13 million mineral acres of state trust land. The proceeds of any lease on state trust land directly benefits New Mexico public schools, hospitals, and universities. The City of Las Cruces solar leases will directly benefit New Mexico public schools.

“This project moves us one step closer to an independent resilient system that can utilize clean energy to supply another vital resource, water, through the wells serving our residents. Wise management of both of these systems supports the City and State’s sustainability goals,” said Las Cruces City Councilor Gill Sorg.

“After this success, we hope to work with other municipalities across New Mexico where utilities are situated near or on state trust land to discuss this brand-new model of municipal renewable leasing. It’s an affordable, tangible solution to renewable utility generation that can and should benefit more New Mexico communities,” Commissioner Garcia Richard added. 

Under the leadership of Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, the New Mexico State Land Office has seen back-to-back years of revenue over $1 billion. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The money earned from leasing activity supports 22 beneficiaries – New Mexico public schools, seven universities and colleges, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, three hospitals, water and land conservation projects, and public building construction and repair.