Rio Grande now generates enough electricity to meet its annual business and manufacturing needs. After installing close to five acres of solar panels (more than 5,000 of them) above the parking lot at their facility in New Mexico, Rio Grande now operates the state’s largest commercial solar array.
“[Rio Grande] has put in the first 1.1 megawatt commercial system here in [New Mexico],” said David Hughes, president and CEO of Affordable Solar Group, Rio Grande’s partner on the project. “This custom system is large enough to power 300 homes.”
The system will supply most of the electrical power required by Rio Grande’s 180,000 sq. ft. facility, which includes a large manufacturing operation that produces thousands of unique items that serve every kind of artist, metalsmith and studio in the industry.
Rio Grande’s transition to solar power is part of the company’s sustained commitment to increasing the energy efficiency of its facilities. In the past, the company has lowered water usage by 30%, applied an elastomeric roof coating that cut cooling costs and installed an energy-efficient HVAC system. After a recent energy and environmental audit by the U.S. Department of Energy, Rio Grande was recognized for its leadership and achievements in energy efficiency. The solar array, however, remains Rio’s greatest step so far in this commitment.
“This investment in clean, renewable energy will pay for itself quickly while ensuring stable costs well into the future,” said Rio Grande Director Alan Bell. “It is wonderful to use this abundant, renewable and natural resource to power our business.” On a lighter note, he added, “and so far we’ve received no complaints from our associates about the covered parking!”