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NMSU's Luna County Cooperative Extension Service teaches the basics of solar energy

New Mexico State University's Luna County Cooperative Extension office is in the basic training business - basic solar training, that is.

Two men outside the Luna County Cooperative Extension Service office work with a solar panel to power a fan.
Joel Chinkes, "Homemade Solar Electricity" course instructor, and Jim Hamel, course participant, work with a solar panel to power a fan. (NMSU photo by Jack Blandford)

Twelve Luna County residents are midway through the Luna CES five-week Homemade Solar Electricity course. The course formerly was offered through Dona Ana Community College, but when DACC stopped offering the course, Luna CES Agent Jack Blandford saw an opportunity for his county.

"We offered this class after a needs assessment; one of the main pushes in Luna County is going green," Blandford said. "People want to go green so they can save some money. I thought, wouldn't it be neat to get people coming to Extension for this training?"

Now they are; this series of classes started on February 23 and will run each Thursday evening until March 22. It is too late to sign up for the current class because it is already full. Blandford said that he has started a list of people interested in the next series of courses, which will be held sometime between August and October.

Participants learn the specialized vocabulary of solar electricity, how to harness the sun's energy to pump wells and power all or part of a home or small business, and how to save money on household energy expenses.

There is one drawback to getting into solar energy - it isn't cheap. In the long run, it will pay for itself, and then some. Blandford said that course instructor Joel Chinkes motivates the students by telling them that he often receives a monthly payment from the electric company, rather than paying them.

"Setting up the system may take some work," Blandford, said, but you can eventually get the electric company to pay you when your system feeds excess energy produced by your panels into their system.

"We need to utilize as many resources as we have, especially as we watch fuel prices climb," Blandford said. "And we have a lot of sun in our county."

For more information about the course, or to get on the waiting list for the next course, please call the Luna County Cooperative Extension Office at 575-546-8806.