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Harnessing the Sun’s Power

By Amanda Martinez | Rio Grande Sun
In the parking lot of Northern New Mexico College, DiAna Cuevas Martinez kneels beside a white box, 4-feet on each side, lined with a bright, reflective silver material that looks like a car windshield protector.
There is a bag of cookie dough on the edge of the box, between Martinez and her son, Marcos Cuevas Johnson.
They each pull chunks of the dough, roll them into neat balls and smash them into thin disks, before putting them onto the two well-seasoned baking trays sitting inside the box.
The sun hits the reflective material and heats the trays, baking the cookies.
“I think it is pretty cool that we can use the sun to power what we need,” Martinez said. “The Earth will be a lot cleaner.”
The oven demonstration was part of the Renewable Energy Festival at Northern New Mexico College, scheduled to coincide with Earth Day, on April 22.
Luis Torres began organizing the event three months ago, after meeting with Northern New Mexico College President Richard Bailey, and about 20 people from the community who wanted to be involved.
Torres said it makes sense to have the event at the College because the first Earth Day events took place at colleges, universities and public schools across the country in April 1970.
The number one goal of the event was to educate people, so the community can begin to understand why oil and gas is not good for the environment or economy of Rio Arriba County, he said.
“If you are going to transition, people are going to have to learn how electricity is produced by the sun or by the wind, or by thermal,” Torres said. “Education is always difficult because you don’t know your crowd.”
This year, the festival started with more introductory workshops, so people can build a solid foundation of knowledge and more advanced workshops can be held next year.
This year’s workshops included ways to conserve energy in the home by weatherproofing doors and windows, adobe
construction basics, how to finance renewable energy infrastructure in the home, and more.
“The cost of producing electricity from the sun and from the wind, that cost is going straight down,” Torres said.
“People are finally starting to say, ‘You know, you’re polluting my environment, we don’t want this anymore.’ So we are going to capitalize on that.”
He hopes the festival will be a catalyst to get people interested in renewable energy, not just within their homes, but in the community and beyond.
He wants people to eventually demand renewable energy legislation from the state, and for New Mexico electric cooperatives to turn to renewable energy sources.
Bob Dunsmore, from the Heart and Mind Alliance, wants to teach people how to build renewable infrastructure in their homes and on their properties.
He led a workshop that taught people how to turn the floor of their trailer into a radiant heater for about $700.
He said heating surfaces like walls and floors in a home is much cheaper than trying to heat the air.
Eliza Naranjo Morse gained confidence when she attended Dunsmore’s workshop.
“I felt capable, like I could do what they are talking about,” she said.
Naranjo Morse said the benefits of turning to renewable energy sources are more than monetary.
“There’s like this elevated thing in all of us, like internal navigation,” she said. “When we live in a way that is balanced and inspired, you feel wonderful.”
Dunsmore also ran the solar oven demonstration where Martinez and her sons made the cookies.
She said it just makes good financial sense for her to invest in solar panels for her doublewide trailer.
Between her solar garage door opener, solar yard lights and her family growing their own food, she feels good that it not only saves her money, but also helps the planet.
“We believe if we take care of the Earth, the Earth will take care of you,” Martinez said.