ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There are few things more sacred to the palate of New Mexicans than green chile. The staple of our state’s cuisine has long been roasted in the early fall using a variety of methods, most notably with propane. According to Dr. Kenneth Armijo with Sandia National Laboratory, we emit nearly 7,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide by using gas to roast our chiles, that’s the equivalent of driving 1,700 cars for a year.  

Dr. Armijo works at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility on the campus of Sandia National Labs. There, his team tests high-temperature materials for the next generation of space vehicles.  They’re also working on a variety of ways to harness solar energy for agricultural use, including roasting our beloved green chile. 

Chile is roasted around 400-600 degrees, which is an easy temp to reach for his team. Their concentrated solar thermal testing can kick the heat up to nearly 3000 degrees Celcius, which is more than 5400 degrees Fahrenheit. His team is also experimenting with using solar energy to roast chocolate, coffee, and beer, potentially revolutionizing the way these delectables are processed.  

Armijo’s team is also working agrivoltaics, which incorporates solar panel field placement with agricultural needs.  With an average of 300 days of sunshine and high elevations, crops in our state can often suffer from sun scorching, which can have a huge impact on farming and the industry’s annual export. Agrivoltaics marry the natural shade provided by solar panels hoisted on pylons to reduce the scorching.  It also allows for the collection of solar energy, which can then be distributed to microgrids for rural use.  

New Mexico Frontiers Digital Show is KRQE New 13’s online exclusive web series, giving viewers a more detailed look into how the state is making waves in the Aerospace, Bio-science, Renewable Energy, Digital Media and Film, and Advanced Manufacturing communities. For more segments on prior stories, visit the New Mexico Frontiers page by clicking this link.