In 1976, a small radio station began broadcasting live along a dirt road in Taos, New Mexico. Since then, the station has grown into the world’s most powerful solar radio station and the most popular FM radio station in Taos County.
The origins of FM radio in our community extend back to Chicago when the owners of successful station WXRT decided to bring their formula to Taos. In 1975, Taos Communication Corporation (TCC) was formed, and a year later KXRT was on the air. In 1979, Brad Hockmeyer moved to Taos to work at the station, but by 1982, it was clear “the big city” approach would not work in our unique mountain art colony. Brad took control of the company in 1986 and changed the call letters to KTAO.
In 1991, KTAO received international attention when it became the first radio station in the world to be powered by the sun. A super-structure holding 150 solar panels was installed on the top of the 10,800 ft. Picuris Peak. Racks of batteries along with the transmission equipment were housed in a self-sustaining “Earthship” – a partially underground building constructed of tires, rammed earth and other recycled materials – that maintains a constant and safe temperature range year round. Over the years, the number of solar panels has grown and KTAO is now licensed at 100,000 watts, earning it the title of the world’s most powerful solar-powered radio station. For reference, 50,000 watts is considered “big” in solar radio!