New Mexico State University begins construction on solar project

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Construction of a solar project has begun at the New Mexico State University on Arrowhead Park. The solar project is expected to produce enough solar electricity to power about one-third of the university’s 900-acre Las Cruces campus by autumn this year. The project, dubbed Aggie Power, is the result of a new partnership between NMSU and El Paso Electric (EPE) aiming at moving forward mutual goals related to state renewable energy, climate action, and micro-grid development. NMSU and EPE outlined the details of the partnership and solar project in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018.

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EPE will own, operate, maintain and oversee the development of the three-megawatt solar photovoltaic project on a 29-acre parcel of land on NMSU’s Arrowhead Park between Interstate 10 and Interstate 25. The technology includes single-access tracking solar panels and a one-megawatt battery pack made by Tesla. In addition to providing NMSU with a source of renewable energy, Aggie Power also will serve as a living laboratory for faculty and students majoring in electrical engineering, providing research and training opportunities. “The major benefit is that we’ll be able to receive power during the noon-to-early-evening window, usually when the energy demand is at its peak,” Pat Chavez, director of Utilities and Plant Operations, said. “If we can receive solar power at that optimal time, it means Aggie Power will allow NMSU to lower the need for energy during the time in which energy costs are at their highest and rely on less power from conventional natural gas-powered energy.”

The Utilities and Plant Operations director also said NMSU has several smaller solar projects throughout the Las Cruces campus, but Aggie Power will be the largest source of green energy once finished. It will be one of three energy sources powering the main campus and give NMSU more flexibility in managing its utility rates and receiving energy, he said.