NMSU, El Paso Electric partner to power main campus with solar energy


Wayne Savage

Aggie Power is a project intended to deliverable renewable energy to New Mexico State University by fall 2021. Image courtesy of Wayne Savage.

After months of preparation, New Mexico State University and El Paso Electric have partnered to install a solar electric generation and battery storage facility at Arrowhead Research Park, scheduled to be complete in May 2021, that is projected to power one-third of the campus’s energy needs.

The project known as “Aggie Power” will consist of 3-Megawatt solar arrays and a 1-Megawatt energy storage system to help power the main campus. Wayne Savage, executive director of Arrowhead Research Park, described how both NMSU and El Paso Electric became interested in implementing the systems.

“They really just expressed the commitment and the goals of both parties, NMSU and El Paso Electric, a commitment to renewable energy, to working together, to better the future of renewable energy and the electrical grid in the state of New Mexico and to engaging in joint research activities as well experiential learning for students,” Savage said.  

Aggie Power received its approval of a special rate contract application from the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission in Aug. 2020, which allowed the two partners to begin the design process of the solar facility in Sept. 2020. Arrowhead Research Park is located on at the southeast end of the main campus, next to both Interstate 10 and Interstate 25. 

NMSU President John Floros tweeted on Feb. 17 that the partners expect to begin powering the campus with this technology by fall 2021.

Savage explained how solar energy collected from the site will power the main campus.   

“The civil design for the site itself and then the design for the power line, connects the output of the solar array to the main campus,” Savage said.   

According to a press release from Savage“EPE [El Paso Electric] is responsible for all development of the site and adherence to NMSU and Arrowhead Park standards for development.” Per the releaseEPE will be the owner of the solar facility at Arrowhead Research Park.   

The solar facility is designed not only to provide power to the NMSU main campus but in an Education Collaboration Agreement, it will provide opportunities for NMSU students and faculty to learn more about renewable energy.   

The solar facility will also teach students on how to use the equipment for renewable energy.   

“We’ll also have students working through those faculty on those experiments and learning about the operations and the control and the optimization of these types of renewable energy systems,” Savage said.   

With the cost for the project, Savage explained El Paso Electric made the initial payment for the solar energy facility and NMSU will cover the remaining cost on a monthly basis in their electric bill. As well, in an agreement with EPE, no customers would face any cost.    

“We have an agreement with El Paso Electric that ensures that no other customers bear any cost of the agreement,” Savage said.  

As of now, construction has begun in creating an “eight-foot-high decorative fence” to secure the site. Once completed, the solar array construction will take place. The solar electric generation and battery storage facility will be located at Arrowhead Research Park. After the project is complete, testing will be conducted shortly after.  

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