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NMSU, El Paso Electric unveil Aggie Power solar project

  • By Carlos Andres López
  • 575-646-1955
  • carlopez@nmsu.edu
  • Sep 23, 2021
Two people participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony
Solar panels

Sunlight gleams off a new installation of 10,000 solar panels standing between Interstate 10 and Interstate 25 in Las Cruces in a once-vacant, 29-acre lot on New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Park.

The site is now the home of NMSU’s latest renewable energy venture, Aggie Power, a solar array that will generate enough clean electricity to power about half of the 900-acre Las Cruces campus and serve as a living laboratory for NMSU students and faculty. 

Aggie Power, now in its final stages of construction, is part of an ongoing partnership between NMSU and El Paso Electric to advance mutual goals on renewable energy, climate action and micro-grid development.

Supporters trekked out to the Aggie Power site Thursday, Sept. 23, to join NMSU and EPE in celebrating the project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and distinguished lecture led by NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu and EPE President and CEO Kelly Tomblin.

“NMSU is excited with our latest strategic partnership with EPE. These partnerships are critical to our goals to support a balanced and sustainable energy economy within and external to the NMSU system,” Arvizu said. “Our partnership with EPE moves us forward in a leadership role and is a perfect example of our ability to balance investments in infrastructure while providing a state-of-the-art living laboratory to complement our educational programs.”

In 2018, NMSU and EPE signed off on a memorandum of understanding cementing their partnership and outlining the details of what would become Aggie Power. Construction began in December 2020 after the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission approved a special rate contract application from EPE, which allowed the project to proceed. The Albuquerque-based Affordable Solar served as the general contractor.

As part of its partnership with NMSU, EPE owns, operates, maintains and oversees Aggie Power. 

“Aggie Power is a living example of the strength of public-private partnerships and the power we have to direct the path to our clean energy goal of 100 percent decarbonization by 2045,” Tomblin said. “When two long-standing, community-oriented institutions like NMSU and El Paso Electric join forces and accomplish something as groundbreaking as Aggie Power, imagine the other possibilities available when we all pull together and work toward a common goal.” 

At its heart, Aggie Power is a three-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility with about 10,000 panels and a one-megawatt four-megawatt-hour battery energy storage system. It will be the largest source of green energy on NMSU’s Las Cruces campus once completed. 

It will also serve as a state-of-the-art living laboratory for NMSU faculty and students majoring in electrical engineering, providing experiential learning and research opportunities.

Wayne Savage, executive director of Arrowhead Park, said onsite research would likely begin sometime next summer. Olga Lavrova, associate professor in the NMSU Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will oversee research efforts at Aggie Power.

“On one side, our faculty are very thrilled to do cutting-edge research on a new electric and power system and smart grid,” said Lakshmi Reddi, dean of the College of Engineering. “On the other side, we have very dedicated students who are asking for experiential learning opportunities, which facilities like this and partnerships like this allow us to do.”

After construction wraps up over the next 60 days, Aggie Power will undergo extensive performance testing, Savage said. Then, it will begin supporting a portion of NMSU’s electrical utility load with renewable energy and storage, giving the university more flexibility in managing its utility rates.

“There has to be a couple of weeks’ worth of performance testing before they officially put her on,” he said.

Following Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Arvizu and Tomblin presented a joint distinguished lecture at the Aggie Power site. Their talk, “Transforming a New Energy,” covered the opportunities and challenges ahead as New Mexico begins to diversify its energy sector.

For more information about Aggie Power, contact Savage at waynes@nmsu.edu.

NMSU_EPE_AggiePower_Ribbon_Cutting_092321-10.jpg

New Mexico State University Chancellor Dan Arvizu and El Paso Electric
President and CEO Kelly Tomblin, center, sign a solar panel Thursday, Sept. 23,
during a celebration for Aggie Power. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)