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NMSU, El Paso Electric solar installation begins generating power

  • By Carlos Andres López
  • 575-646-1955
  • carlopez@nmsu.edu
  • May 31, 2022
Solar panels

New Mexico State University’s largest source of renewable energy – a three-megawatt solar and battery energy storage installation called Aggie Power – started generating power for NMSU’s Las Cruces campus earlier this month, marking a milestone nearly four years in the making.

Aggie Power is one of three energy sources now powering NMSU’s 900-acre main campus, producing enough solar electricity to meet about a third of the university’s electrical needs. It also serves as a living laboratory for NMSU students and faculty in electrical engineering.

“This is truly a cause for celebration,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said. “We are fortunate to have so many talented individuals who helped make this project a success. It’s because of their efforts that this project will now benefit our university and our region for many, many years to come.”

Aggie Power, built on a 29-acre parcel on NMSU’s Arrowhead Park, is part of a collaboration between NMSU and El Paso Electric to advance mutual goals on renewable energy, climate change action and micro-grid development.

NMSU and EPE outlined the details of Aggie Power in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018. After a review and approval process by the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission, NMSU and EPE signed their final rate agreement and land-lease documents, allowing construction on Aggie Power to begin in December 2020. 

Under the agreements, EPE will operate Aggie Power for the next 30 years, and NMSU has agreed to buy power generated from the facility over that period. 

“This is a proud moment for both NMSU and El Paso Electric,” EPE President and CEO Kelly A. Tomblin said. “Aggie Power proves that powerful partnerships are possible and needed to optimize our natural resources, our talent, our innovation and our region’s growth potential. Generating and delivering clean energy as well as introducing battery storage is a priority for both EPE and NMSU, and we are excited for the future and what we can do together.”

Soon after construction wrapped up in December 2021, Aggie Power underwent a two-month testing phase. The site consists of 10,000 solar panels, a three-megawatt solar photovoltaic array and a one-megawatt/four-megawatt-hour battery energy storage system.

This spring, the project contractor, Affordable Solar of Albuquerque, performed final performance and capacity testing before Aggie Power began supplying solar electricity into NMSU’s electrical grid through a central energy hub May 18.

Research operations at Aggie Power are on track to start by this fall, bringing new hands-on training opportunities for students and faculty. Wayne Savage, director of NMSU’s Arrowhead Park, said a committee at NMSU is working to identify educational priorities. Savage oversaw the development of Aggie Power for NMSU.

“NMSU has a long-standing reputation as a leader in solar energy and development of micro-grid systems. This project builds on that foundation,” Savage said, “and will provide significant learning opportunities for El Paso Electric and NMSU as we support our state’s commitment to a fully renewable future.”

Aggie Power is one of several solar power projects on NMSU’s Las Cruces and aligns with the university’s long-term commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

NMSU has joined international efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050. The university has decreased its carbon emissions by 61 percent since 2007, according to Second Nature and the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute, which track carbon emissions of entities that have signed the Race to Zero global initiative.

For more information about Aggie Power, visit https://nmsu.link/Aggie-Power.