Construction begins on NMSU, El Paso Electric solar project

By Carlos Andres Lopez
NMSU News

Construction is underway on a renewable energy project at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Park that is projected to generate enough solar electricity to power about one-third of the university’s 900-acre Las Cruces campus by fall.

The project – called Aggie Power – is the result of a new partnership between NMSU and El Paso Electric (EPE) aiming to further mutual goals related to state renewable energy, climate action and micro-grid development.

“NMSU is excited to develop strategic partnerships across our entire system to support a balanced and sustainable energy economy,” said NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu. “This 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.”

NMSU and EPE outlined the details of the partnership and solar project in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018. The technology includes single-access tracking solar panels and a one-megawatt battery pack made by Tesla.

“We are always looking for creative partnerships with our customers to provide options for more sustainable solutions that will benefit the region and our environment,” EPE Chief Executive Officer Kelly A. Tomblin said. “We applaud NMSU and are proud to be part of this history-making project. Together, we will bring new meaning to Aggie Power by using cutting-edge technology to capture and harness the power of the sun like never before. With the installation of Aggie Power, NMSU elevates its role as a clean energy leader in the state of New Mexico, further supporting its standing as an educational institution of choice.”

EPE received approval on a special rate contract application related to the project from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in August 2020 – a requirement that allowed EPE and NMSU to move forward.

Construction began in mid-December, with receipt of the solar panels and battery packs, said Wayne Savage, executive director of Arrowhead Park. After completing testing and commissioning activities, the project will begin supporting a portion of NMSU’s electrical utility load with renewable energy and storage.

“This system will provide power to about one-third of the NMSU campus, as well as some of the Arrowhead Park buildings,” Savage said.

Pat Chavez, director of Utilities and Plant Operations, 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.

Contact Wayne Savage at 575-646-2596 or waynes@nmsu.edu.

Contact Carlos Andres Lopez at 575-646-1955 or carlopez@nmsu.edu.