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El Paso Electric president and CEO Kelly Tomblin welcomed a future “that certainly is going to be powerful, bright, energetic and light,” at a Sept. 23 ribbon-cutting event for 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 New Mexico State University students and faculty.
The project is a partnership between NMSU and El Paso Electric and involves 10,000 solar panels standing between Interstate 10 and Interstate 25 in Las Cruces in a once-vacant, 29-acre lot on NMSU’s Arrowhead Park.
“It looks like a small step when you hear 3 megawatts,” Tomblin said. “But it’s about the art of the possible – taking that first step. We have to remember where we came from, continue to evolve all the time.”
Wayne Savage, executive director of the Arrowhead Research Park, served as host for event, introduced Aggie Power as a novel partnership between El Paso Electric and NMSU.
“It’s something that’s been a labor of love and just a labor for a lot of people over the last three years,” he said.
NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu referred to the partnership as a “value partnership,” that goes beyond the generation of energy.
“(The partnership) is about education, about research, about outreach,” Arvizu said. “All of which are important elements of what we put together today.”
He said while technical research is an important aspect of things, the deployment of energy requires a technology component, a policy component and a financial component.
“What we have now is an opportunity to do things in our energy system to allow us to have better functionality, more reliability, more functionality of all types at a lower cost,” he said. “We are not talking politics anymore; we are talking business.”
“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.
NMSU student Andres Acosta, from La Mesa, is a graduate fellow in the electric utility graduate program. He talked about the future for students and the rest of the world started with the Aggie Power project.
“It is so amazing to see these people going through the things they love, seeking the future that they want to see,” Acosta said. “We want green energy for everywhere and we want the planet to live on for the rest of our lives.”