Construction has begun on a large solar+storage project at New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Arrowhead Park.
Called Aggie Power, the project is expected to generate enough clean energy to power about one-third of the university’s 900-acre Las Cruces campus by this fall. The project includes 3 MW of solar panels on single-axis trackers and a 1 MW Tesla battery energy storage system.
Aggie Power is the result of a new partnership between NMSU and utility El Paso Electric (EPE), under which EPE will own, operate, and maintain the project. The utility received state regulatory approval of a special rate contract application in August 2020, allowing the project partners to move forward. Construction kicked off in mid-December with the arrival of the solar panels and battery packs.
EPE CEO Kelly A. Tomblin said the utility is “always looking for creative partnerships with our customers to provide options for more sustainable solutions that will benefit the region and our environment.”
According to NMSU Director of Utilities and Plant Operations Pat Chavez, the university has several smaller solar projects throughout the Las Cruces campus, but Aggie Power will be the largest source of green energy once finished. He said 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.
“The major benefit is that we’ll be able to receive power during the noon-to-early-evening window, usually when the energy demand is at its peak,” explained Chavez. “If we can receive solar power at that optimal time, it means Aggie Power will allow NMSU to lower the need for energy during the time in which energy costs are at their highest and rely on less power from conventional natural gas-powered energy.”
In addition to providing NMSU with a source of renewable energy, Aggie Power also will serve as a living laboratory for faculty and students majoring in electrical engineering.
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