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NMSU saves big on energy contract

New Mexico State University is expected to save more than $1.3 million annually thanks to an energy performance contract between NMSU and energy services company Ameresco.


Photo of a group of people
Positive Energy system installers Steven Fonseca, left, Eddie Marruto, center, and Mark Eshelman, right, are joined by joni newcomer, second from left, and Ameresco senior project manager Doug Hill as they celebrated the completion of a new solar panel array installation on campus last year. (NMSU Photo)

The contract, which was completed in December 2015, has allowed NMSU to generate 51 percent of its own power during the 2016 fiscal year, meaning the university has produced more power than it has purchased from El Paso Electric. NMSU has also reduced electricity and natural gas consumption, and reduced the production of 24.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide. The project included upgrades of more than 39,000 lamps to reduce electricity consumption and decrease cooling requirements created by heat dissipated by older light fixtures, and upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

?The performance contract is essentially a public-private partnership where much needed infrastructure improvements are made at no cost to the taxpayer and the private entity assumes risk by guaranteeing the savings,? said Glen Haubold, associate vice president for facilities. ?NMSU is proud that it has blazed the trail for projects that leverage private investment to reduce costs.?

Ameresco?s audit identified $45 million in potential energy-related projects. The university decided to move forward on a select group of those projects in order to prove the concept.


?We didn?t want to take on more than we were comfortable with,? said Patrick Chavez, NMSU director of Utilities and Plant Operations. ?We will assess the viability of future project phases once the official performance numbers are observed.?

Two solar parking canopies were installed on campus to offset power consumption. One produces 108 kilowatts of power at full capacity, while the other produces 72.3 kilowatts of power at full capacity. Both canopies provide shade to a total of 60 parking spaces. Energy converted from the solar panels directly affect the university?s Satellite Chiller Plant, where the campus? cooling system is controlled.

The university?s contract with Ameresco has seen benefits beyond money savings. Ameresco assisted NMSU with securing rebates from 77 separate project items which, upon receipt, totaled about $1 million. The project also used multiple local subcontractors, keeping about 77 percent of the project?s dollars in the local economy.

The university?s contract with Ameresco was one of the largest performance contracts in the state, and NMSU is often cited as an example by state officials of what other agencies in New Mexico could be doing to make their facilities more energy efficient. The project was awarded the 2015 Energy Project of the Year by the New Mexico Association of Energy Engineers.

?What made this project so successful was the personal touch we gave to the end users affected by the construction. We truly are a caring community,? said joni newcomer, manager of environmental policy and sustainability at NMSU.

The NMSU Board of Regents voted in 2013 to approve NMSU?s energy performance contract with Ameresco. The contract allowed NMSU to make improvements to 50 buildings, totaling nearly 3 million gross square feet. The proposed improvements were based on nine energy conservation measures indicated by Ameresco during a seven-month-long investment-grade audit of all NMSU properties throughout the state, including the agricultural science centers and community colleges.

NMSU has 13 years to pay off the $15.7 million bond to pay for the projects. NMSU will use its annual energy savings to pay off the bond.