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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Harnessing the forces of nature ? clean, green energy from the sun and wind

New Mexico State University's Southwest Technology Development Institute (SWTDI), part of the Institute for Energy and the Environment in the College of Engineering, is working on several energy projects using renewable solar and wind sources on the NMSU campus, within the city of Las Cruces and at Fort Bliss in El Paso.

Artist's rendering of a solar-powered parking structure targeted to be located near the New Mexico State University Student Health Center. The photovoltaic system will provide about 10 percent of the center's electricity. (Illustration courtesy of Studio D Architects)

Since 1979, SWTDI has worked on development of safe, innovative and cost-effective renewable technologies in the form of stand-alone and grid-tied photovoltaic (PV, solar electricity) energy systems. These energy systems serve electrical loads ranging in size from single household systems to those that power entire villages. Over the years, SWTDI has developed expertise in designing instrumentation and monitoring equipment, field-testing energy systems, data analysis, and developing codes and standards that ensure safe and reliable installation and operation of PV installations.

This year, SWTDI has designed and will be supervising the installation of an 18-kilowatt (kW) PV system over a parking lot at the NMSU Student Health Center. It will provide enough power to meet 10 percent of the electrical needs of the Student Health Center as well as provide shaded parking for students visiting the center.

In the city of Las Cruces, SWTDI has designed and will supervise the installation of a 6 kW PV system for use by the Southwest Environmental Center in the Downtown Mall.

Over the next few weeks, SWTDI will select two sites for the installation of 50-meter meteorological towers for wind resource monitoring at the U.S. Army Fort Bliss range in Texas. The wind instrumentation will record wind speed and direction for at least one year, which will help to determine the potential for wind farm development at Fort Bliss.

As important as SWTDI's participation in these installations, however, is the group's long history of codes and standards development. SWTDI was awarded a $4.2 million, five-year Solar America Initiative contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to lead a new Solar Codes and Standards Working Group. This work will create major improvements in the responsiveness, effectiveness and accessibility of codes leading to safe, reliable and properly installed PV and wind systems throughout the United States.

"It's exciting that this group is being led right out of New Mexico State," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, during his recent visit to Las Cruces. With NMSU President Michael Martin and IEE Executive Director Abbas Ghassemi, Bingaman toured the SWTDI's three-acre facility for a firsthand look at the ongoing work.

"The institute is poised to provide leadership on a national level for the continued development of renewable energy," Ghassemi said. "Green business is good business and SWTDI is leading the path."

Partners with SWTDI in the Solar Codes and Standards Working Group are Arizona State University, the Florida Solar Energy Center (a sister organization of SWTDI, also established in 1979), the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, and Underwriters Laboratories (the developer and publisher of standards for electrical equipment in the United States).

The Institute for Energy and the Environment is an umbrella program comprising WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, and SWTDI.

For more information on IEE and SWTDI environmental technology development projects, contact Andy Rosenthal, SWTDI Senior Program Manager, at (505) 646-1323 or Ghassemi at (505) 646-2038, or visit http://iee.nmsu.edu.