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NMSU moving toward total decarbonization by 2045

Saving a couple of bucks while saving the environment is the focus of many institutions throughout the world, including New Mexico State University.

NMSU’s mission of becoming a completely decarbonized campus by the year 2045 is fully in reach, given the latest projects that have been initiated since the signing of NMSU’s Climate Action Plan back in 2014.

The university previously released plans to become an eco-friendlier educational institution by limiting its carbon footprint in the years and decades to come. Some of the initiatives include powering up to 50% of Las Cruces campus buildings with a giant solar array, as well as reducing the amount of fleet vehicles on campus, or by purchasing hybrid or fully electric vehicles.

The recent completion of NMSU’s “Aggie Power” solar array and battery storage facility, pictured here April 12, 2022, represents a huge step forward in the university’s push to completely decarbonize within the next 20 years. (Photo by Noah Apodaca/Kokopelli)

The 10,000 solar panel array, which is nestled between I-25 and I-10, was a project that began construction in 2020. The project, named Aggie Power, was created in partnership with El Paso Electric, with the goal of advancing renewable energy technologies to help curb carbon emissions.

The solar array is also equipped to provide backup power for up to four hours in an emergency situation or when the sun is not present.

When a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in September 2021, NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu sounded ecstatic about the project. “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,” Arvizu said.

El Paso Electric President and CEO Kelly Tomblin was also at the September ribbon cutting event, where he expressed his shared excitement with Arvizu on the project. “When two long-standing, community-oriented institutions like NMSU and El Paso Electric join forces and accomplish something as groundbreaking as Aggie Power, imagine the other possibilities available when we all pull together and work toward a common goal.”

The recent completion of NMSU’s “Aggie Power” solar array and battery storage facility, pictured here April 12, 2022, represents a huge step forward in the university’s push to completely decarbonize within the next 20 years. (Photo by Noah Apodaca/Kokopelli)

The idea of transitioning our towns, states and country’s transportation and energy infrastructure to a more sustainable and cleaner system is an issue that has taken up much partisanship in the last several years.

Lawmakers, particularly on the right-hand side of the aisle, have frequently downplayed the existence of climate change and the need to transition our economy to a greener and more sustainable alternative.

As for NMSU’s plan to decarbonize its transportation sector, the 2014 Climate Action Plan mentions that since 2009, the university has reduced its vehicle fleet by 29% and has invested heavily in battery-powered electric vehicles and hybrids, as NMSU owns a total of 29 and two, respectively. Those numbers have almost certainly increased, as that number is traced back to 2011.

NMSU also encourages the use of ride sharing programs, such as the Aggie Transit System and bicycle friendly infrastructure, in an effort to make the campus a less car-crowded area.

As for the future, NMSU has plans to completely shut down Stewart Street to passenger cars within the next five years to promote a more pedestrian friendly campus experience.

While transportation and energy production accounts for the majority of campus emissions, the university is also taking different approaches to help shape its sustainable future. For example, campus building lighting systems are being changed to run energy efficient LED and CFL lights, as opposed to less efficient incandescent bulbs.

Another area that NMSU is focusing on to limit energy use, which consequently limits emissions, is residence hall roofing. The goal is to replace building roofs with materials that reflect sunlight rather than absorb it. In fact, according to the revised Climate Action Plan done in 2017, the residence halls with the new roofing systems saw a near 40% reduction in demand for cooling during the summer.

Campus officials continue to urge students to do their part in helping the university achieve its emission-slashing goals. They say that just turning off your lights when you leave your room and closing your windows when A/C units are running is an excellent way to do your part.

As Chancellor Arvizu said at the September 2021 Aggie Power ribbon-cutting event, “We are not talking politics anymore; we are talking business.”

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