A discussion with the City of Las Cruces sustainability office around alternative energy and transitioning to cleaner fuel sources led Las Cruces Utilities to a partnership with the Electric Utility Management Program at the New Mexico State University. EUMP is a program of study at the graduate level in the areas of electric power generation, transmission, distribution, and utilization as well as in the planning, operation, regulation, and management of these facilities, including renewable energy generation and microgrids.
Dr. Olga Lavrova, NMSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and electrical engineering graduate student/researcher Orland Whitney are spending the semester researching suitable available land for possible solar photovoltaic installations and electric vehicle charging stations. The land must be either owned by the city or with access and ability to lease it from the owners.
“Providing research capabilities to LCU in the areas of clean energy and renewable energy transition is an exciting new collaboration between the two organizations,” said Deputy Director, LCU Natural Gas and Energy Operations and Maintenance, Lucio Garcia.
Dr. Lavrova’s work at NMSU since 2019 has centered on power systems and renewable energy integration. Prior to joining NMSU, she was a principal member of the technical staff at Sandia National Labs in the PV and distributed systems integration department. She also worked as an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of New Mexico.
More from Las Cruces Utilities:Windy days can create litter. Bag your trash.
She has performed groundbreaking work in power electronics, sensors, and materials for grid applications, and is considered an expert in the economics and practical deployment of consumer PV applications, as well as grid integration and off-grid operations, especially in remote or isolated locations.
At the end of the project, LCU will receive a report detailing the criteria to evaluate the suitability of locations for PV and EV system installations. The analysis conducted by Lavrova and Whitney will include physical and terrain accessibility and acceptability, a preliminary environmental impact analysis and recommendations for potential necessary upgrades, and research into rule-making applicability and compliance in preparation for future New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s Community Solar Rulemaking.
“We will assign points to each site addressing positive and negative aspects of each for ease of access, environmental, societal, and economic impacts,” said Whitney, who led a team of NMSU students to a second-place national victory in the Solar District Cup in 2020. This Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory sponsored solar design competition challenges interdisciplinary technical students to design a microgrid for rooftop, ground-mounted, and carport-mounted PV systems on a college campus.
“Once we’re finished, we can get a good idea of what is possible and optimal orientations and layouts for potential systems in the future. We’re excited for this project with LCU,” Whitney added.
More from Las Cruces Utilities:Las Cruces Utilities tours new city councilors and advisors
Garcia anticipates that this initial project will be just the beginning of the utility’s collaboration with NMSU.
“There will be many questions that arise from the result of this project. Always, our ultimate goal is to achieve environmental benefits from renewable energy, reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, and provide value and savings for customers,” he said.
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at las-cruces.org/180/Utilities. For emergencies, call Dispatch at 575-526-0500.