New Mexico State University hosted a town hall recently to address new ways to foster the use of clean energy statewide.
A recent NMSU town hall focused on the development of the i-CREW project, a plan centered around developing a statewide clean energy roadmap, creating new business opportunities and accelerating technology innovation.
Patricia Sullivan, from NMSU’s College of Engineering, talked about the project’s ongoing research.
“We're working closely with the national labs, our Native American communities, government agencies and business and industry,” Sullivan said. “This is intended to be a very collaborative project. It's a potluck, everybody brings something to the table. It's not a buffet where everybody takes something from it, so we're inviting people to bring their favorite clean energy dish to the table.”
The clean energy roadmap will be funded in large part by a $750,000 grant courtesy of the U.S. Economic Development Administration as well as other partner contributions.
Tom Bowles, a partner from the North American Intelligent Manufacturing Initiative, went over some of the key details the roadmap will provide.
“What we want to end up with is not just a whole laundry list of things,” Bowles said. “We want to end up with a set of prioritized recommendations, and I'm talking about, you know, a handful or so, in actions needed in the next five years. So this has got a a five year time frame, that directly benefits, you know, people in communities here in New Mexico.”
Twelve regional advisory groups have been spread out across the state, in order to gather data in the most efficient manner.
Some concerns centered on how to reconcile the state’s reliance on the oil and gas industry with the need for clean energy, but NMSU Chancellor Dr. Dan Arvizu says there’s no conflict.
“We've got so much to do to start that transition process that we can begin to think about a long-term strategy on how we decarbonize fossil fuel, as well as making the transition,” Arvizu said. “I don't see a conflict between these two. Philosophically, there might be some concern about which one is better…but as a practical matter, we simply have to have resources to operate and those resources should be used in a way that move us toward a low carbon economy of the future. And I think that's the baby step we can start off with. We can all agree that that's a good thing to do and we can get started.”
Arvizu spoke about past university projects, citing the New Mexico Water Produced Research Consortium as a good example of how to balance the needs of different power industries.
“We were looking at how can we improve the productivity of oil and gas, especially in terms of their production, and be less environmentally impacting, and also improve the cost factors that go with it,” Arvizu said.
Part of what makes clean energy appealing to Arvizu is the ability to create jobs.
“Clean energy now represents something on the order of four million jobs in this country…so the idea that we need STEM related skills for our population is extremely important,” Arvizu said. “Of the four million jobs, about half of that is in energy efficiency. There’s about a million in solar and wind. There's another subset of about 150,000 in energy storage and advanced grid. There is another 175,000 or so in advance vehicle transport. These sectors of the country's economy are growing.”
Project partner Tom Bowles is excited about the potential to take work already being done in the clean energy sector and expanding it further.
“New Mexico has really abundant resources for clean energy,” Bowles said. “So we're currently generating a third of our electricity from wind and solar here in New Mexico. We started looking at this in a very holistic sense, not just building, you know, solar farms, solar panels and putting up wind turbines. But how do you distribute this? How do you store it?”
The i-CREW project is currently in the assessment stage, as they gather data to create their clean energy roadmap.