Eastern New Mexico Renewable Energy Projects

Several new solar and wind energy projects are planned in eastern New Mexico. According to Frank Barbera of Tres Amigas, LLC, eastern NM has been identified as one of the richest areas for green energy in the U.S. Barbera is the Director of Reliability Assurance for Tres Amigas, a NM-based project that is to tie the nation’s three primary power grids together, increasing the reliability of the nations electricity and, according to the project’s proponents, encourage renewable power development. Barbera is helping develop a building project in Covis, NM.

Clovis has also received two grants, totaling $615,000, from the U.S. Department of Energy for the addition of the solar panels to the Clovis Civic Center and Clovis-Carver Public Library. If the panels create more energy than what the two facilities require, the left over energy will be transferred to electrical companies. Consolidated Solar Technologies of Albuquerque will install the panels.

A third project in the area, funded by a $300,000 grant provided by Gov. Bill Richardson, will allow the addition of solar panels and a small wind generator to Lindsey Steiner Elementary School in Portales. The school was built to be energy efficient, has natural lighting in classrooms (sun roofs), geo-thermal heating and air conditioning and motion-sensored fluorescent lights. “We’re excited about the fact that we are able to be more efficient with energy conservation,” said Principal Rick Segovia. “We’re excited about this as an educational tool too.” Fourteen other schools were also given grants.

Sacred Power, a company based in Albuquerque, recently started construction on the solar panel project.

SOLAR LOGIC AWARDED PATENT

SolarLogic, LLC of Santa Fe has been awarded a patent on its control system for heating and cooling systems, which uses a software algorithm to combine different heating and cooling sources to utilize them most efficiently based on availability, priority, cost, and environmental impacts.

SolarLogic has developed its first product based on this patent: the SolarLogic Integrated Controller (SLIC), which controls delivery of solar and backup heat for up to 10 heating zones, domestic hot water, spa, pool, and ice-melt. The SLIC replaces all conventional controls, providing integration and streamlined wiring, and requires no programming to operate a system efficiently and reliably.

SolarLogic was awarded an economic development grant in 2009 by the city of Santa Fe, and used it and private investment funding to prototype the product, which also provides web access for the homeowner and installer, and allows SolarLogic to monitor and diagnose heating system operation over the internet.

SolarLogic hosted its first installer training earlier this year. Additional products are in development, also aimed at increasing the rate of solar heating installations by eliminating their complexity and lowering the amount of labor involved in installation.

The patent should have significant ramifications for SolarLogic’s business, as the claims are both broad and novel. CEO Fred Milder, who co-invented the SLIC, said, “We believe it will change the face of solar heating. Moreover, to get a full allowance on first review is quite unusual.”

The company is currently transitioning from development to manufacturing, and plans a nationwide product launch in 2011.

NMSU Receives NSF Grant to Study Acequia Hydrology, Culture, Ecosystem Links

The National Science Foundation has granted $1.4 million to NM State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences to research the relationships between traditional water management systems, landscapes, wildlife and communities.

The grant will allow researchers to continue their studies of the links between hydrological sustainability and the acequias, the traditional irrigation ditches of northern New Mexico. NMSU associate professor Sam Fernald and research specialist Carlos Ochoa have spent the last eight years measuring groundwater, river flows and acequia irrigation in northern NM. Their research suggests that seepage from the acequias helps replenish shallow groundwater, extends the timing of snow melt into the Rio Grande, and helps provide habitat for wildlife. Their studies also indicate that, through the centuries, northern NM communities along acequias have managed their limited water resource in ways that modern society can learn and benefit from.

The continuing study will involve hydrologists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, remote sensing specialists, and rangeland and ecosystem scientists from NMSU, the University of New Mexico, Sandia Labs, NM Tech University, Maxwell Museum at UNM, the University of Idaho, the University of Nevada at Reno and the University of Concepcion in Chile, as well as the NM Acequia Association and community members from El Rito, Arroyo Hondo, Valdez, Velarde, Alcalde and surrounding areas.

Once the study is completed, results will be made available to researchers, policymakers, local stakeholders and the general public.