Copyright Â© 2021 Albuquerque Journal
BY KEVIN ROBINSON-AVILA
New Mexico State University transformed its campus power grid into a modern showcase of energy efficiency through a fundamental overhaul of its utilities and factory operations.
This includes the in-house development of an automated online control network to perform campus-wide real-time electricity allocation when and where needed, with 24/7 monitoring of everything. for instant action in the event of a problem.
It also includes a huge industrial scale ice making facility which opened on campus in 2013 to provide chilled water for efficient and energy efficient cooling of all university buildings.
The factory makes ice at night and in the morning when electricity is cheap. It then shuts down during peaks in electricity consumption during the hot afternoon hours, when electricity rates peak as homes and buildings turn on their air conditioners. This is when the factory goes into melting ice mode, providing chilled water for cooling on campus.
Today, the ice factory alone saves enough electricity each year to power nearly 500 homes year round.
With all the structural changes combined – including the in-line control network, the ice plant, and NMSU’s shift to off-peak power consumption – the university has halved its electricity and gas bills while still considerably reducing its carbon footprint, Patrick Utilities and Plant Operations Director Patrick dit Chavez.
âWe were spending around $ 1 million a month on average before the ice factory and smart control network went live,â Chavez said. âOur electricity and gas bills now fluctuate between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 per month. It’s less than half of what we used to pay.
The university supplies about 50% of its electricity from its own gas-fired power station, built in the 1960s. The rest comes from El Paso Electric, which has now partnered with NMSU to bring a new generator online. 3 megawatt solar with backup battery storage in November. This will reduce NMSU’s carbon footprint much more.
The university also installed a cogeneration system in 1998 in its gas plant to capture waste heat from the gas turbine. This heat creates steam, which is used to run the turbines part of the time, thereby compensating for the combustion of the gas in the production facility. Steam is also used to heat buildings and water on campus.
The whole system is now a âliving laboratoryâ for research and education at NMSU.
âWe are merging traditional facility operations with academics to become a true learning platform for our students and faculty,â said Chavez.