By C.T Barnes
Published in Las Cruces Bulletin 9.23.22
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) first partnered with the Electric Utility Management Program (EUMP) at New Mexico State University (NMSU) during the 2022 Spring Semester. When we first spoke with LCU Utilities Natural Gas and Energy Deputy Director Lucio Garcia, he had anticipated that this initial project with EUMP would just be the beginning of a long collaboration. He is correct.
“I think this has been greatly beneficial for both EUMP students and LCU,” NMSU Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Dr. Olga Lavrova stated. “It gives the students a chance to do some meaningful work for the city that they live in, suggest ideas and locations for solar photovoltaic (PV) and electrical charging stations, and possible battery storage initiatives,” Lavrova said.
Students have been growing their technical skills through this first project. They have learned quickly that their projects must make sense for the city needs, ecological needs, any disturbances it may cause to any similar projects, and they must look at the financial requirements to cover the project. A lot of the projects also face a challenge when looking at the entire outcome of whether it will hurt the Las Cruces community in the long run or actually benefit the community.
More students are seeing the results of this growing project and partnership between NMSU and LCU. “It is great and very rewarding to see how this partnership has created this project and now students are wanting to join this program to contribute to this green energy goal,” said Lavrova. Some of the students working on the project are even looking to get jobs with LCU sooner than later. “There are many well-paying jobs locally, and it is great to see how this program can transform them, especially with partnership and learning opportunities that LCU has provided to NMSU,” Lavrova said with enthusiasm.
There has also been some positive changes in diversity that this partnership has shown. Two of the three students working on this project are women. “It is very important that we have this type of diversity, offer these opportunities, and showcase that women can get these high paying jobs as well,” Lavrova said. “Diversity is especially important in this industry where many think you need to be a man with strong big muscles to work in energy, but there are so many jobs in energy that you do not have to be a strong person to do,” Lavrova concluded. NMSU is encouraged that more women are entering engineering programs such as EUMP, reflecting a change in the industry.
Looking at next steps, LCU is currently working on a Community Solar Application that will bring solar energy opportunities to those who qualify as middle to low-income households. LCU is very excited to bring this new opportunity to the City of Las Cruces as well as to NMSU by keeping EUMP students involved and offering more opportunities with their continued partnership.
LCU – Your Utility Connection. 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 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: Slide provided by NMSU Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Olga Lavrova and EUMP team showcasing part of the PV project brought on by the partnership between LCU and NMSU.