CNM Completes State-of-the-Art Solar Farm on Westside Campus

The farm will provide approximately 50-percent of the Westside Campus’ electricity and will be used as a training lab for students
July 06, 2021

The construction of a 1.3-megawatt solar farm at CNM’s Westside campus is complete. The project includes the largest energy storage system in the PNM electrical utility service area and a state-of-the-art training lab for CNM students. 

The main system is a single-axis array situated over 8.6 acres of available land. It consists of over three-thousand photovoltaic modules which track the sun at a maximum tilt of 52 degrees on axis. On average, the energy captured will provide approximately 50 percent of the electricity needed to power the Westside Campus buildings, thereby also cutting CO2 emissions.  

The energy storage system consists of five, 100kW lithium-ion battery packs for a total of 500kW of energy storage. The packs will kick on during times of our highest electricity demand, which will help CNM cut operational costs. Reducing our demand during this time may also allow the electrical utility to reallocate this energy to other customers.

Westside Campus Solar Farm

The training lab consists of four rows of modules, two of which have a working tracking system, which will be used for demonstrations of the technology. These two training rows are not connected to the large working arrays. The other two rows are also not connected to the larger system and will allow CNM students to practice dismantling and reconstructing the system.

The CNM course that is using the lab facilities is called Large-Scale Solar. It will become an official part of CNM’s Electrical Trades PV Concentration associate degree and certificate program in the Fall Term. The program is an important addition because it will support local workforce development goals during New Mexico’s transition to alternative energy.

CNM’s Photovoltaic program consists of an online PV fundamentals course—Photovoltaic Fundamentals and Applications—and a hands-on PV lab, both of which take place in the first half of the term. In the second half of the term, there’s an online PV Code Compliant Systems course, and an advanced theory and Advanced PV hands-on lab. 

With the launch of the Large-Scale Solar course, students will have the option to take one or two advanced theory and lab courses. Advanced PV focuses on residential and small commercial systems. Large-Scale Solar focuses on large-scale commercial and industrial systems.

During construction, students in the Advanced PV class visited the site when Affordable Solar (ASI) and Array Technologies commissioned the tracking equipment. Staff from these companies showed the students the entire process of testing the system components, including methods of calibration. The students also witnessed the solar modules move to their maximum tilt positions, illustrating how they follow the sun from eastern sunrise to western sunset.

Staff from ASI and Array Technologies will continue to provide trainings to students in the CNM Electrical Trades Photovoltaic program. They are industry experts who are integral to assisting CNM with developing curriculum specific to utility-scale solar and energy storage systems. 

“We are excited about the advancement that this project provides towards our goals in environmental sustainability, operational efficiency, and academics,” said CNM Sustainability Project Manager Molly Blumhoefer. “We hope that it inspires our students and the community.”