Governor Bill Richardson speaks at the dedication ceremony for SWEC's rooftop solar system. Photo Ken Stinnett.

SWEC Goes Solar

The Southwest Environmental Center’s six kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system was launched on April 16th, 2008, becoming the first commercial PV system to come online in Las Cruces.

SWEC’s system is a pilot project to promote solar energy and provide a real-world learning experience for New Mexico State University students.

Funded by the NM Legislature, the system was designed and installed in partnership with staff and students at NMSU’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. It consists of 33 solar panels made by Sharp, each with a capacity of 180 watts. The panels convert sunlight into electricity. An inverter converts the DC power into AC, and it is then fed into the El Paso Electric distribution network.

SWEC’s system produces about 800 kWh of electricity per month, while annually preventing about 17,000 pounds of CO2 from being put into the atmosphere by traditional electricity generation.

Under a 20-year purchase power agreement, El Paso Electric buys the power produced by SWEC’s system to help it comply with New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard which requires that 20 percent of the power sold by utilities in New Mexico come from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, by 2020. The money is used to support maintenance of the system, and for public educational programs about renewable energy.

KRWG did a story on the dedication of SWEC's PV system