Ford Utility Center Power Plant

The Physical Plant Department (PPD) has been producing energy for the University campus for over 30 years. PPD now has two highly efficient cogeneration units that provide a significant amount of the energy needed on campus day in and day out. 

According to the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, cogeneration “is most commonly done in large electricity plants, where waste heat is captured and used for heating or cooling, thereby, increasing the efficiency of the plant to greater than 90 percent (a typical power plant has a 35 percent efficiency rate).”  Cogeneration is the simultaneous generation of heat and electricity from a single fuel source, therefore this new system produces UNM’s needed energy in the most efficient way possible.

“We do it because we can make that power cheaper than we can buy it, so by producing utilities at a lower cost it benefits both the University and the taxpayers of New Mexico,” says Larry Schuster, interim associate director of PPD Utilities.

PNM supplements the energy that UNM cannot provide based on campus demand. PPD has been able to manage and maintain UNM’s utilities without any significant budget increases despite the growing campus and increased electrical rates with PNM over the last several years.  Because of UNM’s energy conservation efforts, PPD has been able to drastically reduce the amount of energy used on campus every day with more efficient building controls, lighting upgrades, and utility upgrades.

PPD has not received additional funding for utilities since 2007 for any new campus buildings utilizing the district energy system (Centennial Engineering built in 2007, George Pearl Hall in 2008, the Dental Clinic and Casas del Rio built in 2012), while PNM rates have increased by 52 percent since 2008.  

The University was awarded two U.S. Environment Protection Agency Energy Star Awards over the course of the new millennium because of its LEED certified buildings. In 2013, UNM won a Sustainable Business award at the second annual Sustainable Business Summit presented by Albuquerque Business First and the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. UNM was nominated and selected for this award because of its long history and continued dedication to sustainable practices, including energy conservation. 

Similarly, Lobo Energy, Inc. (LEI) reports that energy use on UNM’s district energy system has been reduced by 30 percent over the last 10 years, even with the campus growing by 24 percent (which is approximately 2.4 million square feet in growth). UNM has also reduced the amount of purchased electricity by 38 percent by installing natural gas-fueled turbines. 

UNM has seven separate solar panel installations producing 467 kW of electricity with plans for another installation at the McKinnon Family Tennis Center later this year. All the energy saving technologies are carefully planned and managed by PPD and LEI with the long term goal of ensuring that the UNM utilities are provided as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.