New Mexico is pushing forward with multimillion-dollar, energy-saving upgrades to its portfolio of agency buildings in the state capital, as part of an emerging climate-change strategy from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The General Services Department which oversees more than 800 buildings plans to invest $32 million on projects to improve the energy efficiency of state buildings in Santa Fe and generate on-site renewable electricity with photovoltaic solar panels.
Improvements are planned at all 29 buildings overseen by the agency in Santa Fe — the only location where it both owns facilities and pays utility costs.
Solar installations are planned at 19 buildings — including an expansion of solar equipment at the headquarters of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department that oversees everything from oilfield regulation to energy efficiency incentive programs and state parks.
Currently, two buildings overseen by General Services are equipped for solar-power production.
The state government’s first battery storage for solar energy is part of the project.
Lujan Grisham has vowed to make renewable energy investments and policies that address climate change a hallmark of her administration since taking office Jan. 1, while endorsing goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming.
Detailed strategies by state agencies are being developed by a specialized task force, with broad recommendations due by Sept. 15.
At the same time, New Mexico depends heavily on the oil and natural gas sector for state general fund income to support public services, including public education.
State legislation approved this year provides $20 million in direct spending on the energy upgrades at state buildings.
Permission is being sought from the New Mexico Finance Authority to borrow an additional $12 million by issuing bonds to pay for building efficiency improvements in Santa Fe.
The initiative includes investments in heating and air conditioning systems, along with doors, windows and lighting.
The contractor hired to implement building improvements in Santa Fe has guaranteed energy-related savings of $1.1 million a year, according to a summary of the project from the General Services Department. The contractor, Trane U.S. Inc., is a subsidiary of multinational Ingersoll Rand.
“If it produces only $1 million in savings, they have to pay the state the $100,000,” said Thom Cole, a spokesman for the General Services Department. “They make up the difference.”
The state expects actual annual savings of about $1.4 million. The savings projections were certified by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
No estimate was available on associated reductions in greenhouse -gas emissions.
Separately, General Services said it has received $1 million in state funds to purchase electric vehicles for use by state workers. Another $1.5 million is going toward the creation of vehicle charging stations at state facilities within Santa Fe County.
Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said in a statement that “installing solar power on government buildings and driving electric vehicles is an excellent way to promote sustainability while leading by example.”