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Santa Fe Community College Announces Partnership with Microgrid Systems Laboratory

This collaboration has resulted in the creation of the Building Energy Automation and Microgrid Training Center

The Microgrid Systems Laboratory (MSL), a consortium focused on energy systems innovation, announced today its ongoing collaboration with Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). MSL currently has 15 Member organizations worldwide, spanning the education, utility, industry, and research sectors. Microgrids are community-scale integrated energy systems, and SFCC is MSL’s primary collaborator for workforce education, training and professional development.

This collaboration has resulted in the creation of the Building Energy Automation and Microgrid Training Center (BEAMTC), funded by grants and contributions from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the State of New Mexico, and Siemens Industry. MSL worked with SFCC to envision the center and solicit this support, and is currently coordinating its implementation. Training infrastructure and curriculum are in development, with the intent of offering coursework in fall of 2019.

Campus Facilities and Equipment

In support of the educational programs, BEAMTC is developing a “nanogrid” to supply the energy needs of SFCC’s new greenhouse complex, which contains the college’s Controlled Environment Agriculture program. In addition to serving as a teaching facility, that nanogrid will be one element of a campus-wide advanced microgrid, currently undergoing engineering assessment by Siemens. MSL led the initial conceptualization of the greenhouse nanogrid and the campus-wide microgrid, and worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and SFCC staff and faculty on the nanogrid’s conceptual design.

“The collaboration with MSL is crucial for the informed development of the Distributed Energy and Microgrid Controls curriculum we are developing at SFCC,” said Camilla Bustamante, SFCC’s Dean of the School of Trades, Technology, Sustainability and of the School of Business and Professional Studies, and Education. “This is crucial for workforce development and emerging technologies like energy independence and national security.”

MSL Scope and Activities

MSL’s broader mission is to accelerate the transition to more resilient, sustainable, and equitable energy systems, by modernizing the electricity grid in the industrialized world, and by improving energy access in the emerging economies. To accomplish this, MSL works in four main areas: Research, Innovation, Demonstration, and Education.

MSL’s co-founder and President, David Breecker, notes that this RIDE scope offers synergies to SFCC and northern New Mexico, “We identified the future workforce as a critical gap in pursuit of our mission, and SFCC has been an essential educational partner. Beyond that, all of these activities utilize the assets being developed on campus, and create opportunities for students and faculty, while contributing to SFCC’s economic development commitment by supporting commercial and entrepreneurial activity. We are very excited to be working with SFCC across our full portfolio.” Current projects in each area include:

In the Research area, MSL co-leads a New Mexico state-wide consortium focused on microgrid architectures as a key building block of grid modernization nation-wide. This consortium includes NM’s three research universities, two national laboratories, MSL, and others. SFCC will be the lead workforce training participant in the consortium, which has a proposal under consideration for a $24 million National Science Foundation EPSCoR award.

MSL is also a co-lead, in partnership with the University of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque, on a $3 million NSF proposal to design and optimize future transit systems and their impact on the electric distribution network.

In the Innovation area, MSL is developing a Tribal Energy Sovereignty program, based on a successful workshop it convened in January of this year with the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department. This is envisioned as a national initiative in partnership with the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative and other key stakeholders from the Indian energy and sustainability communities, and will provide resources, information, outreach, and education, as well as training via SFCC. MSL is also working with various entities focused on rural electrification in Africa, to accelerate the use of microgrids there.

In the Demonstration area, the SFCC campus microgrid will serve as a showcase for the Santa Fe community, New Mexico, and the U.S. The vision ultimately calls for a visitor center to serve this purpose and educate stakeholders from all sectors. Other demonstration projects are in early stages of development, and the Tribal Energy Sovereignty program intends to seek opportunities for microgrid projects in Indian Country.

In the Education area, the basic curriculum developed at SFCC is envisioned as the basis for a regional or even national center, offering online access to education and training, or hosting visiting cohorts of students. This can include “train the trainer” programs for educational centers worldwide. Longer term, and in concert with the development of the campus-wide microgrid, an energy research park could offer facilities and support to student entrepreneurs and other commercial entities.

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