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Wind turbine adds interest to Cruces landscape

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LAS CRUCES – To the casual observer it was initially believed the structure erected outside of the city’s Museum of Nature and Science was some kind of exhibit or sculpture.

What it has turned out to be is a large wind turbine that is designed to help offset energy costs at the museum on North Main Street.

“It’s big,” said Will Ticknor, administrator of the city’s museum system. “It’s about 10 feet tall and it’s mounted on a 50-foot pole. It’s part of a sustainability project at the museum. It will help provide some power to the building.”

Agreed, the turbine indeed looks like some kind of sculpture, and with the city’s Museum of Art right next door it could easily be confused as a piece of art. But city officials said while it does have some attractive qualities, make no mistake that its purpose is more serious.

“It is designed such that in time it could become a charging station for electric cars,” said Eric Martin, city facilities management administrator.

In recent years, city government has incorporated more and more alternative energy and “green” technologies into the design of city buildings. Martin said in addition to the new wind turbine at the Museum of Nature and Science, there is also a smaller photovoltaic system on the building’s roof. A solar energy system is in operation at the Las Cruces Convention Center, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a photovoltaic system atop the parking garage adjacent to City Hall is planned for June 7.

Kevin Bixby, director of the Southwest Environment Center, said he is pleased city government is taking an active role in promoting the use of alternative energy. The Southwest Environment Center was at least one of the first, if not the first downtown building, to begin using alternative energy. In 2009, solar panels were erected on the roof of the center, and Bixby’s initiative drew praise from New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

“I don’t know how many other buildings have begun using alternative energy systems, but there are now at least four companies in Las Cruces that install photovoltaic systems,” Bixby said.

“A lot of it is going in. It’s good to see that happening. The sooner we get away from using fossil fuels the better the planet will be.”

The Las Cruces Sun-News is among downtown businesses that have incorporated solar energy use into its operations. When the Sun-News reopened its new offices in early February, Publisher Frank Leto said the installation and use of solar panels on a portion of the Sun-News’ parking lot would save the company about 15 percent in energy costs.

The estimated cost of the museum’s turbine is $40,000.

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