Green makeover gives new life to aging state buildings - Albuquerque Journal

Green makeover gives new life to aging state buildings

This 1.6-megawatt solar carport, installed on the government’s South Campus in Santa Fe under the State Buildings Green Energy Project, now provides 40% of electric needs at the Runnels, Simms and Montoya buildings. (Courtesy of Trane Technologies)

Trane Technologies is putting the final touches on a $32 million project to convert nearly three dozen government buildings in Santa Fe into shining models of energy efficiency and sustainability.

The State Buildings Green Energy Project, which began in 2019, constitutes New Mexico’s largest state-led, renewable-energy initiative to date, providing a green makeover for 32 buildings, all of them more than 50 years old. The upgrades include installation of 16 rooftop solar systems, three solar carports, energy-efficient heating-and-cooling systems, LED lighting, window insulation, water conservation technology, and automation controls that enable remote monitoring and management.

All the upgrades together are “guaranteed” by Trane, the contractor, to shave at least $1.1 million per year off the state’s energy costs, cutting those buildings’ collective utility bills by 50%, said General Services Department spokesman Thom Cole.

“That’s guaranteed under the energy performance contract with the company,” Cole told the Journal. “… (Trane) expects the utility savings to be $1.4 million per year, but it guarantees $1.1 million. If savings fall below that $1.1 million mark, they pay us for it.”

Apart from savings, the upgrades will cut carbon emissions by about an estimated 7,400 metric tons per year — equal to burning 8 million pounds of coal annually — while also conserving some 5.1 million gallons of water per annum.

The project will be fully finished this summer, said Pete Hugenroth, Trane area general manager for New Mexico and West Texas. The company is now completing construction of the third carport, and finalizing upgrades on one last building.

Trane is a global, publicly traded company that focuses on sustainable climate solutions for buildings, homes and transportation. The New Mexico project represents one of its biggest individual green-upgrade initiatives to date.

“When we booked it (in 2019), it was the largest single performance contract held by Trane for about 10 months,” Hugenroth told the Journal.

In fact, one solar carport installed on the government’s South Capital campus is now billed as the largest non-utility, customer-cited renewable system in the state. The 1.6-megawatt array provides about 40% of electric needs at the Runnels, Simms and Montoya buildings.

The Trane contract includes a 20-year maintenance and service agreement to keep all systems running at peak performance over the next two decades, Hugenroth said. In addition, the performance monitoring systems installed by Trane will permit continuous, real-time assessment of energy use in buildings to identify issues and reduce consumption, maximizing savings.

The state Legislature approved $20 million for the project in 2019 in response to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order for all state agencies to curb their carbon footprints to help achieve an economy-wide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The other $12 million for the $32 million project came from bonds issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority. That will be paid back through utility savings from the project, which may now serve as a model for more initiatives around the state.

“We’ll take the lessons learned from this project to identify opportunities at more state facilities in other cities,” Cole said.

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