Wrapping up a better future
City eyes ‘more renewable energy’
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
If all goes according to plan, City of Las Cruces Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque believes the person who holds her position about 50 years from now could be out of a job.
LaRocque said the city is making the shift to “more renewable energy” with a goal of being 80-percent self-sufficient by 2050 and at net zero energy usage by 2070.
“We’re concerned about the future and moving in the direction that we need to in order to be a healthy community,” she said.
In its efforts to get local residents and businesses to be more energy efficient, the city is leading by example. When it was completed in 2010, the new city hall at 700 N. Main St. was one of only seven Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified government office buildings in the country, according to the city’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP).
Last October, the city received a 3-STAR community rating for sustainability leadership. It was the first city in New Mexico and the 40th community nationwide to receive the recognition, according to a city news release. STAR is the nation’s leading certification program for evaluating local sustainability measures.
The city is reducing its use of electricity, gasoline, water and paper and concentrating more on reuse and recycling, according to the SAP. It is increasing the generation of its own energy, making use of alternative transportation options and working toward more shade canopy coverage and structures in parks and on streets.
LaRocque, who began her job with the city three years ago, made a presentation at a recent city council work session on the city’s current SAP. The plan was adopted by the council in 2014 and continues through 2017.
SAP is part of the city’s strategic plan, which guides its overall efforts to achieve the “triple bottom line: economic viability, environmental health and social responsibility now and in the future.” If you think of economy, environment and society as eccentric circles, sustainability is portion that all three share, according to an SAP graphic.
Some of the city’s energy successes to date noted in the report include:
• “The city’s investment in energy retrofits for seven of its buildings has resulted in more than $35,000 in annual energy savings, with an average savings of 10 to 40 percent per building.”
• “Las Cruces Utilities has already tapped into water reclamation, generating up to 600,000 gallons per day for landscape irrigation.” Also, “the city has been able to harvest storm water and use it to irrigate native landscape,” the report said.
• The city will save nearly $147,000 with the installation of solar panels at Munson Center, Sage Café, East Mesa Public Safety Complex, Las Cruces Regional Aquatic Center and the Las Cruces Convention Center, according to the SAP. When completed, the construction will mean the city is generating more than six percent of the energy it uses, the report said. The aquatic center may have up to 40 percent of its energy needs met through renewables.
• The city will save nearly $239,000 with LED retrofits at four city fire stations, the Las Cruces Police Academy, Fielder Memorial Safe Haven, the juvenile citation building, the city railroad depot and six Hadley facilities, according to the SAP. The report said 12 city buildings “have received a lighting retrofit, converting old fluorescents to efficient LEDs saving the city over $26,000 annually.”
• LaRocque said the city also will convert 1,500 to 2,000 street lights from electric-metered lights to LED, cutting energy usage by 60 to 70 percent. There are approximately 8,000 street lights inside the city limits, consuming about 21 percent of the electricity the city uses. The city spends about $5 million a year on electricity,” LaRocque said, and hopes to achieve a 20 percent annual reduction within the next two years.
• “A solar photovoltaic project (is being implemented) at the East Mesa water reclamation facility to offset electricity consumption (there). Construction is anticipated to begin in summer 2016,” the report said.
• Jacob Hands Waste Water Treatment Facility co-generation plant will convert waste methane gas to electricity via two generators that should be in place by the spring of 2017, according to the SAP.
• “The city is now using 50 percent post-consumer waste paper and is the only government entity in New Mexico to use recycled paper, according to the state supplier.” “This action alone saves 259 trees, 184 million BTUs, 25,420 pounds of greenhouse gas and 12,186 pounds of solid waste,” the report said. “Two exemplary practices come from the police department that is no longer printing cases for review, and community development that scans documents for permits instead of printing out a second hard copy.”
• “Installation of citywide PC-power management software continues to reduce annual energy use (and) reduces the city’s annual energy costs by $10,200.”
• The city Parks and Recreation Department “purchased two electric vehicles (GEMs) in 2014 and will add two more in 2016,” the SAP said. “They are charged using a standard 110-volt wall outlet. The vehicles travel up to 25 mph and have a single-charge traveling range of 30 miles. The vehicles serve the ball fields, Main Street, some trails and assist at other sports events.”
• Fuel used for cityowned vehicles “for 2015 decreased in all categories, either from greater fuel efficiency (389,652 gallons of diesel fuel, a decrease of nine percent from 2014; 280,172 gallons of unleaded fuel, a decrease of three percent from 2014) or less use of fuel type (57,408 gallons of biodiesel, a decrease of 30 percent from 2014),” the report said.
• The city “installed automated passenger counters on two Roadrunner city buses to better evaluate ridership trends and improve future route planning,” the SAP said.
• The city Street and Traffic Operations Division “continues to use its invention, ‘the sweeping grizzly,’ to sift trash from the dirt that sweepers pick up on a daily basis. Dirt removed from the sweepings is used for fill dirt, sand bags or cleanfill. This lowers the volume and trips to the Corralitos landfill, saving the city $40,000 annually,” the report said.
• The city Codes Enforcement Bureau “typically finds a 97 percent resolution for trash, litter, watering and municipal storm violations, only needing to provide citations three percent of the time.”
For more information, visit the city Sustainability Office at www.las-cruces. org/ sustainabilityoffice.