Legislation provides $500,000 for the renewable energy program at San Juan College

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
A bill that would provide San Juan College with $500,000 for a renewable energy program has passed the state legislature.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College will likely receive $500,000 to revamp the renewable energy program.

Legislation that will create a Center of Excellence in sustainable and renewable energy at San Juan College has passed both the state House of Representatives and the Senate with bipartisan support. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

"We are honored that San Juan College was selected as a Center of Excellence in sustainable and renewable energy based upon our previous work that has occurred with our energy partners," said San Juan College President Toni Hopper Pendergrass in an email statement. "We look forward to fostering innovation, growth, and the use of new technologies with the energy industry in New Mexico."

The college's renewable energy program began in 2000 and ran for about 16 years before the College Board voted unanimously to end the program, citing low enrollment. Then Board Chairman Ken Hare told The Daily Times there were two instructors and four students in the program in 2016, according to The Daily Times archives.

While the college hasn't offered degrees in renewable energy for several years, the School of Energy continues to offer classes that provide skills needed for work in the renewable energy field.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham praised the passage in a press release following the Senate’s vote on Friday.

“We need to pave the way to exciting career opportunities in cutting-edge fields through our institutions of higher education,” Lujan Grisham said in the press release. “As we work diligently to diversify our economy and keep our talented young adults here in New Mexico, our schools will become hotbeds of innovation, catalyzing and transforming key economic growth sectors.”

The legislation creates four Centers of Excellence throughout the state. Each Center of Excellence has a different focus. San Juan College’s focus will be renewable and sustainable energy. New Mexico State University’s focus would be agriculture and University of New Mexico would focus on bioscience. The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the fourth center of excellence, would focus on cybersecurity.

Lujan Grisham said the Center of Excellence at San Juan College will revitalize what was once a leading program in the nation. She said it aligns with the Energy Transition Act, which is currently being debated in the House of Representatives after passing the Senate last week.

The Energy Transition Act is intended to aid in transitioning from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station to renewable energy sources. It has met opposition from several local elected officials who say it will force the generating station to close.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.