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Hybrid Solar Photovoltaic and Wind Energy System, San Andres National Wildlife Refuge



Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico

Project Point of Contact

Kevin Cobble, FWS
San Andres National Wildlife Refuge, NM
(505) 382-5047
kevin_cobble@fws.gov

Project Summary

Using a tiered approach to install on-site renewable energy generation, the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge is able to supply 100% of it's own power for several months of the year and decreased energy intensity by 80% from the FY 2003 baseline.  First, the Refuge installed 1,800-Watts of grid-tied solar photo voltaic panels to reduce electric consumption at the Refuge headquarters complex in November 2006.  They installed two solar PV-powered parking lights for the Refuge compound at the same time.  Second, in late June 2007, they boosted the output of the grid-tied solar PV panels by 2,400 Watts.  Third, in July 2007, they installed a 1,800-Watt grid-tied wind generator to supply renewable wind power, making the total output of the hybrid solar PV/wind energy system 6,000 Watts.

Outreach opportunities are challenging since the entire Refuge lies within the 2.2 million-acre U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range, which is closed to public entry.  However, the refuge office lies near U.S. Highway 70, a major east-west artery in the area, and the wind generator's spinning blades have become a landmark in the area.  The Refuge Manager has people come up to him in town and talk about how they watch the generator every day to see if it is spinning as they drive by.  While difficult to attain permission to enter the Missile Range, the wind generator created so much interest that the Refuge has had more visitors in the last seven months than in the past 10 years combined.

Their successful tiered approach to installing on site renewable energy systems and the high output of the energy systems are a model for the Department's many small remote facilities.

Project Description

Overview

Established in 1941, the 57,215-acre San Andres NWR is located in the San Andres Mountains in south central New Mexico.  The mountain range, which lies within the northernmost extension of the Chihuahuan Desert, rises to an elevation of 8,229 feet at San Andres peak. Since the area was occupied as early as 900 A.D. by ancestors of the North American Indians, historic/archeological sites are abundant. The history of the San Andres Mountains area is rich with legends of lost gold mines and outlaws. Refuge habitats vary from creosote and Chihuahuan desert grasslands in the bajadas to piñon-juniper woodlands on the mountaintops. Numerous springs, seeps, and seasonal streams provide lush riparian habitats.  However, low rainfall limits the vegetation to such plants as mountain mahogany, Apache plume, ocotillo, desert willow, algerita, creosote bush, yucca, sotol, various cactus, and century plant. Piñon pine and juniper are the dominant trees at higher elevations. Dominant grasses include the grama grasses; black, sideoats, hairy, and blue. The noxious weed saltcedar grows on the Refuge, but efforts are underway to remove it from its isolated stands in riparian areas.  Thirty-eight species of mammals and over 150 species of birds have been documented on the Refuge, which is also home to golden eagles, desert mule deer, javelina, and mountain lions. The Refuge provides important habitat for desert bighorn sheep, which is listed as an endangered species by the State of New Mexico. Currently, the desert bighorn sheep population is approximately 100 animals.  Remote cameras have been placed at water sites in an effort to document sheep presence within the Refuge's mountains.  Mist-netting and banding efforts have now documented numerous neotropicals that migrate through and nest on the Refuge. The Refuge is currently in the process of documenting the presence of herptiles through the use of arrays that include drift fences, funnel traps, and pit-fall traps.  The entire Refuge lies within the 2.2 million acre White Sands Missile Range, a testing facility of the U.S. Army, and is therefore closed to public entry.  This is a minimally staffed Refuge field station with only four permanent employees.

Hybrid Solar PV/Wind Energy System
Photo Caption: Hybrid Solar PV/Wind Energy System

The Hybrid Solar PV/Wind Energy System

In November 2006, the Refuge first installed 1,800 Watts of grid-tied solar PV panels to reduce electric consumption at the Refuge headquarters complex. They also installed two 35-Watt solar PV-powered parking lights for the Refuge compound.  In late June 2007, they installed an additional 2,400-Watts of grid-tied solar PV panels.  In July 2007, they boosted the total renewable energy power to 6,000 Watts by installing a 1,800-Watt grid-tied wind generator.  Installation of the solar panels and the land wind generator was performed by the Refuge Manager, one maintenance worker, and a volunteer.

  1. Energy and/or Water Savings:

    The impact on energy consumption of the hybrid solar PV/wind energy system is quite remarkable.  In FY 2007, a -59% decrease in electricity consumption and a -35% in energy intensity (BTU/gsf) from FY 2006 was accomplished.  Further, energy intensity from the FY 2003 baseline decreased by -80%.  This amounted to an energy savings during FY 2007 of 12,573 kWh (12.6 MWH), or 43 million BTU's.  Recent electric bills show total electrical use from February 20, 2008, to April 21, 2008, of 0 kWh for the mandatory customer service charge of $12.43 per month!

  2. Cost Savings:

    The -59% decrease in electricity consumption resulted in a savings of $1,716 per year in electrical costs in FY 2007 from the previous year, from not quite a full year of operation.  (The additional 2,400-Watts of grid-tied solar PV panels were installed in late June 2007, and the 1,800-Watt grid-tied wind generator was installed in July 2007.)  The estimated differential payback for the project is 24 years.  However, it is very likely that the payback period will be less than anticipated with a full year of operation and the increasing costs of fossil fuels.

  3. Use of Renewable Energy/Alternative Fuels

    Electricity is used for lighting, air conditioning, outlets, computers, printers, etc. (the plug load).  Natural gas is used for building heating and hot water.  In FY 2006, building electricity consumption was 75% of the total energy consumed, and natural gas was 21% of the total energy consumed.  After installation of the hybrid solar PV/wind system, building electricity consumption dropped to 48% of the total energy consumed, while natural gas consumption correspondingly increased to 48% of the total energy consumed.  Process electricity, which is estimated to be 5% of total electrical use, held relatively steady at 4% of the total electricity consumed. A summary of the renewable energy hybrid solar PV/wind system is:

    November 2006
    Subsystem Power Date Installed
    Cost
    Grid-Tied Solar PV Panels
    1,800 Watts
    --- $11,330
    Grid-Tied Solar PV Panels
    2,400 Watts
    June 2007
    $15,368
    Grid-Tied Wind Generator
    1,800 Watts
    July 2007
    $5,861
    Electrical, Concrete, Freight, Other --- --- $6,451
    Total 6,000 Watts
    --- $39,01

  4. Two 35-Watt solar PV parking lot lights were installed in November 2006 for $5,702, making the total cost $44,712.

    The solar systems were purchased from SunWize Technologies, Inc., Kingston, New York, on GSA contract.  The wind generator was purchased through SunWize Technologies but is manufactured by Southwest Windpower, Flagstaff, Arizona.

    4,200 Watt Solar PV Panels
    Photo Caption: 4,200-Watt Solar PV panels, with one
    of the Solar PV Parking Lot Lights in the Background
  1. Sustainable/Whole Building Approach:

    The renewable-energy hybrid solar PV/wind system was part to the overall project.  Before the renewable system was installed, the field station made sure that the Refuge headquarters building was energy efficient.  Additional 2" insulation and re-stucco of original 900 square-foot area of the Refuge headquarters office building was completed on September 20, 2005 for $7,796, paid by funds remaining from a Deferred Maintenance Horse Corral refurbish project.  The building received a "make-over," including tuning of the building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system and controls, timers for setback during unoccupied times, and a high-efficiency lighting upgrade to "green tip" T-8 lamps, electronic ballasts, and light sensors.  This project, coupled with the building's insulation, and windows that open to allow natural ventilation, accomplished the remarkable energy and cost savings previously described.  (The Refuge also uses biodiesel fuel from a 500 gallon tank, and purchased a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid to replace a 1999 Ford Expedition in 2008.) 

  2. Environmental and/or Non-Energy Benefits:

    The project team overcame all odds and numerous obstacles to install this remarkable renewable energy system. They obtained funding from cost savings on other maintenance projects and from a maintenance project to improve visitor facilities at the refuge headquarters, and they obtained technical advice from their utility, El Paso Electric.  Although El Paso Electric does not give rebates, they:  1)  installed an electric meter that will run backwards if the system produces more power than the facility consumes, and 2)  signed an interconnection agreement.   After the field station decided to proceed, they chose a preferred alternative.  From that point on, the project went smoothly and was completed on schedule.  Refuge staff installed both systems in order to reduce costs but required outside assistance with the electrical hookup.  Both systems are grid-tied so there is no battery system to deal with.  Since the system went on-line, occupant comfort in the building has increased without sacrificing electrical availability.   The 12,573 kWh of renewable electricity generated by the hybrid system would result in a reduction of 6,471 pounds of CO2, 97 pounds of SO2, and 45 pounds of NOx yearly, for a total of 6,613 pounds of air pollution emissions reduced yearly.

  3. Institutionalization and Transferability:

    This project serves as a model illustrating and educating the feasibility of renewable hybrid solar PV/wind energy systems.  Subsequent to this project's success, other National Wildlife Refuges have expressed interest in installing their own systems.  The success of this project has instilled confidence in renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels for future projects.  Other Service Regions will no doubt follow this sterling example of a successful renewable energy project.
     
  4. Outreach Activities:

    Since the entire Refuge lies within the 2.2 million-acre U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range and is therefore closed to public entry, outreach opportunities are challenging.  However, now that the Service has results from a year of successful operation, the Refuge intends to erect a small display in the headquarters building praising the benefits of renewable energy and the outstanding results achieved.   This display will not only educate whatever visitors enter, but also stress the need for energy conservation in general.    The refuge office is located just off U.S. Highway 70 which is a major east-west artery in the area.  The wind generator has created a lot of interest and has resulted in more visitors coming into the office in the last seven months than in the last 10 years.  Refuge staff now use the wind generator as a landmark to direct visitors how to get to the office since its spinning blades draw attention of passers-by driving on the highway.  The Refuge Manager has even had people come up to him in town and talk about how they watch the generator every day to see if it is spinning as they drive by.  It has been a very good public relations tool for the Refuge since it has been installed.  The fact it has been producing power and reducing our energy bill has been a great benefit!  The Refuge intends to put these results and the outcome of this award nomination into the Accomplishment Reports that are sent to the Washington Office staff.  In addition, the Service's External Affairs staff intends to publicize the positive results of the project and the outcome of this award nomination, if successful.  If this project wins an energy award, it will be publicized in the Department of the Interior publication, "People Land, and Water" and the Service's publication, "Refuge News."   "People Land, and Water" is read by all Departmental employees, and both are available to partners and outside stakeholders.

  5. Innovative New Technology/Technology Transfer:

    Of all the solar projects completed at Service field stations in FY 2007, the one at San Andres National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, is the most remarkable in that this 6,000-Watt hybrid solar PV/wind energy system is the first one designed by the Southwest Region.  As such, it represents a new approach to Service design and construction, embracing these renewable energy technologies and paving the way for installation of other similar systems.  The team did not take the easy path of inaction and the same "old school" standard practices.  They demonstrated energy leadership in the truest sense.  They not only became champions of this technology, but also they worked hard to install it themselves.
     
  6. Adequacy of Information:

    This analysis was based on annual energy conservation reports for FY 2003, FY 2006, and FY 2007.  Data were verified for all three years by re-review of utility bills.

    Wind Farm