New Mexico Climate Science, Engineering and Technology Partnership
The Challenge and Concept in Development
In order to make New Mexico not just an importer of the products, services and technologies of renewables and green processes, it’s important to establish a partnership of excellence in the climate sciences and technologies needed for the latter 4/5ths of the 21st century. To be a leader in the rapidly expanding field of manufacturing and services for transitioning from fossil-fuels by 2050 such a bold action is essential.
This partnership - between the state, academia, national laboratories and industry - will advance the sciences and technologies of renewable energy, energy storage, and energy generation, along with solar powered manufacturing, regenerative farming, soil technologies and bio-sourced chemicals.
Promising technologies will be steered from laboratory demonstration, pilot plant testing, through a technology transfer process to commercialization and adoption. Any clean, green or sustainable technology that benefits development in New Mexico can join this path at any point.
- 1 New Mexico Climate Science, Engineering and Technology Partnership
- 2 Potential Areas of Research and Commercial Development
- 3 Current R&D and Industry Initiatives in and around New Mexico
- 3.1 Public Sector
- 3.1.1 NSTTF: Sandia National Thermal Test Facility
- 3.1.2 LANL: Biodegradable Plastics
- 3.1.3 NREL: Wind Energy
- 3.1.4 NM State Economic Development Department: 5 yr Plan
- 3.1.5 NMSU Interdisciplinary Center of Research Excellence in Design of Intelligent Technologies for Smart Grids
- 3.1.6 NMSU Southwest Technology Development Institute: Solar Power
- 3.2 Private Sector
- 3.3 Incubators & Technology Transfer
- 3.4 NM Economic Development Departments
- 3.1 Public Sector
Building a New Economy for New Mexico
New Mexico has relied on the Oil & Gas industry, primarily exploration and production in the Permian Basin, for as much as 46% of the state's budget. As renewable energies become cheaper and cheaper, fossil fuel energy becomes uneconomic much as coal already has (as of mid 2020). This will be a problem for New Mexico's state budget in year's to come. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic along with the collapsing price of oil in 2020 has made the financial situation more serious if not urgent.
New industries, new jobs and a rebuilt tax base are going to be essential to replace the retraction of the Oil & Gas industry. While New Mexico is an excellent state for solar and wind power, little if any of the equipment, infrastructure and service industries needed by these industries is hosted in New Mexico. As petro-sourced products become impractical, undesirable and environmentally problematic, bio-sourced products will be needed as replacements. While early research suggests some substitutions are available, manufacturing costs are not yet economic. An R&D opportunity is then an opportunity for the current academic institutions and industrial enterprises to develop these technologies and solutions.
Appropriate R&D is often overlooked as a policy with the biggest impact on reversing global warming as reported by VOX:
- “The climate change policy with the most potential is the most neglected” - VOX - David Roberts - Jul 11, 2019:
Once R&D efforts become successful, technology transfer for commercialization and widespread adoption by new and existing businesses completes the cycle. The needed steps while well known involve scaling up successes in the lab to successes at a pilot scale and then commercial scale. Widespread adoption becomes possible once these stages are completed after technical success, economic success and finally social acceptance. Some technologies, like energy storage, are already on this path and need shepherding for widespread adoption.
The state agencies may play a role in coordinating such efforts and finding the desperately need funding.
We propose that the research and development activities be centered and coordinated by a New Mexico Center of Technical Excellence. While the actual name is not important, a solid plan for the organization will be critical to its success and relevance in the competitive international market place for green energy products and services.
While this is a simple idea there are many underlying complications. How innovations are harnessed, how a NM technology hub or center is feasible, who participates, how can they work together, what is it's focus and how it might be funded are all questions that will need addressing.
The potential roles, improvements and innovations in renewable energy is discussed by IHS Markit and Energy Futures Initiative. They clearly emphasize the need for R&D. Some suggestions can be found in:
- “Advancing the Landscape of Energy Innovation” - Feb 2019, 229 pages
The concept of a technology hub is discussed in the book:
- Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream” – Johnathan Gruber & Simon Johnson, Public Affairs – April 9, 2019 368 pages
and on their website. However, since Albuquerque came in 53rd on their list of candidates for Top Technology Hubs there might be significant hurdles. The report also found that Santa Fe fails to meet these three criteria, while Los Alamos makes no appearance:
- House price upper bound $265,000
- Working Population lower bound, 100,000
- Percent College Grad lower bound 25%
The three parameters are meant to determine if there’s cheap (affordable) housing,and a significant percentage of the population is well educated. The report cites Rochester, NY as the poster-child of the concept.
Observations on how New Mexico is positioned
It is generally considered that Research and Development at the state level is not where it needs to be. This is in spite of the presence of the two national laboratories where the focus is on national security issues.
The state departments of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, (Sarah Cotrell Propst) (EMNRD) and Economic Development Department, (EDD) have a potential coordination role, both internally and externally with participating industries and academia.
Among the academic institutions, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NM Tech) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) may have the most experience with technology transfer and commercialization. NMSU with it's history as an Agriculture and Mechanical college has extension service missions that positions it well to participate.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grissom is reported to support in general the need to grow a replacement economy much less dependent on Oil & Gas. The Interagency Climate Action Task Force has begun work under the Governor's Executive Order.
As of September 2019 it didn't appear that NM had funds to spare for such a project, even with O&G revenues that were projected by some to last 10 yrs. By mid 2020 with the collapse of oil prices and the economic disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, funding becomes even more of a challenge.
Some models of centers of technical excellence can be found. Sandia National Labs and Lawrence Livermore National Labs together have formed the Livermore Valley Open Campus – a university in Livermore, California. There research is funded, students are educated and nearby universities collaborate, though details need to be identified.
It turns out that Sandia has research centers for PV, Wind and Storage, and a partnership program that may have resources. Sandia has a Technology Partnership with local industries in Albuquerque, see:
Potential Areas of Research and Commercial Development
New Mexico needs an advanced technology research, development and commercialization strategy to make New Mexico a leader as it transitions from a fossil fuel dominated economy. Below are listed the many possible areas for development.
With appropriate funding, New Mexico could search out experts in these sciences and technologies, encourage them to move to northern New Mexico or grow them locally in our own Research Corridor (Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Albuquerque, Las Cruces)! Spinoff successes will create great job opportunities in solar powered pilot plants and manufacturing projects.
As mentioned above, once petro-sourced raw materials and products become less sustainable, there is a clear need to find bio-sourced substitutions for an enormous number of businesses. Not enough is known on how to bio-source replacements, some can be grown and harvested directly such as fibers, but some, such as pharmaceuticals, will still need to by synthesized to maintain a functioning health care system.
Much of modern civilization is built on the products from the oil and gas extractive industries. Plastics in protective equipment, supplies etc. are critical to a viable modern health care system. Trains, boats, planes and automobiles rely enormously on plastic parts of one kind or another. Lubricants based on mineral oils keep everything moving. Chemical dyes and paints color our world. Nylon fibers carpet our homes and clothe our bodies. In order to get off fossil fuels, leaving it in the ground will also starve the chemical industries for oil-based feedstocks. Reports suggest about 13% of petroleum is used in chemical manufacturing, i.e. not burned.
To begin with…
Natural rubber production (latex) worldwide in 2017 amounted to more than 13.5 million metric tons. Synthetic rubber production worldwide in 2017 amounted to some 15.05 million metric tons.
These natural fibers can be grown:
Natural polymers/plastics can be made by fermentation
- polyhydroxybutyrate-valerate, or PHBV – made in a bacteria/fermentation process
Bio-lubricants can be derived from vegetable oils
- Bio-lubricants are derived from vegetable oils and other renewable sources. They usually are triglyceride esters (fats obtained from plants and animals. For lubricant base oil use, the vegetable derived materials are preferred.
Renewable energies will be needed to run the processes that will convert these sources into commercial products. Successful leaders in these industries will probably do very well financially! Development times tho’ can take years to decades so starting now may not be too late.
Renewable Energy Efficiencies
Any energy source is subject to the laws of thermodynamics and never can convert one form of energy completely (100%) to another. All energy ends up as heat once it has done it's work. Improving the efficiencies of energy generation and storage is however a fruitful line of research to reduce running costs and capital outlays.
- Conventional Batteries
- Flow Electrochemical Batteries
- Compressed Air
- Molten Salt
- Hydrogen/Hydrogen Fuel Cells/Cogeneration
- Photoelectrosynthesis, e.g. for clean fuels
- Solid Mass Gravitational Energy Storage (SGES)
- Other Emerging Technologies
Energy Generation & Distribution
- Wind Turbines
- Micro Wind Turbines
- Geothermal – non-polluting – Hot Dry Rock Geothermal vs Hot Wet Rock Geothermal
- Smart Grids
- Concentrated Solar Power
- Dispatchable Renewable (incl. BioMass)
- Other Emerging Technologies
- Bio-chemicals, Bio-plastics, Bio-pharmaceuticals, etc. to replace petro-sourced products
- Compostable Consumables
- Recyclable Consumables with manufacturers designing products for recycling or reuse.
- Photoelectrosynthesis for bio-sourced/organo-raw materials
- Non-GHG Refrigerants
- Solar Powered Cement
- Cement Alternatives. e.g. Green Cement
- Solar Powered Process Engineering
- Transition Technologies (Oil by Recycling, Renewables, Reuse)
- Mine/Harvest the Ocean Gyres (garbage patches) for recycling and remanufacturing.
- Alternative cattle feed (e.g. seaweed) and methane reduction
- Soil Remediation/Healthy Soils/Biochar
- Regenerative Agriculture and Farming
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
- Solar Powered electrolysis to Graphite/Nanotube/Carbon Fibers
- Electrolysis of CO2 to CO
- Metal Oxide Frameworks
- Electrolytical CO2 Capture (MIT)
Current R&D and Industry Initiatives in and around New Mexico
New Mexico has many institutions and resources that might be encouraged to participate in planning and effecting a economic transition from the fossil fuels industry. Here we list some by sectors.
NSTTF: Sandia National Thermal Test Facility
Operated by Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF) is the only test facility of this type in the United States. The NSTTF’s primary goal is to provide experimental engineering data for the design, construction, and operation of unique components and systems in proposed solar thermal electrical plants planned for large-scale power generation.
LANL: Biodegradable Plastics
See bio-polymer research at Los Alamos as reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican:
- "Using algae to try and solve the plastic problem" - Santa Fe New Mexican - Babetta L. Marrone - July 7, 2019
NREL: Wind Energy
Under the US Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a focus on 16 research areas from Advance Manufacturing to Wind energy. See:
The labs are located in Golden, CO with the National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, CO and office in Washington, DC.
NM State Economic Development Department: 5 yr Plan
Under Gov. Susana Martinez administration, see:
NMSU Interdisciplinary Center of Research Excellence in Design of Intelligent Technologies for Smart Grids
The Interdisciplinary Center of Research Excellence in Design of Intelligent Technologies for Smart Grids (iCREDITS) was established at New Mexico State University in 2014, with a grant awarded from the National Science Foundation.
NMSU Southwest Technology Development Institute: Solar Power
The Southwest Technology Development Institute (SWTDI) is a non-profit, university-based organization that provides applied research and development services for private and public sector clients. SWTDI was established in 1977 as the New Mexico Solar Energy Institute, and has active research programs in energy and related systems.
Jetstream Energy Technologies: Clean Energy
The Jetstream Energy Technologies company focuses on the development of cost-effective reliable solutions for the generation/creation of electricity, clean water, and hydrogen as fuel or for industrial processes.
Microgrid Systems Laboratory: Clean Energy
Microgrid Systems Laboratory (MSL)is a collaborative effort by a range of global leaders in electricity delivery, R&D, manufacturing, standards, education, regulation, and systems integration, MSL’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable energy system worldwide.
Contact: David Breaker
Technology Ventures Corporation: Closed
“Lockheed Martin Corp. formed TVC as a nonprofit foundation in 1993 tasked with helping entrepreneurs take their inventions from inside the labs to the commercial marketplace. Over the years, TVC has helped create more than 13,500 new jobs, 121 new companies and has played a role in stimulating more than $1.2 billion in venture capital for New Mexico startups, according to Kramer.”
- "Technology Ventures Corp. to shut down" - Albuqueque Business Journal - May Ortega - March 29, 2017
Energy Related Devices
Energy Related Devices is headed up by Robert Hockaday who has two technologies at the top of the revolutionary change-in-energy-generation queue:
- A Micro Fuel Cell™ technology
- A Solar Cell Technology
[Information may not have been updated since 2010.]
Incubators & Technology Transfer
Arrowhead Center, NMSU
Located in Las Cruces, NM, the Arrowhead Center is the technology transfer office for New Mexico State University and the hub for many of the technology development initiatives, entrepreneurial activities, external industry collaborations, and commercially-oriented multidisciplinary technology innovations across the university.
InnovateABQ was originally established as a collaborative initiative among UNM, city and county government, and the business community.
In July 2020, due to financial difficulties, the University of New Mexico (UNM) accepted the transfer of the Innovate ABQ project from a nonprofit 501(c)3 that UNM set up in 2015 to independently manage the development of a seven-acre site at Central and Broadway including the development of the neighboring First Baptist Church. UNM’s real estate entity Lobo Development Corp. and UNM Rainforest Innovations (formerly STC.UNM), the university’s technology transfer and economic development office, will jointly oversee the Innovate ABQ project going forward, pending final approval by the New Mexico Higher Education Department and the State Board of Finance.
Innovate New Mexico
Innovate New Mexico is a partnership among the leading technology-transfer organizations in the state:
- UNM Rainforest Innovations
- New Mexico State University — Arrowhead Center,
- New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology,
- Sandia National Laboratories,
- Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the
- Air Force Research Laboratory
Their mission is to create a “front door” to the technologies of these institutions through colocation. Innovate New Mexico® is administered by STC and is located at the Lobo Rainforest Building in Albuquerque.
New Mexico Consortium (NMC)
Located in Los Alamos and established in 2006, the New Mexico Consortium (NMC) partners with Los Alamos National Laboratory in order to develop, implement and continually improve models that encourage and support collaborative research across its partner institutions, including the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
Sandia National Laboratory Technology Partnership
Additionally, “the Sandia Science & Technology Park in Albuquerque is a thriving high-tech community and is home to many of New Mexico’s fastest growing companies. Park companies are partners with Sandia National Laboratories and are engaged in joint research and development, technology commercialization, and supply chain development.”
Existing LVOC organization and infrastructure are well established to work with outside organizations in a more academic research and development environment.
Southwest Technology Development Institute, NMSU
The Southwest Technology Development Institute, located in Las Cruces, NM is a non-profit, university-based organization that provides applied research and development services to private and public sector clients. SWTDI was established in 1977 as the New Mexico Solar Energy Institute, and has active research programs in energy and related systems.
UNM Rainforest Innovations
Located in Albuquerque, NM, the UNM Rainforest Innovations (formerly known as the STC.UNM and Science & Technology Corporation @ UNM) is a nonprofit corporation formed and owned entirely by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents (UNM). They are a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with an independent board of directors. Located at the Lobo Rainforest Building in the heart of the Innovation District in Albuquerque, New Mexico, UNM Rainforest Innovations has proximity to research and development and laboratory facilities and other technology based companies, many of which are the creation of UNM Rainforest Innovations.
NM Economic Development Departments
Some NM Counties: