Las Cruces Implementing Sustainability Plan

Posted on October 2nd, 2012 by

What is the sustainability strategy for Las Cruces, New Mexico?

The sustainability strategy for the City of Las Cruces consists of two parts. The first occurred in 2009, when the City created positions for a Sustainability Officer and supporting Intern. The second was to develop and implement a Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) that City Council adopted in 2011. The SAP focuses on eight key topics: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Water, Solid Waste, Pollution Prevention, Land Use and Transportation, Ecosystems, and Food. The Sustainability Officer, with assistance from other key staff, is ultimately responsible for coordinating and implementing appropriate strategies among all departments to achieve progress in the key areas outlined in the SAP.

What programs and tools does the City use to assess and monitor water and energy consumption?

Internal and external assessments and audits provide base-line data, measurements, recommendations, and monitoring to enhance conservation efforts. For instance, the City Utilities Department is conducting water audits at a number of City buildings to ascertain baseline data, calculate monthly consumption, identify flow rates of various plumbing fixtures, assess signs of water loss such as leaky fixtures, etc. Later this year, Utilities will perform irrigation audits at City Parks and conduct a Lush & Lean program for Park Managers and Irrigators to help better manage water usage.

Through its Score Plus Program, El Paso Electric, the local electric utility, has provided a baseline energy usage report for some City sites. In an ongoing effort, Score Plus helps identify inefficient lighting and electrical/mechanical installations and provides design review assistance for remodel and new projects.  The City applies for qualifying rebates based on implementation of Score Plus review recommendations.

Planet Footprint, a subscription service energy and environmental scorekeeper, collects and monitors all of the City’s gas, water, and electric bills, including over 600 electric meter accounts. By reporting energy, water, waste, fleet, and greenhouse performance, the City is able to organize data to assess the success of energy and water conservation projects and potential areas that need improvement.


How many kilowatt hours does the City use annually?

Based on unaudited numbers, City staff estimates that electrical usage across all facilities was approximately 42.7 million kilowatt hours in 2007, and 44.9 million kilowatt hours in 2011. That increase is reflective of the almost 300,000 square feet of additional building and other space brought online during that time period. The cost of electricity was $4.5 million and $4.9 million respectively. The City will continue monitoring its new photovoltaic and wind turbine systems power generation and develop methodologies to calculate the impact of those technologies.

What are some specific energy efficiency and renewable energy projects?

Listed below is a sample of projects, either completed or underway, that highlight the City’s commitment to sustainable design and energy efficient retrofits in implementing the SAP.


  • Pursuit of U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for each new City building is a key SAP initiative. The LEED points-based system recognizes sustainability features in a building’s life cycle.


  • The City is spending approximately $100,000 to retrofit lighting at four heavily used buildings (Fire Station 1/Administration, Police Headquarters, Munson Senior Center, and Meerscheidt Recreation Center) with newer, more efficient bulbs and fixtures. Through this program, the City expects reduction in monthly electric bills, improved lighting quality, and more energy efficient operations for the users of each facility. Further, $20,000 in State Legislative appropriations is allocated to replace existing outdoor lighting at the Frank O’Brien Papen Community Center with energy efficient lighting as part of a demonstration project. Additionally, the Streets Section is conducting a LED street light demonstration project and is currently pursuing funding for wider implementation.
  • Scheduled to open in November, 2012, the Museum of Nature and Science is expected to attain LEED certification. This adaptive re-use project in the downtown core features both photovoltaic and wind turbine systems. These will provide power to the facility and serve as to an interactive exhibit to further the museums’ educational mission and introduce visitors to alternative energy technologies.
  • On July 17, 2012, the City broke ground on an Intermodal Transit Center which includes on-site ponding, provision for future photovoltaic systems, permeable paving, water-wise landscaping, and other sustainable features. The City’s architect is pursuing LEED Certification for this building. The site provides a central point for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others to access public transit and other local and regional ground transportation services.
  • The Las Cruces Convention Center (LEED Gold) opened in 2011. It features a city-owned 71.8 kW DC photovoltaic system on the south end of the parking lot that has generated over 115,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity since it began operating on September 14, 2011.

In 2010, the City finished construction of the New City Hall. This LEED-Silver building features water harvesting, ground-source heat pump system, strategic use of glass for interior day-lighting, smart-building technology, xeriscaping, among other sustainable technologies. Addition of a shade structure/photovoltaic array to the upper floor of the on-site parking deck is on target for next year.


Is the City collaborating on regional clean energy initiatives?

From a government perspective, the City is a regional partner in the El Paso/Southern New Mexico Regional Clean Energy Initiative. From a utility perspective, the City has been supportive of El Paso Electric’s alternative approaches to energy generation. El Paso Electric entered into a 25-year purchase power agreement with Sun-Edison which added the 12 Megawatt Las Cruces Centennial Solar Farm to its fleet. Inaugurated on June 19, 2012, the 140-acre site will produce 32 million kWh annually that will generate enough electricity for approximately 2,900 homes. Since the site is approximately 4000 feet above sea level, has access to clear skies, and over 300 sunny days annually, this solar array has the potential to be a top producer of solar energy in the United States and in Sun-Edison’s fleet. This newest addition brings the region up to 47 Megawatts of utility-level solar power generation in Doña Ana County, whereby El Paso Electric purchases 100% of the output from these facilities.


Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, NASA Johnson Test Facility, and the Bureau of Land Management are all working together with the City of Las Cruces to address land-use planning. One goal is to address future population growth patterns and take advantage of opportunities to collaborate on renewable energy projects. Fort Bliss, in the interest of national security and reducing reliance on foreign oil, is striving to reach the installation’s goal to achieve Net-Zero in carbon emissions, energy consumption, waste reduction, and water reclamation.


For more information on the City’s Sustainability Program and to view the Sustainability Action Plan and issues of Going, Glowing, Growing Green, visit and click on “environment.”


Written by D. Eric Martin  M.P.A, CFM, Facilities Management Administrator

Merideth Hildreth, M.A., AICP, Sustainability Officer





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