October 13, 2022

2022 NM SMART Grid Center Externs Share their Experiences

photos of externs
By Brittney Van Der Werff

NM EPSCoR works to support the next generation of STEM professionals in New Mexico. In the current award, the NM SMART Grid Center, we are pairing project students with New Mexico organizations through our Externship program.
In the summer of 2022, three students participated in the Externship program. Jason Banegas and Miguel Hombrados worked with the NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) to create energy-related education and outreach materials, while Tohid Khalil completed another Externship with the City of Albuquerque to assist them with energy efficiency and renewable energy goals.  
Check out the brief reports on their respective Externship experiences. Are you interested in doing an Externship? We would love to make it happen. More information is at the following link: 


JImage of JAsonason Banegas (graduate student, NMSU College of Business and NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences)

The signing of the Energy Transaction Act (ETA) in 2019 by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was a crucial step in transforming energy policy in New Mexico.  The ETA, also known as SB 489, is proactive legislation that sets requirements for renewable and zero-carbon sourced energy in the portfolios of the state’s electric utilities.  My externship consisted of working with representatives from the Energy Conservation and Management Division (ECMD) of EMNRD to develop a product that will be used as an educational tool for the public.  This is now a resource that can be used to gain a better understanding of the background, importance, and implications of the ETA.  Data from many sources was aggregated into a StoryMap (a web-based platform that allows sharing of multimedia content, narratives, interactive maps, and more).  This storytelling platform can be accessed from any web-enabled device.
New Mexico’s energy transition story is now compiled into a tool that can be easily navigated to explore; why the energy transition is necessary, what steps state leadership is taking to support the initiative, projects in that state that are helping to achieve declared goals, challenges that must be addressed for an effective transition, information about the networked energy systems in the state, and what this all means for the electric consumer in New Mexico.
The first section, Why Transition? details the energy related changes taking place at the national level and why it is important for New Mexico to take advantage of its renewable energy resources, to take part in the larger transition, and reduce local impacts of electricity production externalities. Section two, State Leadership, provides information about the ETA and gives a timeline of the transition.  This section also describes departments within the state government with responsibilities for developing and implementing strategies to meet ETA standards and providing accountability.  Section 3 of the StoryMap is a guided tour of over 30 projects around New Mexico that are related to the energy transition.  The fourth section, Challenges, lists some of the most difficult obstructions that must be overcome to meet the ETA goals.  These challenges are environmental, technological, and policy related.  Modernizing the Grid is the fifth section that demonstrates that there are many outside factors that must also be considered because of the shared power grid infrastructure in our country.  Lastly, section six, What About Electricity Consumers, illustrates that consumers of energy have the ability to be active participants in the transition. Technology, legislation, accountability, and social awareness of the issues facing New Mexico’s energy systems are all key components of a successful transition.
Using a framework developed by my advisor at EMNRD, I gathered resources that would expand upon the content of the ETA and provide a tractable narrative for the public.  This externship was extremely beneficial to me because I was able to deepen my understanding of policy, economics, technology, community synergy, environmental issues, and utility management that are components within the energy nexus of New Mexico. Read Jason's full report here...
New Mexico’s Energy Transition Story is published at the following website:

Image of MiguelMiguel Hombrados (graduate student, UNM Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering)

This externship aimed to develop a teacher's guide for a didactic unit in solar energy and related topics in electrical engineering for secondary education students in the New Mexico. 
Initially, the unit was structured as a self-contained guide of ten lessons: An opening lesson to attract students' interest in the topic of solar energy. Two introductory lessons in electricity to review essential prerequisites to understand solar photovoltaics. A lesson to introduce different energy sources. Four lessons focused on various aspects of the science and technology of solar photovoltaics. A lesson to present alternative solar power sources to photovoltaics and other uses of solar energy. Finally, a lesson to help students recognize educational and work opportunities that photovoltaics in particular and energy-related sectors in New Mexico, in general, can offer.  The lessons' learning objectives have been defined according to the New Generation Science Learning Objectives. By the end of the externship, the first six lessons were fully completed with their related activities. Read Miguel's full report here...
NM EMNRD hopes to beta test this teacher's guide during the 2022-2023 school year. Interested teachers are invited to contact Jacqueline Waite at for more information. 


Image of tohidTohid Khalil (graduate student, UNM Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering)

I worked as an extern at the Department of Municipal Development (DMD) for the City of Albuquerque during the summer of 2022. During this externship, I collaborated with the Albuquerque Energy Council (AEC). I worked with real-world projects in Albuquerque and conducted research there, among other things. I was introduced to the managerial facets of real-world activities. I looked at the city of Albuquerque as a case study. I gained knowledge of the city's sustainability updates and projects. In order to reduce electricity expenditures and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, I helped the City of Albuquerque's energy management team achieve higher energy efficiency and renewable goals.
Based on the previous externship results, if we have 17,050 Bone Dry Tone/year considering the energy of the woods and the efficiency of the system, we can have about 2.07 kWh hourly generation of electricity. By knowing the exact number of BDT of woods, we can say how much power can be generated. In the next step, we have calculated how much carbon we can capture with current systems. Current results show that the proposed biomass system emits 476.1 grams of CO2 each hour. This amount of hourly CO2 equals 4.17 T of CO2 per year. With current carbon capture systems that we can install on the biomass generation systems, we can capture around 80% of the emitted CO2 that is equal to the 3.336 T of emitted CO2. As a result, we would have around 0.834 T of CO2 each year for the considered amount of wood and electricity generation with carbon capture systems. This captured CO2 has several applications and can be used and sold separately. 
During my three years as a Ph.D. student at UNM funded by the NM EPSCoR, I have endeavored to generate original papers and advance my field of smart grid research. With the assistance of the NSF NM EPSCoR Program, I've already published several publications, and I'll be publishing more in the coming days. Completing this externship has helped me to better prepare for my future academic and professional goals. I appreciate NM EPSCoR's wonderful support, which made it possible for me to have this wonderful experience. My supervisors at both institutes, Mr. Saif Ismail and Prof. Ali Bidram, as well as the city of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico, are deserving of particular recognition. Read Tohid's full report here...