A bill pending in the New Mexico legislature would provide $500,000 in funding for San Juan College in the northern part of the state near the Colorado border to become a Center of Excellence for renewable energy training. The bill is in line with new priorities established by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to align her state with the US Climate Alliance that opposes the policies of the Trump maladministration. With the addition of New Mexico, there are now 19 states in the coalition.
“I think we were selected based on our long history of working with our energy partners,” San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass tells the Arizona Business Journal. The college previously had a highly rated renewable energy program that was allowed to languish under former governor Susana Martinez, a fast friend of the oil and gas industry.
Nora Sackett, a spokeswoman for Governor Lujan Grisham, said in an email statement. “The governor knows that New Mexico should be a national leader in clean energy and making San Juan College a nationally recognized Center of Excellence in sustainable and renewable energy will start us down that path. She added that San Juan College could play an essential role in transitioning the region to renewable energy and establishing New Mexico as a national leader in addressing the causes of climate change.
Even though the former program has been virtually eliminated, Pendergrass says the college still has the curriculum needed to bring it back. She says the School of Energy has also expanded its instrumentation and controls program and its automation program.
Qinqin Schoser, an instructor in the School of Energy, says many of the classes she teaches can also prepare students for careers in renewable energy as well as a variety of careers including water treatment and electrical generation. “We don’t call ourselves renewable energy, but our skill sets definitely fit the need.”
San Juan college also has a new system that simulates solar and wind generation systems to train students. The solar and wind inputs can be varied to simulate situations that actually happen in nature. It includes a solar panel and a lamp to simulate the sun. The lamp can be adjusted to simulate changes in the sun. “Our focus has always been to meet the workforce needs of our service area,” Pendergrass says.