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New Mexico State University

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NMSU’s U.S. EDA award boosts New Mexico’s clean energy economy

After receiving an award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s 2019 Regional Innovation Strategies i6 Challenge program, New Mexico State University continues to lead a statewide focus on creation of a clean energy economy to advance economic and workforce development.


Woman working on an electrical system
Olga Lavrova, Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor at New Mexico State University, helped create the Innovation and Commercialization for Regional Energy Workforce project that has fostered higher education collaboration and improved workforce development for clean energy initiatives. (NMSU photo by Vladimir Avina)

In partnership with the North American Intelligent Manufacturing Initiative, the Innovation and Commercialization for Regional Energy Workforce program is focused on building regional champions across the state to ensure broad and relevant engagement in developing a clean energy economy roadmap. A growing focus of the I-CREW project is to identify opportunities to build collaborations across higher education to enhance workforce development for clean energy initiatives.

With the 2019 passage of the Energy Transition Act in New Mexico, the I-CREW project was created to help the state move toward building a clean energy economy, which requires job training and retraining, education and economic development, inclusive of rural, economically disadvantaged and Native American communities.

“Workforce development for STEM fields within the state of New Mexico is of great importance,” said Olga Lavrova, Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor. “It is important for our New Mexico-grown talent to get both the education here and get good jobs here as well. Creating desirable employment opportunities within the state is crucial for New Mexico’s success, especially given the New Mexico Energy Transition Act. These high-demand, impactful jobs in environmental health mean talent stays in the Land of Enchantment.

“For students who want to leave the state, nationwide or even worldwide, they carry the pride of NMSU with them. We are always proud of our graduates,” she said.

As one of only 26 EDA grant recipients, NMSU’s College of Engineering is taking the lead in re-envisioning courses and adding new ones in areas that align with emerging career opportunities.

“We tripled enrollment in some classes,” Lavrova said. “We are offering new and interesting courses on cutting-edge modern power systems from microgrids to renewable energy applications, such as solar, wind, geothermal and even ocean wave power.”

NMSU students directly benefit from these additions, but other New Mexico students are also able to enroll in NMSU classes remotely. Lavrova is hoping to extend the collaboration to other New Mexico universities and community colleges, such as the Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico. While some of the new courses offer deep dives into solar power, electronics and economics of power systems, engineering students from other specialties are learning clean energy basics.

“Students interested in pursuing various areas of engineering are getting a broad world-class knowledge of electrical power systems, which in turn results in world-class solutions for modern problems,” Lavrova said.