Eleanor Warden, a fifth-grade student at Sonoma Elementary School, recently received a private tour of one of the City of Las Cruces’ solar-powered wastewater reclamation facilities. The field trip, facilitated through the Las Cruces Public Schools Operations Department and the City of Las Cruces, was arranged after Eleanor presented to the LCPS Board of Education during a meeting on April 16.
At that meeting, Eleanor urged the school board to explore increasing its usage of solar energy and other renewable energy sources. Citing a report by NASA, she expressed concern over climate change and encouraged the board to take bold action. The board responded positively, and Eleanor’s presentation evoked a standing ovation from the audience.
The field trip, which took place on May 13, provided Eleanor — accompanied by her parents — with a tour of the City’s solar-powered East Mesa Water Reclamation Facility. The tour was led by the City’s Sustainability Officer, Lisa LaRocque, and the facility’s staff. Mayor Ken Miyagishima, City Councilor Yvonne Flores, Sonoma Elementary Principal Melissa Galaz, and other LCPS officials also attended.
The plant, located on East Lohman Ave., was built in 2010 and is capable of treating one million gallons of wastewater per day. Through advanced treatment processes, the plant cleans and purifies wastewater to meet or exceed water quality standards for “purple pipe” irrigation of nearby parks, Sonoma Ranch Golf Course and Centennial High School. An array of ground-mounted solar panels just east of the facility — which could power about 65 homes for one year — provides about 60 percent of the power the plant requires. The facility’s carbon reduction is equivalent to 2,240 acres of trees, the staff told Eleanor.
LaRocque said that, based on Sonoma Elementary’s size and energy usage, she estimates it would take 296 solar panels to power the school, which would cost approximately $1.5 million.
“Eleanor’s passion for sustainable energy is an inspiration to us all,” said Superintendent Greg Ewing. “We are grateful to the City of Las Cruces for providing her with such a robust experience. It is educational opportunities like this one that have the ability to inspire students for years to come.”
A $50 million bond measure, which passed in 2018 with overwhelming community support, included $1.5 million earmarked for clean energy solutions, including solar. Officials are currently researching how best to use that funding, and a decision is expected to be made soon.
— Damien Willis, LCPS Director of Communications, 575-527-5811, firstname.lastname@example.org