Students and faculty at research institutions around the state are working on a project that they say will not only bring the state’s aging energy system up to date, but also protect it from cyber attacks.

They hope to do this by creating SMART grids, otherwise known as Sustainable, Modular, Adaptive, Resilient, and Transactive.

“We’re trying to take the existing electric grid. Take it from the 1950s era to the 2050s era,” said William Michener, EPSCoR New Mexico.

From living “off the grid” to receiving cutting-edge technology, some communities around the state will soon have access to electricity.
“In Navajo Nation, there are lots of isolated pockets of communities there that don’t have stand-alone power generation,” said Michener.

Michener says at the same time, this will make the state’s energy consumption more efficient. 

“We won’t have blackouts and brownouts as frequently as we do now,” said Michener.

 Officials say it will also make it safer.

“It’s going to enhance security and reliability, reduce the risk that terrorists take over our infrastructures,” said Enrico Pontelli, Dean of College of Arts and Science at NMSU.
It’s a project being worked on by students and faculty from NMSU, UNM, and New Mexico Tech.
Their research project is all thanks to a five year, $20 million National Science Foundation grant.

“It’s one of the few opportunities we have in New Mexico to actually bring all the researchers together from all the research universities,” said Michener.
Through their research, existing electricity distribution feeders will be transformed into interconnected SMART grids. 
They’ll do that by using testbeds throughout New Mexico, found in the Mesa del Sol residential community, Santa Fe Community College, Las Cruces, and Los Alamos County.

“The way to modernize things nowadays is to get away from the idea that everything has to be centralized in one place,” said Michener.
This could also make New Mexico national leaders in SMART grid technology.

“So if anybody in the world talks about SMART grids they think, ‘Oh, we should look at how New Mexico is doing it, how New Mexico is developing new ideas and new concepts,'” said Pontelli.

Their goal is that in five years, they’ll have SMART grids constructed.

They say workforce training will go through Santa Fe Community College.

They also hope to bring in grad students from smaller colleges to get them involved in the project.