County explores bringing global sustainability center to Santa Fe


Jan. 5—Santa Fe, a destination city about an hour’s drive from two national laboratories, has been at the forefront of scientific solutions for decades—and could do more to advance global sustainability.

That’s the idea Santa Fe County Commissioner Justin Greene has promoted in the face of climate change.

Last month, at Greene’s request, commissioners directed County Manager Greg Shaffer to negotiate an agreement with the University of New Mexico to study the need and feasibility of building a “global sustainability collaboration center” in or around Santa Fe, funded with $100,000 from the University of New Mexico. stands.

The county secured funding for the feasibility study last year after the center attracted the interest of state Rep. Tara Lujan, a Santa Fe Democrat.

Greene’s idea for the project came about five years ago when Triad National Security LLC took over management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. One of the three entities that make up Triad – along with the Texas A&M University System and the University of California – is the Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute.

Battelle, a nonprofit that operates several national laboratories, reinvests millions of dollars annually in STEM initiatives across the country and in 2018 invited jurisdictions surrounding LANL to propose local science- and technology-focused projects for funding, Greene said.

“I’m not going to let this opportunity go to waste,” he said.

The vision for the project that has emerged since then — which has had various labels such as the Department of Energy Collaboration Center or the New Mexico Institute for Sustainability and Innovation — is an “interdisciplinary think tank for applied science toward global sustainability,” Greene said . .

This means that governments and organizations around the world could bring their needs – such as the implementation of new technologies in solar energy or CO2 capture – to the center, where postdoctoral researchers together with engineers, economists, lawyers, entrepreneurs and public policy specialists could work together to develop sustainable technologies. useful solutions.

The center could also “showcase what our local institutions are already doing” and expand the reach of their innovations, Greene said. He hopes that not only scientists from LANL and Sandia National Laboratories will show interest in the center, but also higher education institutions such as Santa Fe Community College and surrounding pueblos.

“We’re looking at something much bigger than our region, so we have to do our homework to figure out if we want to do it, if we see the need, if we have the money for it. (and) if the state and other partners want to get behind it,” he said.

‘Is this the right place to do it? Maybe,” Greene added. “But we are taking the first step to see if this is feasible here. It will take some leading organizations in government, economic development and academic, research and science areas.”

Other county commissioners praised the idea for a center, though they balked at letting Santa Fe County take the lead on the project.

Commissioner Anna Hamilton said at a February meeting before voting to introduce a resolution on the center that she “sees the critical importance of climate change and sustainability work, and I imagine having this institute will give people employment opportunities would offer.”

However, she added, “This is something that is a big commitment.”

Greene then introduced a “zero commitment” resolution that passed unanimously in December, and passed the project over to UNM for study this spring.

“I think this is a very small start to something that has great potential for our area,” Commissioner Hank Hughes said at the December meeting, “so I’m glad we’re on a path to at least facilitating this idea .”