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Land Office auctions off 40K acres for wind farm

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Nearly 40,000 acres of state-owned land were auctioned off last week in a lease agreement for the development of El Cabo, a huge wind farm planned for central Torrance County. Pacific Wind Development LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, submitted the only bid – $1,000.

The state land, in conjunction with some 87,000 acres of private property, will form the site of New Mexico’s largest wind farm.

Officials say it eventually could provide electrical power to hundreds of thousands of homes, save millions of gallons of water a year and create hundreds of jobs.

The site lies about 12½miles northeast of Willard. The state land includes 5,400 acres – mostly in Torrance County with some spillover into Santa Fe and San Miguel counties – for a transmission route from the actual wind farm.

Craig Johnson, a State Land Office auctioneer, supervised the bidding on the steps of the Torrance County courthouse. The outcome, however, was a foregone conclusion, in that Pacific Wind Development was the only bidder to submit the required documents – and nearly $89,000 in deposits and fees – before the 4 p.m. cutoff Sept. 13.

Mark Stacy, Iberdrola Renewables’ project director, submitted the bid for Pacific Wind, while about 20 interested parties looked on under sunny skies.

The term of the lease – details of which are to be worked out over the next few months – is 45 years and will include three phases: initial, operations and decommissioning.

Lease rates would range from $2 to $3 per acre during the initial phase and up to $12 or more per acre during the height of the operations phase.

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