New Mexico out in front on wind power

New Mexico’s billowing winds are puffing up the state’s standing as a national leader in wind energy development.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association plans to recognize New Mexico’s leadership on April 17 at the State Roundhouse in Santa Fe, where the group will hold a press conference to release its 2017 Wind Industry Annual Market Report. The association chooses a different state each year to unveil its study, but this is the first time it’s selected New Mexico, said AWEA spokesman Evan Vaughan.

During the event, AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan will discuss progress achieved by the national wind industry in 2017, and also highlight New Mexico’s wind power leadership, including a major achievement by the state last year.

“We selected New Mexico as the location for our press conference because it’s a rising star for wind farm and transmission infrastructure development with tremendous potential,” Vaughan told the Journal. “The state has seen the benefits wind and transmission can bring first hand, including new jobs, stronger rural communities, and economic diversification. And with strong consumer demand for more low-cost renewables in New Mexico and western markets, the state is well positioned to expand upon its success.”

Local wind energy development is accelerating. The state had nearly 1.7 gigawatts of installed wind-generating capacity as of last December, plus 980 more megawatts under construction, according to AWEA’s fourth-quarter 2017 report, released in January. That’s up from about 1.1 GW of installed capacity in December 2016.

And more wind farms are planned, including a massive, 522 MW facility that Xcel Energy subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. expects to build near Portales, plus two other farms with 216 MW of power that Avangrid Renewables and NextEra Energy Inc. will build for Public Service Co. of New Mexico to supply renewable generation to Facebook’s data center in Los Lunas.

Installed wind generation reached 89 GW nationwide as of last December, up by 7 GW compared with year-end 2016, according to AWEA. That’s enough electricity to power 26 million American homes.

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