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Pattern Energy harnesses NM’s blustery gusts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of the nation’s largest wind farms could soon be operating near the Village of Corona.

Pattern Energy Group bought the rights in late May to a planned 1,000 megawatt wind farm just north of Corona, along with a 140-mile transmission project to carry wind-generated electricity from Corona to Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s Rio Puerco substation west of Albuquerque.

Development company Clean Line Energy Partners spent about six years planning the Western Spirit transmission system and its related Mesa Canyons Wind Farm as a combined $1.5 billion project that Pattern acquired for an undisclosed price.

Clean Line advanced the projects enough for construction to begin next year, said Pattern CEO Mike Garland.

“Mesa Canyons will be one of the biggest wind farms in the U.S.,” Garland said. “We’re confident we’ll have both projects done by the end of 2020.”

Clean Line Energy already had most regulatory approvals needed for both the Western Spirit line and Mesa Canyons, said company spokesman Hans Detweiler.

The company worked from the start on Western Spirit as a joint public-private venture with New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, a quasi-governmental entity with bonding authority to help finance, build and operate renewable transmission lines. RETA will own Western Spirit after it’s built, and Pattern will lease transmission capacity.

Western Spirit could be the first new line to begin operations among several large-scale developments now underway in New Mexico. That includes the 520-mile SunZia power line projected to carry up to 3,000 MW of electricity to western markets.

Pattern Energy is the anchor tenant for SunZia. It plans to develop another 2,200 MW of generation through its Corona Wind project, to be built in stages in Torrance, Lincoln and Guadalupe counties for transport by SunZia to California and elsewhere.

Pattern already operates a 324 MW facility known as the Broadview Wind farm north of Clovis. It will also break ground this summer on the Grady Wind Center, a 221 MW project just east of Broadview.

“We’re heavily invested in New Mexico, which is one of the most sought after areas in the U.S. to bring renewable power to California and other western states,” Garland said.

New Mexico was the fastest-growing state for wind energy construction last year, surging 51 percent to 1.7 gigawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

California is driving a lot of that development.

“New Mexico’s wind resources tend to pick up at sunset, when California’s solar facilities stop operating,” said Clean Line’s Detweiler. “That’s why we’re seeing big national companies like Pattern coming here to build large wind projects.”

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