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NM must leverage its renewable energy resources

As New Mexico seeks to diversify its economy, one of the primary industries that we must expand is renewable energy.

The opportunities and the benefits are too good to pass by, and the cost of inaction on this front is just too great as we see how Texas and other states are already reaping the benefits of wind and solar energy.

Take, for example, the Grady Wind farm, which will be the largest wind farm in the Western Hemisphere when it is completed. That installation will deliver many jobs and financial benefits, including lease payments and a new tax base for rural Curry County. The power from that wind farm is being purchased from a company in southern California, therefore, “new” money will be injected into the local, regional and state economy just as our manufacturing companies sell their products out of state.

We should transform our economy and energy production opportunities in a way that is best for New Mexico. In doing so, we can achieve tremendous progress in creating jobs and opportunity for New Mexicans, all while doing what makes financial sense for New Mexico ratepayers and New Mexico economic growth. Right now, the solar and wind industries together employ more than 5,500 in-state workers. Among these, somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 are employed by the wind industry, either directly or indirectly.

Our neighbor, Texas, is the largest wind-generating state, as well as one of the largest oil production states in the nation. New Mexico could surpass Texas in wind production and has a formidable reserve of oil in the Permian basin. Oil production would be enhanced by having a cheaper source of electricity to power their production of product. As technology advances, all forms of energy will be produced more efficiently.

I predict that by 2050, New Mexico will attain 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources if our New Mexico leadership fully supports this opportunity. All the economic indicators are trending in the direction of more renewable energy development because the rates are low and it is competitive on the open market.

Like all New Mexicans, my constituents want stable jobs that pay well. They desire financial security for themselves and greater opportunities for their children. Mesalands College and Clovis Community College both offer a wind technician curriculum and once students have earned their two-year certificate, they are quickly employed in the industry with a high-wage job. The majority of farmers and ranchers working the land must have “off farm/ranch” income in order to provide a sustainable living. Renewable energy delivers on all accounts. Agriculture producers are often affected by fluctuating market prices, which are sometimes below production cost. Therefore, farmers and ranchers would welcome the opportunity to have a steady income stream from electricity produced by wind. The footprint of a wind generator is very small; therefore, the land taken out of production is an insignificant loss of productive land.

The oil and gas industries have helped New Mexicans tremendously and will continue to do so, but let’s begin taking advantage of our other opportunities. Oil production is limited to the location of the reserves of oil as will development of wind projects be limited to the areas where there is the best wind resource. As several generations have benefited and will continue benefiting from our oil and gas resources, we can boost our economy utilizing our natural resources that we never have to worry about depleting, such as wind and solar energy.

We must be decisive to take full advantage of the untapped economic potential in using our renewable energy resources to diversify our economy. The good, stable jobs in renewable energy are rock-solid real and the revenues injected into our state economy are there for the taking. Lets act now to bring in out-of-state money and create jobs for our local citizens. It is far better to export electricity out of state than force our young people to go out of state to obtain employment.

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