Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland traded in D.C. business attire for a hard hat, safety glasses and a climbing harness to scale the inside of a 250-foot tall wind turbine tower in Torrance County.
“Anyone who doesn’t want wind energy should come out here and see for themselves how sensible it is,” Haaland said after standing on top of the turbine. “This wind farm is not disrupting the land. It brings good jobs and lots of tax revenue to these communities.”
Haaland toured El Cabo Wind Plant near Encino on Tuesday as part of American Wind Week.
The Department of Energy reported that in 2017, wind contributed 14% of New Mexico’s electricity generation. American Wind Energy Association data shows that in 2018, wind grew to 18.7% of the state’s electricity generation. New Mexico is third in the nation for wind energy development – behind Texas and Wyoming – according to the AWEA second quarter report published earlier this month.
El Cabo plant, which started operations in early 2018 and is owned by Avangrid Renewables, is 142 turbines on state and private land.
The turbines sprawl over 50,000 remote acres in an area one plant worker described as “the windiest place I’ve ever been.”
Plant manager Cody Herring said the turbines are “smart machines” that adapt to changing weather and produce enough wind power for 90,000 homes.
The wind farm currently supplies power to California, according to Kevin Lynch, the managing director of external affairs for Avangrid Renewables. An upcoming second phase of El Cabo will supply wind power to Facebook’s new data center in Los Lunas.
“New Mexico has been very welcoming and enthusiastic toward wind energy,” Lynch said. “The governor has really stepped up the agenda for renewable energy, and PNM’s commitment as a utility to provide more carbon-free electricity is very admirable. The (president’s) administration is trying to develop energy of all types, and they should embrace wind and solar as part of that.”
Lynch said New Mexico and most of the West still lacks a connective transmission grid for wind power. He said companies like Avangrid try to be good environmental stewards when planning transmission lines, towers and wind farms in order to have a minimal impact on wildlife.
“We plan smart by monitoring patterns of migratory birds before we determine where our sites will be,” Lynch said. “We are also investing in better solutions to send birds and bats away from the turbines.”
Haaland thanked El Cabo wind farm workers for contributing to New Mexico’s renewable energy economy.
“I’m committed to helping our nation reduce its carbon output, and one way to do that is to support more renewable energy projects like this one,” the Democratic representative said. “We definitely need to make renewable energy like wind and solar more accessible to our low-income residents. Everyone should have the opportunity to help reduce our carbon emissions.”