A wind farm in eastern New Mexico was expected to be built and in service by the end of next year.
Xcel Energy announced construction of the 522-megawatt Sagamore Wind Project in Roosevelt County near Portales will begin by the end of 2019 and will be finished by the fourth quarter of 2020.
When complete, the wind farm will generate enough electricity to power 194,000 homes annually.
The project was expected to cost about $900 million, employing up to 400 construction workers during construction and 20-30 fulltime permanent positions once the work is done and the wind farm is operational.
David Hudson, president of Xcel’s New Mexico and Texas operations said the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission received Xcel’s final development phase including grid and interconnection studies.
That was the last step, he said, before construction can start.
Hudson also touted the Sagamore project as New Mexico’s “single-largest” wind generating facility.
“Sagamore will pay for itself in the fuel cost savings it will generate by using one of the region’s most abundant resources – the wind – to drive its generators,” Hudson said.
“It will be among the cheapest generating resources on our system and will help us conserve precious groundwater and protect the environment while bringing an immense economic benefit to eastern New Mexico.”
The site of the wind farm covers 100,000 acres with foundations for 240 turbines.
Access roads and other preparations will also be built to support the infrastructure.
The project was designed in partnership with Chicago-based Invenergy, which developed Sagamore ahead of the 2017 agreement with Xcel.
Sagamore was the largest and final component of Xcel’s 1,230-megawatt expansion of wind energy in its Texas-New Mexico system.
Previously, the 478 million-megawatt Hale Wind Project was completed in June in Plainview, Texas, leading to fuel cost reductions for Texas and New Mexico customers, read a Wednesday news release.
Xcel also began purchasing 230 megawatts of wind energy in the region from two wind farms owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources.
While Xcel purchased wind energy assets for its customers for the past 20 years, the release read, Sagamore and Hale were the first the company directly built and owned.
The initiative to increase Xcel’s wind energy footprint was driven by both economic and environmental benefits, read the release, such as a reduction in water often used to cool steam-generating power plants in the deserts of the American Southwest.
“The decision to build Sagamore and Hale was based on the favorable economic and environmental benefits. Sagamore won’t use water in its production of emissions-free electricity,” the release read.
“Most area power generating facilities require water to cool the steam cycle, supplies of which are becoming increasingly difficult to procure on the semi-arid plains of eastern New Mexico and West Texas.”
The project was championed by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, as not only a push for renewable energy and environmental protections but an investment in local New Mexican communities.
Heinrich said the Sagamore project represents up to a $1 billion investment in eastern New Mexico, creating hundreds of local jobs and millions of dollars in funds for local schools.
In 2015, he led a bipartisan effort to extend a multi-year tax credit for wind farm production, intended to encourage companies to invest in wind energy in New Mexico.
“That unprecedented level of private sector investment and economic growth is what every new wind project can and will bring to rural communities throughout our state,” he said. “I will keep doing everything I can to meet New Mexico’s full potential as a wind energy powerhouse.
“If we make the right choices now, we will continue to attract billions of dollars of private investment to our state and create thousands of new careers in rural communities.”
Balderas said Xcel committed, via the project, to support local businesses across the state.
“The Sagamore project is a great step toward a better future for New Mexico, and it will also mean critical investment in local businesses and students who will lead the energy industry into the future,” he said.
“I am pleased with the commitment that Xcel made to my office and the State of New Mexico to truly invest in local businesses and to grow New Mexico’s workforce.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
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