Economic growth blowin’ in the wind

At the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce, we have a simple yet powerful mission: We work to build a sustainable community of local businesses that are environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible. Given these guiding principles, it should be no surprise that we support harvesting New Mexico’s abundant wind energy resources.

By any measure, our state needs economic development opportunities – we rank 38th in the country in GDP and 47th in unemployment. Wind energy is here to help!

Today, over 2,000 New Mexicans work in wind. Many of these jobs are wind technician positions, which are needed to operate and maintain the over 1,000 wind turbines – and counting – in our state. In fact, wind technician is America’s fastest-growing job according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and because New Mexico is among the country’s fastest growing wind states, these jobs are growing abundantly within our borders. Wind-tech jobs are well-paying positions located in rural communities, which means young people can find careers that let them support their families without having to leave home. Wind-tech careers are also technical jobs that don’t require a four-year degree – students can train for them at places like Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari.

Wind jobs aren’t just about wind techs, though. Construction companies, engineering firms and a host of other businesses are needed to bring a new wind farm online.

Wind projects also create meaningful economic development opportunities in our state’s rural communities. Every year, wind projects pay New Mexico landowners hosting turbines over $5 million in lease payments. That’s vital income for ranchers when drought hits or cattle prices fall. New Mexico’s wind projects pay $8.5 million in state and local taxes every year, and that number will only increase as we build more in the wind development pipeline. The Broadview project brought 324 MW and $1.5 billion in total economic benefits.

Because New Mexico is harvesting the wind, the struggle to attract businesses to our state is also getting a little easier. Facebook recently launched a billion-dollar expansion of its Los Lunas data center, driven partially by the ability to power the facility using New Mexico’s affordable, clean wind resources. Eventually, the data center will employ about 300 people, bringing new high-tech jobs to the state that didn’t previously exist.

We can continue creating jobs and opportunities across rural New Mexico. However, if we want to continue this progress, there’s still work to be done. We need to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from rural areas to the towns, cities and manufacturing hubs hungry for affordable power. Fortunately, transmission projects open up low-cost energy resources, which brings cheap power to consumers. Added transmission capacity also makes the entire electric grid more reliable and helps ensure the lights stay on for families and businesses. Two recent decisions by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) offer encouraging news for maximizing our renewable energy potential. The PRC recently opened the way for both the Clines Corners Wind Farm and the sale of the Western Spirit Transmission line to PNM. Approval of the Western Spirit Transmission line allows the construction to be done by Pattern Development in tandem with 1,000 MW of new wind capacity. Pattern has already constructed New Mexico’s largest wind facility and is doubling down on investment in the state. These actions by the PRC provide the opportunity for New Mexico to have an additional 1.4 gigawatts of installed clean renewable energy capacity, enough to power over 1,000,000 homes.

Building wind energy in our state empowers local businesses and brings economic opportunity while developing a sustainable, environmentally friendly energy source – exactly in line Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce’s mission statement. Here’s to more New Mexico wind!

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