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New Mexico continues growth in wind energy, industries embrace transition

Wind power continued to grow in New Mexico, signifying the industry’s potential in the state as more private companies began to shift to the renewable form of energy.

Pattern Energy announced on June 16 the acquisition of the Clines Corners wind power development project in Torrance and Guadalupe counties from Orion Renewable Energy Group in east-central New Mexico, that would support up to 1,000 megawatts of wind power on about 122,000 acres of private and state lands.

A megawatt is often estimated to produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

The southern portion of the development area, about 325 megawatts, was added to Pattern’s collection of wind projects known as the Western Spirit wind projects, comprising of more than 1,000 megawatts of wind energy to be built in New Mexico later this year.

That construction will occur alongside the Western Spirit Transmission line, which will transport electricity generated by turbines in the rural area of the development zone to urban markets in the Albuquerque metro area where it will be used.

The line was a joint venture between Pattern and the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority.

The rest of the Clines Corners acquisition could add another 650 megawatts to Pattern’s wind power portfolio, connecting to the SunZia transmission line, made up of two 500 megawatts lines traveling from Arizona, west into New Mexico.

The move increased Pattern’s wind energy investment to more than 4,000 megawatts in New Mexico, read a news release, for a total investment of more than $8 billion.

Mike Garland, chief executive officer of Pattern Energy said the California-based renewable energy company was increasing its investments in New Mexico to harness the state’s potential in wind power, and help improve its energy economy.

“Pattern Energy is expanding its commitment to New Mexico by increasing its investment in clean power, helping to build the state into a major renewable energy producer and benefiting New Mexico for generations,” he said. “As the leading wind company in New Mexico, we are proud to be helping position the state as a leader in wind energy.

“Western Spirit Wind and the Western Spirit Transmission Line will bring more than a thousand construction jobs to New Mexico this year and billions of dollars in economic benefit.”

In 2017, Pattern funded and built a transmission line for its 544 megawatt Wind facilities in Curry County in eastern New Mexico, and Garland said he hoped the Western Spirit project would replicate the past success, which saw a $1.6 billion economic benefit, the release read.

“We are proud of the $1.6 billion in economic benefit we brought to New Mexico over the past three years with Broadview and Grady Wind,” Garland said. “The Broadview and Grady Wind projects were the largest in the state’s history at 544 MW and we expect to far surpass that with our new Western Spirit Wind projects.”

On June 4, the New Mexico State Land Office approved five leases on State Trust Land for Western Spirit wind projects, with plans to build a 76 megawatt wind farm on 16,442 acres in Torrance and Lincoln counties.

Pattern paid the State Land Office $395,000 in up-front bids as a requirement of the public auction, and the Land Office estimated New Mexico public schools would gain about $16 million in revenue during the “life of the project.”

It could also help move the needle in New Mexico’s efforts to curb 100 percent of its carbon emissions by 2045, as prescribed in the Energy Transition Act that was signed into law last year.

“The recent oil crisis, brought on by a global oil price war and compounded by COVID-19, has only strengthened my dedication to helping New Mexico move away from our reliance on fossil fuels,” New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said.

“Our state wins, because we create high paying construction jobs, as well as long term jobs managing these sites…we win by making a dent in New Mexico’s carbon emissions, furthering the state’s efforts to be carbon neutral by 2045.”

In total, about nine active leases for wind projects exist on State Trust land, with a total capacity of 345 megawatts.

Another 19 lease applications were being processed, potentially generating another 1,835 megawatts of capacity.

Most leases are in the mountainous regions of central and eastern New Mexico, clustering in Torrance and Lincoln counties, but also spreading northeast into San Miguel, Harding and Union counties.

A recent study from the American Wind Energy Association touted the increasingly widespread use of wind energy among private companies, pointing to Facebook’s use of more than 200 megawatts of local wind energy to power its facility in Los Lunas.

But New Mexico’s increased wind power could also supply companies across the country, the study read, as major oil and gas companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell Energy North American were listed in the top 25 purchasers of wind energy with about 250 megawatts purchased each in 2018.

“As the pool of interested industries and companies continues to grow, New Mexico is well-positioned to capitalize on its abundant wind capacity and help supply some of the country’s top brands with the sustainable power supply they need for their business.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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©2020 the Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.)

Visit the Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.) at www.currentargus.com

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