Double down on renewables to diversify NM's economy - Albuquerque Journal

Double down on renewables to diversify NM’s economy

PHOTO COURTESY PNM
PNM’s solar generating array outside of Santa Fe. The solar array in Sandoval County will deliver renewable electricity to Facebook’s data center in Los Lunas.

Across the nation, renewable energy development is booming. The U.S. Department of Energy reports renewables comprise the majority of new power sources brought online in 2021, and wind and solar technicians are two of the fastest growing jobs in the country. Why does this matter for New Mexicans? Thanks to our abundant wind and solar resources and our connection to the expansive Western Interconnection electric grid, we can support renewable energy production right here in our state, and even export surplus renewable energy elsewhere. New Mexico has vast renewable solar and wind resources just waiting to be leveraged to help New Mexico diversify its economy.

In our counties, Sandoval and Valencia, we know firsthand the importance of economic diversification for our rural communities. We have also seen how tapping into our renewable energy resources offers incredible opportunities for economic development. As rural communities around the country struggle with shrinking populations and correspondingly shrinking budgets, renewable energy offers hope as a way to attract businesses that may otherwise look elsewhere and bring in jobs that offer people a good living wage while staying in the community they know and love.

Fortunately, we have recent experience with connecting the dots across New Mexico to bring new businesses to New Mexico by touting our renewable resources: Facebook.

Thus far Facebook’s project in Los Lunas has:

n Driven over $1 billion in investments in its six-building facility.

• Led to the development of renewable energy projects in six New Mexico counties considered economically distressed areas. Those projects resulted in nearly 1,000 jobs related to project development, increased GDP in New Mexico by $140 million, and will continue to add over $8 million in GDP once complete, including the induced benefits from new businesses serving those projects.

• The construction of the six data center buildings has resulted in an average of 1,100 construction workers on site daily during peak construction, providing jobs to New Mexicans. The six data center buildings will support more than 300 jobs once complete.

And the benefits to New Mexico’s economy don’t stop there. Facebook’s commitment to powering its operations with renewable energy, coupled with New Mexico’s low cost of renewable energy, have encouraged Facebook to potentially expand operations in New Mexico. Right now, PNM is seeking approval to procure energy from two new solar farms built in, you guessed it, Valencia and Sandoval counties. Those projects are estimated to result in $275 million in direct investment and 450 construction and full-time jobs.

If Facebook expands, it is estimated the expansion will add $800 million in additional investment, support hundreds of construction jobs during the two-year build-out and support up to 30 direct full-time employees following completion. It’s estimated that for every $1 million spent by Facebook on data center operating expenditures, 18 jobs are supported elsewhere in the economy including the induced benefits from new businesses serving those who work at the data centers, those servicing housing for those working there, and more.

With the interconnectedness of our electric grid, power from New Mexico can be transported all across the West, opening us up to new markets and new economic opportunity. However, we face some steep competition – other states with excellent renewable energy resources can also take advantage of this interconnectedness. This is part of why it’s so important to maintain New Mexico’s renewable sector-friendly atmosphere. We have built a reputation of leading in wind and solar energy, which has helped us to attract more projects to our state, bringing jobs and economic opportunity to New Mexicans.

New Mexico came together to work with Facebook and build a brand new business in New Mexico. Let’s help them, and hundreds of other companies who are committed to 100% renewable energy, locate, expand and stay here.

 


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