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Work underway on El Cabo wind farm

Iberdrola Renewables began construction on the El Cabo wind farm last week. At 120,600 acres, the wind farm will be the largest in New Mexico. (Courtesy of Iberdrola Renewables)

Iberdrola Renewables began construction on the El Cabo wind farm last week. At 120,600 acres, the wind farm will be the largest in New Mexico. (Albuquerque Journal File)

Change is on the horizon in central Torrance County 12 miles northeast of Willard.

Almost three months after Pacific Wind Development LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, signed a lease agreement with the New Mexico State Land Office, the company began construction of the El Cabo wind farm. Iberdrola – a Spanish company with U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore. – was the only bidder in an auction for the 33,600 acres of land.

Karin Stangl, assistant commissioner of communication for the State Land Office, said over the life of the project Iberdrola will pay as much as $40 million in rent.

In addition to the site’s lease of public lands, El Cabo will encompass 87,000 acres of private property, making it the largest wind farm in New Mexico.

Mark Stacy, director of Iberdrola Renewables, said the company initiated construction in the second week of December to comply with the Dec. 31 deadline for the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit. The tax credit rewards wind energy companies with 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

Mark Stacy, left, shakes hands with State Land Office auctioneer Craig Johnson in September. (Courtesy Of Iberdrola Renewables)

Mark Stacy, left, shakes hands with State Land Office auctioneer Craig Johnson in September. (Courtesy Of Iberdrola Renewables)

“We’re beginning construction out at the El Cabo wind farm in order to meet the requirements for the production tax credit,” Stacy said. “However, we’re going slightly out of order due to various conflicting deadlines.”

He declined to comment about other deadlines the company is up against, saying it’s in the project’s best interests to keep information under wraps.

Stacy said that while the company plans to proceed with the wind farm and show continuous construction, a completion date remains uncertain.

“We’re aware that some of the conflicting deadlines we’re facing could cause us to delay or even stop the project sometime in the coming months,” Stacy added.

In early November, the Torrance County Commission approved use of Harral Ranch Road for El Cabo. County Manager Joy Ansley said the road will see extensive use and wear as Iberdrola moves forward with construction.

El Cabo is projected to eventually power 400,000 homes. Last September, the State Land Office touted the financial and environmental benefits of the wind farm.

“If built out to its full capacity, the development would reduce CO2 emissions by 2.6 million tons and save over 1.1 billion gallons of water annually compared to coal-driven electricity,” according to a press release. The project could be built in several phases over the next 10 years.

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