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No need for the Verde line, and it’s not ‘green’

SANTA FE, N.M. — We demand that the Bureau of Land Management consider the “no build” option when preparing its Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Verde Transmission Line, a 345-kilovolt line between PNM’s Ojo substation at Chili in southern Rio Ariba County and its Norton substation on Old Buckman Road north of Santa Fe.

What follows makes the case for our demand.

First, it is stated in Hunt Power’s Verde proposal that:

“The Project is intended to complete a critical transmission loop in the Northern New Mexico transmission system. The Project will strengthen import and export capabilities system-wide, help relieve congestion, strengthen the reliability of the existing electrical system, and improve transmission access for local renewable and other energy sources.”

We claim that there is no proof that the existing electrical system is unreliable. The system runs quite well with only the existing 115kV line closing the loop. Hunt or PNM should provide a record of the outages that could have been avoided if the loop had been closed, including their location, date and duration. Further, they should provide, for each outage, a description of the action that would have been taken to mitigate it.

Additionally, Hunt never stated who the beneficiary of this additional transmission line is, nor how much extra power is needed and where. If a transmission line is proposed, the applicant should state and demonstrate its need. Essentially, the same transmission line was proposed by PNM in the 1990s and time proved that the line was not necessary.

What is the purpose of this line? This line is not for Albuquerque and five facts that we list here prove it:

• First fact: PNM just announced the cancellation of a $100 million upgrade at the San Juan Generating Station due to lower power demand.

• Second fact: PNM owns the Algodones generation station and this station has never been powered in the past 25 years. If there were a need for power in the Albuquerque area, this station would be in use.

• Third fact: PNM owns real estate and water rights in Algodones, enough to install a large 50-megawatt solar array system there, and this has never been done.

• Fourth fact: PMN upgraded the 115kV power line from Ojo to Norton, increasing its power capacity by 30 percent, 7-8 years ago. An additional 30 percent power capacity could be gained by rewiring the same line using a new kind of conductor wires.

• Fifth fact: Further energy demand in the Albuquerque area can be absorbed by the SunZia line in southern New Mexico and distributed generation (power that is generated at the point of consumption).

These facts all prove that the proposed Verde line is not necessary for northern New Mexico and should be considered when BLM prepares its Environmental Impact Statement for the Verde line.

The Verde line will transport energy out of state. Should we spoil our land so that a utility company and a private company can profit? This is a robbery!

We want to make another point.

This proposal has been named “Verde,” which in Spanish means “green.” We claim that this is just an attempt to ruse the public because there is no renewable generation station near the line and no proposal to build any. If new renewable plants or distributed generation stations were built for Albuquerque, they should be located near the load!

And 345kV and higher voltages are used to transfer energy over long distances, not for distributed generation plants.

The wind resources in New Mexico are located in the Southeast plains, where the Centennial West 500kV line is proposed and the approved SunZia 500kV line will be. So there is already a path to the west for wind energy and it is not through northern New Mexico. Will this project compete with the approved 500kV, 3,000-megawatt SunZia Transmission line? This is simply absurd.

Again, is this new line meant to transport energy out of state? Or is it meant to transport south the energy generated from coal in the Four Corners?

PNM just plans on benefitting from the tax credits and exemptions provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for operating a line “consistent with renewables.” And Hunt is claiming this line as a priority according to the same act and an Interior Department order promoting renewable energy.

Nothing is “Verde” about this line!

In addition to spoiling our land, our landscape and our historic heritage, damaging the habitat of our wildlife, affecting our health and devaluing our properties, the building of this line will set a new bar for easement and right-of-way costs. As an example, the price of San Ildefonso Pubelo’s right-of-way contract with the Jemez Mountain Electric Co-op increased 41 times in 34 years and the price in 2014 was $82,000 an acre.

Hunt Power must negotiate easements with several pueblos. Per federal regulations, the costs of the rights of way will be folded into the transmission costs, so Hunt doesn’t have an interest in keeping them low.

The next time Jemez Electric Co-op has to negotiate contracts, the Hunt agreement will be the baseline for calculating new ROW rates. This will be paid for by Jemez Electric Co-op customers of northern New Mexico.

In summary, we demand the BLM consider the NO BUILD OPTION for the Verde line, given that the need for the line has not been stated or demonstrated, nor shown in the context of the energy and distribution needs in the Southwest, and given the damage that this line will cause to northern New Mexico.

Furthermore, Hunt is trying to sell Verde as a line for renewable energies and this is FALSE!

Elena Guardincerri

Elena Guardincerri

Guardincerri is a Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who lives in Jacona. She wrote this piece for stopverdeprojectnm.org.

 

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