Xcel Energy has announced plans to invest $1.6 billion to build two wind farms in eastern New Mexico and West Texas over the next three years.
That includes a 522-megawatt facility in Roosevelt County, about 20 miles south of Portales. It will be, by far, New Mexico’s largest wind farm when it begins operating, generating enough power to supply about 194,000 homes per year.
Excel subsidiary Southwest Public Service Co. already operates the state’s biggest facility – the 250-megawatt Roosevelt Wind Project that came online in December 2015.
The company will also build a 478-megawatt farm in Hale County, Texas, just north of Lubbock, and it plans to purchase another 230 megawatts in wind energy under a long-term power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy resources. Taken together, the two new facilities and the agreement with NextEra will provide a total of 1.23 gigawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 440,000 average homes annually.
The wind projects will help lower the cost of Xcel’s energy, saving the company’s Texas and New Mexico customers about $2.8 billion over the next 30 years, said Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves.
“We’re doing it primarily because it’s the cheapest energy resource we can buy now, even lower than our coal generation,” Reeves told the Journal. “We can lock in a good price now to predict and know where that price will be for the future.”
Xcel serves about 385,000 customers in eastern New Mexico and West Texas through Southwest Public Service Co.
The company on Tuesday filed documents for approval of the projects with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
“We expect the approval process to take most of this year (and) to begin work on the projects in 2018,” Reeves said.
The New Mexico facility, called the Sagamore Wind Project, will cost about $865 million, providing about 300 construction jobs and 20 to 30 full-time positions once it begins operating in 2020. Chicago-based Invenergy LLC will build the wind farm for Xcel.
The sharp drop in costs for wind facilities, combined with federal production tax credits, are making wind energy a particularly attractive choice for utilities. Apart from the newly announced Sagamore Wind Project, another 1 gigawatt of wind generation is either planned or under construction now in New Mexico, including the 298-megawatt El Cabo Wind Farm, scheduled to begin operations near Moriarty this year. Wind farms in New Mexico currently produce about 1.1 gigawatts of electricity.