Thursday, December 03, 2009
Transmission's the Issue
By Susan Montoya Bryan
The Associated Press
SANTA FE New Mexico has huge potential to produce electricity from renewable sources but a small window to develop transmission lines to deliver that power to customers, state lawmakers and industry officials said after reviewing a new report on the issue.
The state Renewable Energy Transmission Authority presented its first statewide transmission report to an interim legislative committee. It covers everything from existing transmission lines, barriers to building additional lines and hot spots for electricity generation using wind, solar radiation and geothermal sources.
“The issue is transmission. If we don't have any more transmission, there will be no more renewable projects in the state of New Mexico and that is critical for our future. It's a multibillion dollar opportunity,” said Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa.
The state will lose out to other states if it doesn't do something in the next three to four years, he said.
Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota already have established transmission authorities, and Colorado has prepared a renewable energy transmission report, said Jeremy Turner, RETA executive director. Neighboring Texas has been working for the last few years to identify its clean and renewable energy zones.
Greg Miller, the lead director of engineering and operations for Public Service Co. of New Mexico, the state's largest utility, said RETA's report goes a long way to spell out some of the barriers utilities and others have when it comes to transmission. Those include cumbersome federal procedures for connecting to the grid and a general lack of transmission lines for exporting electricity from New Mexico, he said.
“The existing transmission systems are fully utilized,” Miller said.
PNM officials said there's more than 10,000 megawatts of potential renewable energy electricity generation in the queue in New Mexico, far more than what PNM and other utilities would need to meet state standards. If power purchase agreements were signed and generation projects were developed, that power could be exported to meet needs in California and other states.
Sen. Tim Keller, the Albuquerque Democrat who requested the report, said the document is an important first step as New Mexico and the rest of the country determine how to best develop and transmit electricity generated from renewable sources.
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