New Mexico wind projects move forward, advance states renewable agenda

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

Two wind energy projects in New Mexico moved forward last week as the state works to shift its reliance from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

In Roosevelt County, Xcel Energy’s Sagamore Wind Project broke ground on Dec. 16 to provide 522 megawatts (MW) of wind energy near Dora by the end of 2020.

The facility was intended to reduce costs for customers in both eastern New Mexico and West Texas, read an Xcel news release.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the Carlsbad Current-Argus.

“This is a historic investment for Roosevelt County, but its benefits reach far beyond,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel’s New Mexico and Texas operations. “We’ll see a significant economic boost to the New Mexico economy through increased jobs, royalty payments to landowners, and more revenue for county and school budgets.

“And for the next 25 years, Xcel Energy customers in both New Mexico and Texas will benefit from lower fuel costs since our fuel source is the free and abundant wind of eastern New Mexico.”

The company invested about $900 million to build 240 turbines which would generate enough power for about 194,000 homes each year.

More:Permian Basin electrical grid continues to grow amid oil and gas boom

When complete, it will be the largest wind energy plant in New Mexico, the release read.

The wind farm will have no additional fuel costs, Hudson said, and will not use water in operations which will also have zero emissions.

A map of Xcel's transmission lines completed or under construction

Construction of the facility will be headed by Wanzek Construction and employ about 400 workers from the areas.

Xcel expected to maintain 20 to 30 full-time permanent positions to support maintenance and operations once the facility goes into service.

Initial work on the 100,000 acres site will include construction of roads and preparations for the foundations to support the turbines.

More:New Mexico wind energy projects advance renewable power agenda

The Sagamore project was the last and largest in a series comprising Xcel’s 1,230-megawatt expansion of wind energy in the New Mexico-Texas system.

Sagamore joined the 478-megawatt Hale Wind Project near Plainview, Texas which was completed in June.

Xcel also purchased 230 megawatts of wind energy to supply to customers from two wind farms in the region owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources.

The project were intended to help Xcel reach its goals of an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and a 100 percent reduction by 2050.

More:New Mexico federal, state lawmakers continue push for renewable energy, pollution cuts

The goals were in response to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signing of the Energy Transition Act during the 2019 Legislative Session, calling for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.

When Hale and Sagamore are both complete, Xcel expected almost half of its electricity supply in Texas and New Mexico would be carbon-free by 2023.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

“The Energy Transition Act fundamentally changes the dynamic in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said at the signing of the bill. “This legislation is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans, who will benefit from both a cleaner environment and a more robust energy economy with exciting career and job opportunities.”

More:New Mexico Native American tribe building solar farms amid state's renewable transition

State Land Office approves wind project in northern New Mexico

In northeast New Mexico, PNE USA won a bid to develop a wind farm on 7,636 acres of State Trust land in Union and Colfax counties, read a State Land Office news release.

The area was designated as “primed” for wind energy generation, the release read, and the State Trust land portion was expected to generate about 31 megawatts from 11 turbines, enough to power about 6,200 homes.

The Gladstone Wind Project was also anticipated to generated about $8 million in state revenue during the lease.

More:Could New Mexico be carbon-free by 2045?

New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard commended the State’s Office of Renewable Energy for continuing to process renewable energy lease applications and increasing New Mexico’s “clean energy potential.”

“This year we have given the green light to three wind projects across the state, more than have been awarded in the last four years combined, doubling the future production of renewable energy on state trust land,” Garcia Richard said.

Stephanie Garcia Richard

“The Office of Renewable Energy is powering ahead to process all of the pending renewable energy applications in our office, intent on assuring the State Land Office maximizes our potential for clean energy.

“When these projects happen on state trust land, New Mexico public schools and other institutions benefit.”

More:Occidental Petroleum uses solar energy to power oil drilling in the Permian

Applications for the Gladstone Project were open to potential bidders for 10 weeks, and PNE’s was officially signed on Dec. 20, the release read.

PNE added an additional $110,000 bonus bid to their application.

“PNE Is pleased to partner with the NM State Land Office on the development of the Gladstone New Mexico Wind Farm,” said Chief Executive Officer Ron-Flax Davidson.

“When operational we expect the Gladstone Wind Farm to include an additional 8,000 acres of private land providing a total of nearly 80 MW of capacity and providing over $5 million in local tax and lease revenue.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.