Wind farms coming to southeast NM, Texas; Xcel supports governor's green energy agenda

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

One of New Mexico’s biggest energy providers is planning to complete two wind farms in southeast New Mexico and West Texas, as New Mexico’s newly-elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to roll out bills in the state legislature to support her green-energy agenda.

Xcel Energy’s plan for its entire eight-state territory – which has an office in Amarillo, with services for most of southeast New Mexico – is to be carbon-free by 2050.

In New Mexico, the company serves about 114,360 customers in most cities on the eastern side of the state.

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

To help with this plan, the company is expected to complete two wind farms: one in Roosevelt County, New Mexico and another just south of Plainview, Texas.

Construction hasn’t begun yet on the Sagamore Wind Project based in Roosevelt County, but Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves said the Hale Wind Project in Texas should be complete in June.

A photo of a wind farm owned by Xcel Energy in Plainview, Texas.

He said converting Xcel’s power grid to renewables was a goal of the company’s starting in 2017.

“Xcel was already working to reduce carbon emissions. Renewables are the main way to cut carbon emissions,” Reeves said. “We’ve been talking about this for quite a while.”

Sagamore was awaiting a logistical study on how to connect it to the power grid, Reeves said, but once the two projects are online they will produce 1,000 additional megawatts of clean energy to the regional grid.

More:New Mexico House bill seeks to expand renewable energy, oil town lawmakers oppose agenda

Reeves said the wind farms will produce electricity cheaper than Xcel’s coal or natural gas plants, as wind power requires no added fuel costs.

“These savings will be passed directly to our customers,” Reeves said. “This is good for our region in that we have the strongest wind resources in North America, and ample sunshine for solar development. These projects build tax base for our rural areas and create jobs as well.”

More renewable energy facilities in the area will help Xcel generate more power for its customers – both commercial and residential.

A photo of a wind farm owned by Xcel Energy in Plainview, Texas.

He said that added capacity could help support the booming oil and gas industry, which generated about $2 billion in surplus state revenue by the start of this year.

“The better we are able to move more power in and out of the region, the more we can generate,” Reeves said. “It provides more pathways to renewables.”

More:State Land Office: More transparency, higher royalties on New Mexico oil and gas

Aside from the economics, Reeves said it is important for utilities to begin the transition to green energy, during a time of technological advancements and shifting political tensions.

“It’s for all of the future generations,” Reeves said. “Carbon emissions have big impact on climate change. There are things we can do to make it better. This is just a great time to turn a corner and do something different.”

The Energy Transition Act and the future of NM's power

That "corner" could have been turned last week in Santa Fe. 

Lujan Grisham introduced Senate Bill 489 last week, also known as the Energy Transition Act which calls for a 100 percent reduction in carbon-based electricity sources in New Mexico by 2045.

Reeves said Xcel supports SB 489.

“It goes in line with what we’re doing,” he said. “This fits in nicely with Michelle Lujan Grisham. She’s calling on (renewables) to be stepped up.”

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The governor championed the bill as a chance for New Mexico to be a national leader in renewable energy, in a state traditionally dependent on extractive resources such as mining and oil and gas.

It also provides state funding to retrain workers at electricity facilities undergoing a transition to renewables and provide severance bonuses for those laid off during the shift.

More:U.S. Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt talks energy independence in Hobbs

“This robust package puts us in the driver’s seat, and I’m thrilled that so many New Mexico stakeholders are on board,” Lujan Grisham said after introducing the bill sponsored by State Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-26) and Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-17).

“The renewable and zero-carbon standards outlined in this bill are among the strongest in the country. The training provided for in this bill will deliver sustainable construction and development jobs across the state.”

More:Governor Lujan Grisham’s climate change order draws ire of oil and gas industry

Renewable energy is especially important in New Mexico, Reeves said as many industries such as agriculture can be drastically impacted by fluctuating temperatures and weather patterns such as drought.

“Climate plays a big role in our economy here,” Reeves said. “We’re still very (agricultural) ag-based. (Xcel) is committed to keeping all of that balanced.

“(The projects) will help the environment by putting less carbon in the air."

Xcel Energy's Loving substation is to be connected to another in Lubbock via a project hoped to be completed by 2021, July 26, 2018 in Loving.

Looking forward, Reeves said New Mexico will likely see addition solar power facilities being built in the coming years.

There are already some developments in Eddy and Lea counties – about 50 megawatts worth, he said, and a 140-megawatt system in Chaves County.

More:New Mexico senators' proposed bill could increase fines on oil and gas companies

Those show, Reeves said, that the area is ideal for large-scale developments.

“We think southeast New Mexico is prime for some more solar development,” he said. “You’re a major producer of oil and gas, but also the potential is there for renewables. It will be a good way to keep prices low and help build this oil and gas economy.

“They’re going to be a very big user.”

More news from Santa Fe:

NMED: Environment must be guarded during oil boom in Carlsbad area

NMDOT: US 285 is top priority, but funding is a problem

Bat brigade: Staffing problems plague State regulators in oil boom

What were Carlsbad's business leaders promised during their recent trip to Santa Fe?

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