Officials: Parmer County wind farm to ‘complement’ Tres Amigas

Sharna Johnson

More than half of Parmer County — 275,000 acres — will be home to wind turbines under lease agreements signed by 350 landowners, according to a wind project developer.

And the project, named the Mariah Wind Project, is being coordinated to “complement” a power superstation planned in Curry County by Tres Amigas.

Jim Bob Swafford, CEO of Scandia Wind Southwest in Bovina, said the goal is to have a wind turbine on every quarter acre in Parmer, Sherman and Dallam counties in the Texas Panhandle.

The hope is that the energy generated by the turbines can pass through Tres Amigas and reach a much wider market than it would have been able to, he said.

“We want to provide electricity to the markets who need it,” he said. “(Tres Amigas) allows us to go to other markets that are not available to us (outside the Panhandle).”

The turbines, which will each produce three megawatts (enough to supply power to 775 to 900 houses annually) will be placed on the property of those who have signed leases with Scandia.

Swafford said the lease agreements in place will allow them to create a 5,000 megawatt wind farm, giving them enough to proceed in connecting to power grids.

Scandia has plans to connect to other lines within the Panhandle, but the opportunity to connect with Tres Amigas broadens the reach of the project dramatically, Swafford said.

And the timing couldn’t be better with both projects in line for 2013 operations.

“(Tres Amigas is being developed) almost simultaneously to our project here,” he said. “That is the ideal situation for the wind farm (and Tres Amigas) allows (the product) to go to other markets outside the panhandle.”

At a July 20 Curry County Commission meeting, a Tres Amigas representative told commissioners the project is on track and construction should begin in 2012.

Announced in October, officials have said the project will be placed on public trust land — located northeast of Clovis, south of Curry Road 19 and west of N.M. 108 — and will create the nation’s first renewable energy trading hub using the latest power grid technologies, including DC superconductor power cables, HVDC voltage source converters and energy storage systems.

The power station is expected to bring almost 14,000 jobs and $2.6 billion to the community over a six-year construction phase. They also say the completed project will provide a long-term benefit of 1,400 jobs and $130 million annually to local economies.

Swafford said the wind farm is also expected to have great economic impact on the Panhandle, with an estimated 40,000 jobs during construction and 3,000 permanent jobs in operation and maintenance.

The region is already bracing for growth, he said, with Bovina, Friona and others looking at the need for infrastructure, housing, and amenities to support it.

“It’s an exciting time,” Swafford said. “A lot of things have got to come together still to make it happen (but) we’re very positive about what Tres Amigas is doing.”

Farmers are seeing wind energy as a way to use their land to ensure financial security in the future while still farming the way they always have, he said.