Official: Upcoming projects may eliminate energy farm stumbling blocks

Thomas Garcia

The chairman of a local renewable energy landowner association said projects are under way that would eliminate the stumbling block for wind energy farms in eastern New Mexico — transferring the electricity to national markets.

Representatives for these projects spoke at the third annual Coalition of Renewable Energy Landowner Associations meeting Saturday in Tucumcari.

More than 70 landowners from Quay, Curry and Union County were in attendance.

CRELA is comprised of several wind power associations in eastern New Mexico, representing 2,000 ranchers on over two million acres of land.

CRELA Chairman Paul Stout said the group’s North and South Cluster projects would include 380 wind turbines, which have the potential to generate 570 megawatts of power while generating $150 million in pre-tax revenue annually.

“Not only will this benefit the landowners, it will produce 100 permanent jobs for the area,” Stout said.

Stout said the north cluster would be located south and southwest of Clayton in Union County. He said the south cluster would be north along the Frio Draw near Grady and Broadview.

“There have been new developments in transmission line and market availability since the footprints were first researched,” Stout said.

The Centennial West high voltage direct current transmission line will transmit 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy from New Mexico to California, according to Sarah Cottrell-Propst of Clean Line Energy Partners.

Cottrell-Propst said the project would have a lower land usage than other transmission line projects due to the smaller tower sizes and fewer converter relay stations.

“This project is estimated to cost $2.5 billion,” Cottrell-Propst said. “Along with funding for construction and land acquisition, and right of way negotiations we could see this project commercially operation by 2018.”

David C. Stidham, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Tres Amigas, said the project is still on track. The superstation will connect the nation’s three power grids.

Stidham said Tres Amigas will enable the buying, selling and physical delivery of electricity to multiple grids.

“There is such a high potential for the generation of revenue from renewable energy in our region,” Stidham said. “Though you can’t generate that revenue if you can’t export your product.”

Stidham said there have been instances in Texas where the wind turbine farms were idled because wind transmission lines were overloaded and there was no room on the grid for their energy.

Stidham said the lack of transmission lines and limitation of markets has delayed construction of wind and solar projects in the area.

“I think there will be additional wind and solar farms built in our region once construction begins on the superstation,” Stidham said.

Stidham said officials hope Tres Amigas will be commercially operational by the summer of 2015.