Officials: Tres Amigas groundbreaking set for July

Benna Sayyed

Groundbreaking for the Tres Amigas superstation that will serve as the nation’s first renewable energy market hub is expected in July, according to Tres Amigas officials.

The new power facility to be built on 14,400 acres will be located northeast of Clovis, near the intersection of Hwy 209 and Curry County Rd. 31.

According to David C. Stidham, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Tres Amigas, 200 to 600 construction jobs will become available once the project takes off. These include personnel to build transmission lines, carpenters, technicians, electricians and concrete workers. Stidham said his company is looking to fill these positions in July.

According to Stidham, Tres Amigas will start filling 50 permanent positions for repairmen, electricians, linemen and substation workers in January 2013. He said other jobs will be generated from crane and automotive services provided to the site and to nearby wind farms being built.

“Right now if somebody were to build a wind farm in Clovis they would have one option to sell their power and that’s to Xcel Energy,” Stidham said.

“Once Tres Amigas is built, they’ll have the option of selling into the Western Electric Coordinating Council, to PNM, to Xcel, or to any of the municipalities or power authorities within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. We’re excited to come. Clovis has been very receptive and very business friendly and it’s wanting to grow and expand.”

Stidham said several companies are considering building large energy storage facilities and others are looking at building a fossil fuel plant to compliment wind generation.

He said his company has received pre-construction financing, is completing the design work and should be able to announce its contractor within three weeks. Stidham was unable to say how much revenue will be brought into the area after the facility opens but said a Western Electricity Coordinating Council independent study showed that the council would save $575 million per year once operation begins.

The powercenter will hold seven main buildings, three air and gas insulated substations, a voltage source converter, battery buildings to house the approximately 10 megawatts of batteries the company is considering installing, a maintenance warehouse and a parts warehouse.

There will also be a backup control center and a visitor center that will allow people to view the operation through a working model and screens displaying power exchanges inside the facility. Stidham said there will be tours of the facility once it opens and then tours on an as-needed basis.

“It’s not like a power plant. There aren’t any moving parts. It’s like looking inside a huge radio. It’s just electronic transistors that are converting the electricity,” Stidham said.

According to Stidham, phase one of the project will begin with 750 megawatt of transferred capability and build up to 5000 megawatt, the ultimate design for phase one.

“The facility is going to be like a space station. It is never going to be completed. We’re going to have phase one in service in early 2015 where it’s commercially operated. We’ll be under construction on phase two and maybe phase three by that time,” Stidham said.

Frank Barbera, director of reliability assurance for Tres Amigas, said Curry County residents should be aware that much more energy development will take place in the area as well as the development of many secondary businesses in support of the potential population boom.

According to Barbera, Tres Amigas is working with eastern New Mexico counties and cities on planning the primary facilities, prospective transmission routes and the construction of roads to support the facility.

“As we build up and become more involved in our operation they’ll see the development in the area occur. We have multiple phases going on. We’re committed to building it,” Barbera said.

“We’re very very happy with the cooperation that we’re getting from the county and Clovis and we feel that it’s going to be a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved.”

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