A hot spot of wind hovers above Torrance County on a U.S. Department of Energy map available on the Internet promoting the department’s wind program.
It’s that free resource that is drawing interest from wind generating companies, said Arthur Faust, director of Torrance County Planning and Zoning.
On Feb. 13 the Torrance County Commission adopted a recommendation by the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission to grant a special use district permit to High Lonesome Wind Ranch with several provisions.
HLWR is responsible for construction and continued maintenance of an access road to the property or upgrades to the current county road.
The wind ranch, which will be ready to begin construction south of Willard in the spring, will become the first power-generating wind farm in the county.
“Wow! We are incredibly grateful and appreciative of all of the support from the county, village of Willard, town of Estancia, city of Moriarty, Moriarty Chamber of Commerce and so many residents,” said a smiling Amy LeGere, Foresight Wind Energy regional development manager after the commissioners unanimously adopted the recommendation.
HLWR is in final negotiations for a 30-year power sale agreement with a regional utility power buyer whose identity is currently confidential, said LeGere in an e-mail. The contract is to be completed this month, she said.
Energy generation from the wind ranch will be delivered to the electric grid via the Public Service Company of New Mexico transmission system, LeGere said.
Final engineering studies are being completed for upgrades to the transmission system, which will be financed by HLWR and which will enhance capacity and reliability in the county, LeGere said in the e-mail.
The county plans to work with HLWR to apply for industrial revenue bonds, County Manager Joy Ansley said.
An IRB is a tool for counties and cities in the state to attract economic development projects such as the wind ranch, Ruth Schifani, an attorney at Modrall Sperling in Albuquerque and bond counsel for HLWR, said in an e-mail.
The county begins the IRB process by issuing an ordinance and then a bond with the purchase price for the bond going to HLWR to help construct the project, Schifani said.
There is no financial risk incurred by the county in the IRB process, Schifani said.
“The taxpayers do not have to pay for this. Not at all,” Schifani said.
In fact, the county will receive a payment in lieu of tax, a PILT, that will be split between the county and the Estancia schools, Ansley said.
HLWR isn’t the only company looking at Torrance County for a wind farm.
Shell WindEnergy is the latest company to receive a conditional use permit and variance to erect two meteorological, or MET, towers assessing wind in the area from county Planning and Zoning Commission, on Feb. 12, Faust said.
Both UPC Wind Management and Invenergy Wind LLC already have MET towers in place, Faust said.
The county “just got a letter” from Berrendo Wind Energy, another company that has expressed interest in erecting a MET tower, Faust said.
About 20 people showed up at the village of Willard regular meeting on Feb. 11 to show their support.
“I’m hoping that (HLWR) will bring revenues to Willard,” said Sharon Hoyt, a Willard resident who came to the Torrance County Commission meeting also to show her support. “I think it’s going to be beautiful.”
By Laura Nesbitt
21 February 2008
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