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Transmission network key to further wind farm development

Tucumcari area has a high wind energy potential.

One of the biggest constraints on wind energy’s growth in The United States is the capacity of the transmission grid to deliver wind energy to customers, said Commissioner Pat Lyons of the State Land Office.

New Mexico’s electric transmission grid has a critical need for expansion, Lyons told attendees at the Renew Energy Conference in Tucumcari on Thursday.

For example, there is a proposed route across the center of the state by U-P-C, a company planning a windfarm development on trust and private lands in Lincoln and Torrance counties.

U-P-C is looking at this route through Torrance, Lincoln, Socorro and Catron counties.

However, Lyons said, “We have received some opposition about this particular project. Nobody wants it in their backyard. But we have a number of applications for new wind energy development, but unless be can move the power these projects are futile.”
While trying to carve the path for a transmission line for this project, in the central part of the state, Lyons said almost a third of the landowners and ranchers sent protest letters.

Out of 58 letters sent out by the SLO, 17 letters of protest by landowners’ attorneys were returned recently, Lyons said.

Another project involving SLO, is the Sun-Zia project. It’s a proposed 500 kilo-volt, 350-mile long transmission line with strategic interconnections across New Mexico and Arizona.

It was conceived to transport wind, solar and geothermal energy to market.

Lyons said, it is a massive undertaking involving 10 states, 10 counties and 10 government entities, along with private landowners.
“So, this is a slow process,” Lyons said. “However, we have had discussions with this group concerning rights-of-ways, although they haven’t submitted an application yet.”

Of the 25 top wind energy producing states, New Mexico ranks eighth for existing wind power generation capacity. New Mexico ranks second in the nation for the number of wind turbines on trust lands.

New Mexico has wind resources consistent with utility-scale production, he said.

And Quay County ranks high within the state, Lyons said.

“The largest contiguous area of good-to-excellent resources is located near Tucumcari, near the Guadalupe Mountains in southern New Mexico, and in the northeastern part of the state near the Colorado and Oklahoma borders,” Lyons said.

“Right now,” Lyons said, “the Land Office is negotiating with seven companies that have expressed an interest in investing in the state’s wind energy generation portfolio.”

These applications equal an additional 400,760 acres of trust lands for wind farm development.

It’s important to develop those resources to stay competitive globally, Lyons said.

Projected increase in energy needs by 2020 and where that energy comes from is important to the standard of living in New Mexico, Lyons said.

By Chelle Delaney

Quay County Sun

5 April 2008