August 17, 2010
New Mexico

Wind energy project could break ground in December

By Matt Robinson Headlight Staff, The Deming Headlight, 17 August 2010

Developers with the Macho Springs Wind Energy Project plan an early-December ground breaking, the project manager says.

John Knight, project manager with Element Power, the project’s parent company, says groundbreaking should take place the first week of December, with the construction expected to take about six to seven months.

“During that time, we’ll have 100 to 150 construction workers,” he explained. “It’s hard to know, at this point, how many of them will be local, but there definitely will be some local (workers).”

The company plans to build 28 wind turbines in Northeastern Luna County on the Nutt Grasslands. In a later phase, an additional 28 turbines are planned for Sierra County. While Luna County is not among the leaders in New Mexico in terms of the force of wind, it does have one unique feature that particularly caught the eye of developers.

“The traditional wind farms you see out in the east part of the state; it’s nighttime generation, which isn’t as valuable of a resource because nobody’s using electricity at night except to power your cell phone or whatever,” he explained. “This facility is daytime. As the valley floor heats up from the sun, all that hot air rises, and the cool air comes down from the mountains.”

Because it is difficult to store renewable energy, it needs to be produced at the same time as it is needed. For example, during peak usage hours, such as during the summer, additional sources of energy might be needed to make up for what more traditional production, such as coal-burning plants, cannot produce.

“While the resource isn’t as good as other areas, because there’s that daytime generation, the utility companies put a larger value on that,” he added.

The first phase of the facility, once completed, should generate about 50 megawatts, enough to run about 30,000 homes. The generators will be placed on about 1,950-acres, but only two to three percent of the land will be disturbed by the construction and generation, he said.

“Normally, we like to have 5,000 acres for a 50-megawatt facility, because that gives us room to move around if something like that happens,” he said, referring to “wake effects” that can take place if turbines are placed too closely. “In this case, we’ve tried working with local land owners, to little success at this point.”

The facility will be located near Highway 26 – which leads to Hatch – just past the transmission lines. He said the turbines should be visible from the highway.

“It does have an aesthetic impact,” he said. “We’re doing visual simulations, creating visual simulations, right now of the facility so people can see what it looks like.”

The developers have worked with environmental agencies to see what impact the turbines may have. In the coming weeks and months, further avian studies will be performed as well as cultural investigations to ensure historically-significant finds are not destroyed with the construction.

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