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Wind energy still eludes gusty Eddy County

Wind turbines generating electricity are springing up in some parts of New Mexico and high on a mesa just a few miles across the New Mexico-Texas state line south of Carlsbad. But you won’t find them within Eddy County’s borders.

Eddy County is known for its high winds and some reason that wind turbines – also known as wind farms – could generate plenty of electricity. “I don’t know the finer science of how the locations are chosen, but companies that build wind farms generally like to install the turbines on high mesas and ridges and where they can tap into high voltage systems and local distribution systems,” said Wes Reeves, Xcel Energy media relations.

Xcel Energy, the utility company that services Carlsbad, recently was named the number one utility provider of wind energy in the United States, according to a newly released report from the American Wind Energy Association.

Reeves said this is the ninth consecutive year that Xcel Energy has led the nation in providing wind energy to its customers.

He said although Eddy County does not have a wind farm within its borders, its Xcel Energy customers still benefit from wind energy.

Reeves said neighboring Lea County Cooperative has a small wind farm and there is a large one in Elida, located in Roosevelt County.

Xcel Energy has inter-connect agreements throughout the Southwest to tap into renewable energy sources, he said.

“They are part of the Xcel system and flow into the same grid that provides power to Carlsbad,” he said. However, Reeves said while Carlsbad does not have wind farms, it is contributing to the use of renewable energy. A solar farm located in the 800 block of West Derrick Road went online in late 2011 and is generating electricity for Xcel. The facility, built and owned by SunEdison, is a 10.8 megawatt photovoltaic solar farm and has a generating capacity of 50 megawatts. “The solar farm in Carlsbad is not the largest built by SunEdison, but it’s fairly large for a solar farm,” Reese said. “The power from the solar farm also flows into the grid.” Reeves said the request for a rate increase filed by Xcel Energy last year with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission was to recover some of the extra cost incurred developing renewable energy in New Mexico. He said Xcel is committed to developing more renewable energy and noted that developing solar energy is more costly than wind energy. However, he said the cost is beginning to coming down.

The company says it has preserved its renewable energy leadership while maintaining customer electricity rates below the national level. Company officials say since implementing an advanced wind forecasting system in 2009, the company has saved customers about $22 million in fuel costs and set multiple records for the amount of wind energy on its system.

Reeves said Xcel’s ranking as a leader in wind energy was based on all the wind energy moving on the company’s system in its entire eight-state service area from Minnesota to New Mexico.