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State leases land near Clayton for 500-megawatt wind project

The latest New Mexico wind farm will be located in Union County near Clayton on state trust and private land. It will be the eighth wind-energy project on state trust land, and State Land Commissioner Ray Powell expects several more to follow.

Triangle Gallegos was the sole bidder for the 500-megawatt wind project during an auction April 28, according to the State Land Office. The company is a joint venture of Triangle Cattle Co. and Gallegos Wind Farm, bought by Triangle Cattle in 2010. The wind turbines will go on 19,000 acres of state trust land and 31,000 acres of private ranch land.

Triangle Gallegos is owned by Glen Black, Coy Myrick and J.D. Myrick, who have cattle ranches in Texas and New Mexico, along with investments in several oil, financial and wind companies. The men also have interests in Lucky Corridor LLC, a company planning to build a 130-mile transmission line that will carry power from the wind farm through Springer and Taos.

State Land Office staff said it isn’t unusual to have only one bidder on large-scale wind and solar farms, since developers already have worked out leases to adjacent private land required to complete the projects.

Estimated payments from the project will be a little more than a million dollars a year over the 45-year life of the wind farm to state trust land beneficiaries, which include public schools, public universities, the New Mexico Military Institute and the state’s Behavioral Health Institute.

Powell said by the end of June, the State Land Office will have earned about $800 million over the fiscal year for beneficiaries and to pay for the agency’s budget. He said that was $140 million more than the prior year.

About 97.5 percent of the revenue is from royalties, leases and bonus payments from oil and gas leases. But Powell said the State Land Office is just starting to ramp up renewable-energy projects.

“The new technology of horizontal drilling and fracking opened up [oil and gas] areas,” Powell said. “It’s really given new life to these fields, and they are producing at higher levels than ever before. The question is how long production will continue. That’s why we’re working to expand the renewable-energy portfolio.

“This is the transition period where we optimize the nonrenewable-energy resources and move toward renewables,” Powell added.

The wind farms involving state trust land are expected to generate a total of about $120 million for beneficiaries over the life of the projects.

“The State Land Office now hosts the largest distributive and commercial solar arrays in the state, and soon state trust lands will host the largest wind farm,” Powell said. The distributive solar facility was built on an old land fill near Albuquerque and generates about one-fourth of the power used by Emcore, a company producing semiconductors for fiber optics and solar power.

The Triangle Gallegos project will have 285 wind turbines with the capacity to generate electricity for up to 200,000 homes. The State Land Office and the company said compared to generating the power with coal, the wind farm will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 1.3 million tons and save more than 550 million gallons of water annually. The company claims the Union County project, which will be built in two phases beginning in 2015, will create 400 construction jobs and 20 permanent full-time jobs.

It isn’t yet clear who will buy the power once the windmills are churning.

El Cabo Wind Farm, under construction in Torrence County, will have a 1-gigawatt generating capacity. The wind farm will be built in phases over the next decade by Iberdrola Renewables. The company claims the project will create 1,600 construction jobs and nearly 250 permanent jobs. The project is going in on 34,000 acres of state trust land.

The State Land Office also has four solar projects on state trust land leases with a capacity of 71 megawatts.

More projects are planned. The agency currently has an application for a 200-megawatt wind project on 30,300 acres of trust land. In addition, the agency is considering four applications for solar projects on 7,900 acres of trust land that would generate up to 600 megawatts of power.

The State Land Office manages 9 million surface acres and 13 million acres of mineral resources, including oil and gas. The elected state land commissioner serves four-year terms and oversees the office.