Reporting to Lincoln County commissioners earlier this month, the project development manager for Pattern Development, said she’s made a lot of progress with landowners on Pattern’s portion of the Sun Zia transmission line project this past month to develop anchor tenant agreements in Lincoln County and Torrance County.
“We’re getting the (Sun Zia Transmission Line) project pulled together and off the ground, Loralee Hunt said. Pattern, described in a company presentation as the leading independent wind, solar and transmission development company, is the anchor tenant for the transmission line that will run through a northern portion of the county.
Commissioner Dallas Draper said his support for the wind turbine project to deliver power to California doesn’t mean he has anything against the oil and gas industry, but he is loyal to county citizens who have told the commission they want the project. He asked Hunt if Pattern has address some negative points raised while he was appearing on a recent radio program, including noise from the turbines and destruction of birds and bats.
“I’m headed to a large landowner meeting” and they are excited about the project with North Corona and South Corona landowners’ associations working with each for a decade trying to bring wind development to their community and land, she said. “We’ve said this is a partnership and we will do this together,” Hunt said. “We obviously will have setbacks with roads, cattle pens (and other obstacles). We have exclusion areas where landowners don’t want the turbines to be, but so far, no one is not wanting to participate.”
The turbines are very tall and through programming, the noise is much lower than at a project near near Estancia, she said. Industry standards for environmental permits include bird and bat studies.
“Pattern has navigated those before and did for Broadview (another wind project yielding power to California),” she said. “When the time is right, we will comply. When we have the footprint done and are ready to go vertical, we will come to you (to follow the steps of the county ordinance).”
Pattern uses an experienced development team not only to develop wind projects, but to transfer them to a publicly-held arm of the corporation, she said. They basically do everything in-house, including testing and analysis, and use the latest technology. Pattern has a portfolio of 16 wind power projects in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Chile, bringing more than 4,500 megawatts of wind power to the market around the globe, according to her presentation. Pattern owns 24 percent of publicly traded energy.
“We spend lot of time doing community development, not only with Corona, but Lincoln County,” Hunt said. “We try to spend as much money locally as possible. I expect the first contract to be finalized Monday. We have a short period of time, because we are facing all of these deadline. In developing, we will keep (County Planning Director Curt Temple) informed every step of the way.”
To received maximum production tax incentives, the project consists of a 515-mile transmission line through New Mexico and Arizona must be producing power by Dec. 31, 2020.
Some of the work that must be accomplished to take full advantage of the production tax credit includes purchasing 2,000 megawatts of turbines for about $100 million, taking delivery and begin using the locations, she said. Pattern is buying the best technology on the market now, but company officials know by 2018, when construction begins, there will be advancements.
“The difficult part is having to use the turbines when we know they will be outdated and old technology when we start construction, so we’re starting initial construction right now,” Hunt said. They will work on access roads and dig 10 holes that will be able to accommodate varying sizes of turbines on the Handley Ranch, and five holes on each of the Perkins and Huey family ranches.
“Any size turbine can go into the holes, we won’t be bound by technology, but we have to use those locations,” she said.
“I’ve been working with them on a weekly basis,” Hunt said. “We’re focusing on private land and access and providing security fences. The Handleys have buffalo and the others have cattle. (Fences) will protect our equipment, people and animals.”
During the public forum portion of the commission meeting, a woman asked Hunt about turbines changing the direction of the wind and affecting the climate in places like California, essentially drying out the air.
Hunt replied that turbines don’t have the ability to change the direction of the wind, they just spin as it goes by and generate electricity
The woman expressed concern about selling New Mexico’s power and water to California as part of a “big picture” of impacting natural resources. She said she “hated the look” of the turbines, but understood they are going on private land.
Hunt said the project is designed to meet California’s mandate that 50 percent of its power must come from renewable sources by 2030.