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Air Force training route cuts possible wind turbine numbers

A blow has been struck against two wind farm projects in eastern Torrance County.

A military training route goes through the proposed wind farm area that is being built by AvanGrid Renewables for the Lucia and La Joya projects.

“While we appreciate the (state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn’s) strong support and acknowledgment of the tremendous economic development opportunities that occur when we build wind farms and his duty to maximize revenues for state lands, we are also respectful of the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration’s missions,” AvanGrid Renewables communications and brand director Art Sasse said. “We are going to continue to work with the DOD clearinghouse to help balance the protection of national security with responsible and reasonable siting for our turbines to benefit all parties.”

The military training route has displaced 61 of 114 planned wind turbine locations on state trust lands, a letter from AvanGrid Renewables director of business development Mark Stacy said.

“Based on the terms of our lease, and if those turbines would have been built, this would equate to a direct reduction in possible future payments to the state land office of approximately $650,000 per year (or about $25 million over the life of the project),” the letter states. “There was also an adverse impact on our ability to locate wind turbines on certain private land in the surrounding area, although not as significant as the impact to state public land.”

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson expressing concern with the decision.

“The Air Force’s use of a military training route known as IR-133 has displaced 61 of 114 planned turbine locations on state trust lands in Torrance County,” Dunn said in the letter. “As a result, New Mexico’s schools and other beneficiary institutions will lose out on roughly $25 million in lease revenue over the life of the AvanGrid lease. I believe the Air Force should compensate the trust for that loss of revenue.”

The affected project’s beneficiaries are New Mexico’s public schools and Carrie Tingley Hospital.

“We’re working our way through the issues and there will be no impact on existing PILT payments,” Sasse said.

The La Joya project is expected, once operational, to provide wind energy for the Facebook data center in Los Lunas in Valencia County.