Xcel Energy got unanimous approval Wednesday from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission for plans to build what would be the largest wind farm in the state.
The company says the Sagamore Wind Project on 100,000 acres about 20 miles south of Portales and a second massive wind farm on the Texas side of the state line will produce enough wind energy to power about 360,000 homes in Eastern New Mexico and Texas.
An Xcel news release said the Minnesota-based company expects the Texas Public Utility Commission to give its approval to the proposal next month.
“This is a historic day for customers of Xcel Energy in New Mexico and Texas,” David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy for New Mexico and Texas, said in the statement. “These wind facilities will power the regional economy with energy from our abundant, fuel-free wind resource and save customers hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs for decades to come.”
In addition to the 522-megawatt Sagamore Wind Project, Xcel’s plans include a 478-megawatt Hale Wind Project planned near Plainview, Texas, as well as purchasing wind power from two Texas facilities. Xcel would build and own the Sagamore and Hale facilities, which would cost about $1.6 billion.
Wednesday’s unanimous vote was applauded by a renewable energy advocacy group.
Dave Effross, senior energy policy advisor for Western Resource Advocates, called the approval “a win for New Mexicans, their clean air, public health, and consumer’s electric bills.”
The company says average households getting their electricity from Xcel should see a drop of about $2 a month in fuel costs beginning in 2021 after both wind facilities are operational.
A news release from Western Resource Advocates said the wind project is expected to result in an annual reduction of more than 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions – a major contributor to greenhouse gas causing climate change. “In addition, the project will avoid 3 million pounds of nitrogen oxides and 6 million pounds of sulfur dioxide emissions per year – both harmful air pollutants detrimental to public health,” the statement said.
Also praising the commission’s decision was U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a former oil man from Hobbs who is the Republican Party’s candidate for governor this year.
“I have always believed that New Mexico should be the nation’s leader in energy development, which can only be accomplished by moving our state to an ‘all-the-above’ energy approach,” he said. “With this, states like New Mexico will contribute more to the responsible production and development of energy resources, generating more money for our schools, teachers, roads, and other essential services that our communities rely on.”
Late last year, Pearce sent the PRC a letter of support for the proposal by Xcel, which provides electricity for much of Eastern New Mexico.
Xcel estimates that the Sagamore project, powered by 250 turbines, will produce $43 million in gross receipts tax revenue for the state.
According to the company, the Xcel-owned facilities will “create approximately 600 construction jobs and 40-50 full-time positions, and generate $154 million in additional revenue for state and local governments and school districts.”
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