A vast sea of wind turbines is in the works for hundreds of thousands of acres near Corona and surrounding Lincoln, Guadalupe and Torrance counties that could more than double the wind power generation in New Mexico and provide enough electricity for every home in the state.
San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group is poised to develop some 3,000 megawatts of wind power in the Corona area, 113 miles south of Santa Fe. New Mexico has installed wind capacity of 1,952 MW, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Pattern Energy’s Western Spirit Wind project could catapult New Mexico into the top 10 wind-power-producing states from its perch at No. 16. With a relatively sparse population, New Mexico already ranks No. 8 among states with 19.4 percent of all energy produced in the state coming from wind power, the association reports.
At 3,000 MW, Western Spirit Wind could dwarf the nation’s largest windmill farm, the 1,548 MW Alta Wind Energy Center in Southern California’s Tehachapi Pass.
Western Spirit Wind puts New Mexico on the fast track to meet the goals of the New Mexico Energy Transition Act. The 2019 legislation calls for New Mexico’s electricity to be 50 percent renewable by 2030, with a goal of 100 percent by 2045.
“This will be the largest renewable energy development in the country,” said Louise Martinez, director of the Energy Conservation and Management Division within the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. “We have really worked hard to make sure [Pattern] worked in New Mexico.”
Power produced in New Mexico does not necessarily stay in New Mexico. Power purchase agreements can assign the power to faraway places. For example, some of the wind power from Pattern’s Broadview facility near Clovis is assigned to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
Martinez also noted the economic benefits of the Western Spirit project, which will create 1,000 construction jobs for the wind farm and two transmission lines transporting the power.
Pattern Energy for more than two years has pursued state approvals for the potential 2,200 MW wind project with 950 wind turbines on about 300,000 acres along some 30 miles of U.S. 54 in the Corona area. Pattern announced June 16 the acquisition of another 122,000 nearby acres from Orion Wind Power Resources, which had initial plans for 220 wind turbines to produce 600 MW out of a potential 1,000 MW for the site.
The 3,000 MW potential for Pattern Energy would produce enough electricity to power 1,095,000 homes in New Mexico, according to Public Service Company of New Mexico. New Mexico has 948,000 housing units, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In conjunction with the wind farms, Pattern is co-developer of the 165-mile Western Spirit Transmission Line to Albuquerque, and Pattern will supply power to the 520-mile SunZia Transmission Line to Phoenix via Las Cruces. Both transmission lines have yet to be built.
Pattern Energy already has the state’s largest wind power station with the three-facility, 544 MW Broadview/Grady stations in Curry County north of Clovis that became fully operational last year.
“We expect to far surpass that with our new Western Spirit Wind projects,” Pattern CEO Mike Garland said in a statement.
Western Spirit Wind started as the Corona Wind Project, but Pattern changed the name recently to distance itself from the coronavirus.
Pattern Energy expects to start construction on turbines for the first 1,050 MW later this year along with the Western Spirit Transmission Line, with both expected to be operational in 2021, spokesman Matt Dallas said.
Western Spirit Wind consists of three sites in the Corona region: Corona Wind, El Corazon and Clines Corners, the third site just acquired from Orion.
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