By Mona Blaber
Xcel Energy, the parent company of New Mexico utility Southwestern Public Service, announced on March 21 that it plans to spend $1.6 billion on 1.23 gigawatts of wind energy in New Mexico and West Texas.
The Sagamore Wind Project, to be built in Roosevelt County, about 20 miles south of Portales, would be by far the largest wind facility in the state at 522 megawatts. Xcel also plans a 478-MW plant near Lubbock, Texas.
The company said the New Mexico facility would create about 300 jobs. It will lease land from private ranches and other landowners.
“The Sagamore Wind Project will be the largest wind farm in the state, resulting in hundreds of clean-energy jobs in rural New Mexico and more affordable electric bills for consumers,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich. “This project and the jobs it will create in rural New Mexico are precisely why I worked so hard to pass the wind production tax credit.”
“We can shave $2.8 billion off the costs of generating electricity with more wind, and these savings will take a bite out of future increases. Put simply, wind energy is now the best deal as we move forward in securing energy resources for the future,” Xcel said in a statement.
Xcel said it wants to make wind 35% of its total energy mix by 2021. On the downside, Southwestern Public Service is proposing to charge its New Mexico solar customers a monthly backup fee, making it harder for these customers to pay off their investment and discouraging rooftop solar, which utilities often see as competition. The coalition Sierra Club belongs to is fighting that charge at the Public Regulation Commission.
Another large wind farm planned for New Mexico, the 298-MW El Cabo facility in Torrance County, recently resumed construction. Avangrid Renewables, which is building El Cabo, said it has put a number of local businesses to work and expects to make a $1.1 million payment in lieu of taxes to Torrance County this year. El Cabo will lease from local property owners and state trust land.
Featured image from Wendell at Flickr.