New Mexico Jumps into Wind Power Project

by William Yeatman on October 29, 2002

in Small business

Another Southwestern state is making a big splash in the renewable energy market. New Mexicos largest utility company, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), announced on October 22 that it will team up with Florida-based FPL Energy to build the nations third-largest wind generation facility.

The project, known as the New Mexico Wind Energy Center, will be located in Quay and De Baca counties 20 miles northeast of Fort Sumner. It will cost $200 million dollars and will include 136 wind turbines that will reach 240 feet into the sky. The turbines will be the tallest structures in the state and will sprawl across 9,600 acres.

It is estimated that the 204-MW plant will provide electricity for about 94,000 average-sized New Mexico homes, or about 4 percent of PNMs total power production. PNM readily admits, however, that wind is an intermittent energy source and that the project will not provide a steady source of electricity. In fact, the facility will operate mostly during the spring months when wind conditions are optimal, or about 30 percent of the time.

“The scale of this project will put New Mexico on the map as one of the nations leading producers of renewable energy,” said PNM Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Sterba. “As renewable technology continues to improve, and costs come down, it is clearer than ever that smart business decisions and environmental stewardship can successfully coexist. PNM is thrilled to play a role in making renewable energy an everyday reality in New Mexico.”

Despite Sterbas rosy outlook, the project will rely on a “green tariff,” a small monthly premium paid by participating customers, to cover its costs. It is still unknown how much the wind-generated electricity will cost New Mexicans. Charles Bensinger of the Coalition for Clean and Affordable Energy joined Sterba at the press conference to praise PNM and to encourage New Mexicans to participate in the project. “PNM has really challenged us to put our money where our mouth is,” said Bensinger. “We want to make that 200 megawatts go really fast.”

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