Largest wind farm in New Mexico begins producing electrical energy

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This undated image provided by Xcel Energy shows some of the turbines that make up the Sagamore Wind Project near Portales, New Mexico. (Xcel Energy via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Work on a huge wind farm in eastern New Mexico will move closer to its goal of being carbon-free by 2050 and cementing the western state’s position on renewable generation, according to Xcel Energy officials on Wednesday .

The 240 turbines that make up the Sagamore Wind Project near the New Mexico-Texas border will go online later this month after final testing.

The $ 900 million project covers 405 square kilometers and will be able to produce enough electricity for nearly 194,000 homes. At 522 megawatts, it is the largest wind farm ever built in New Mexico, the second largest in Xcel’s eight-state system, and one of the largest connected to the grid that supplies the central United States.

Xcel CEO and Chairman Ben Fowke said during a virtual celebration that Sagamore will be a key element if the Minnesota-based utility achieves its clean energy goals. Aside from the 2050 benchmark, the utility aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2030.

“We’re on the right track and expect wind and sun to cover more than half of the energy needs of New Mexico and Texas by 2024. We’re happy about it, ”he said.

Xcel officials said the new wind farm will result in lower costs for customers and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in lease payments to landowners and tax revenue to the state and local governments over the next 25 years. This includes property taxes of $ 101 million and gross income taxes of $ 44 million.

According to utilities, Sagamore has capped a three-year effort to increase regional wind power capacity by 1,250 megawatts. Most of it was built and owned by Xcel, including the Hale Wind project north of Lubbock, Texas. The utility company has also signed power purchase agreements with other wind farms in the region.

While there aren’t any immediate plans, Xcel hinted that the next foray into renewable energy will likely involve solar power. Company employees said New Mexico was ripe for large-scale photovoltaic development.

New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said that in addition to economic benefits, Sagamore is another step forward as the state plans to shift power generation from coal and natural gas to wind, solar and battery storage in the coming decades. A landmark energy bill endorsed by the Democratic first-term governor calls for utilities to be carbon-free by 2045.

Xcel officials said this transition is being considered and recognized the economic ramifications for communities if coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel plants are closed.

David Hudson, president of Xcel in New Mexico and Texas, said it will be some time before the world can separate itself from fossil fuels. He noted that natural gas is still needed to back up renewable sources like wind, which can occur intermittently, and that electric vehicles have limits that make them less practical in rural areas, for example.

Utility executives also pointed to the need for better transmission infrastructure and favorable taxation policies, saying both would help fuel future investments in renewable energy development.