That vaguely described but definitely giant New Mexico wind farm possibility that we wrote about a few weeks ago is coming into sharper focus, with new action in the state suggesting it could become a reality. For one thing, the locals seems eager to see it built.
The Mountain View Telegraph reported this week that commissioners in Torrance County, where hundreds of turbines generating as much as 1 gigawatt of power might be sited, have backed a $450 million industrial bond issue intended to help Iberdrola Renewables build the wind farm.
In an era when we often hear shouts of “Not in my backyard!” when the wind industry rolls into town, the reception given Iberdrola in Torrance County, an hour or so southeast of Albuquerque, was pretty remarkable. The commissioners passed a resolution endorsing the bond issue, and did so with apparent enthusiasm:
Commissioner Lonnie Freyburger said he “happily” moved to approve a resolution for the bond. “I welcome you with open arms,” he told Mark Stacy, the director of development for Iberdrola, and an attorney representing the company, Daniel Alsup of Albuquerque’s Modrall Sperling.
In our previous story, we reported that the state of New Mexico would hold a lease auction in September for 33,600 acres for the wind farm. But it turns out that’s just the state-land portion for the envisioned project. According to the Telegraph article, there’s also 87,000 acres in private land leases that Iberdrola would use to build the project.
That’s a big patch of land; it makes you wonder how long it will be before this project faces scrutiny for its potential environmental impact. Certainly the high plains of New Mexico aren’t invulnerable to the impacts of large-scale power development, even when it’s in a needed emissions-free form.
Another question would be transmission: The Albuquerque Journal had an interesting story last year that included this assessment of the state’s ability to bring new renewables online:
“New Mexico has substantial ability to develop and produce renewable energy, but the local market is small, and we need transmission lines to get that electricity to markets in other states that need it,” said Jeremy Turner, executive director of New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Transmission Authority. “It’s a real bottleneck.”
But assuming everything lines up, it looks like the way this project will unfold is that Iberdrola will do a first phase of construction consisting of 149 turbines with 300 MW of capacity. Several additional phases would then push the total upward, perhaps to 1.2 GW.
How would that rank as far as big wind farms goes? High. Maybe even right at the top of the heap globally.
“Biggest wind farms” can be difficult to rank; it often depends on whether units in close proximately are lumped together as a single entity.
This discussion came up when the Shepherds Flat wind farm opened up in Oregon last year. At 845-MW, some people called it the biggest in the world, but the developers (and the U.S. Department of Energy) used the phrase “one of the world’s biggest wind farms,” apparently not interested in picking a fight with the Alta Wind Energy Center in California, which checks in at 1,020 MW (and growing).
Alta has several units, and some people apparently don’t want to add them all together and call it the biggest wind farm, and instead give that title to Shepherds Flat. But Shepherds Flat itself is made up of three units was built in three blocks, too. Meanwhile, the Jaisalmer Wind Park in India reportedly reached 1,064 MW in April 2012.