Wind Power Breathes Life Into Drought Region

New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson and executives of FPL Energy and Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) were joined by hundreds of business, environmental and community leaders in the recent dedication of the New Mexico Wind Energy Center, the world’s third largest wind generation facility. The wind center is located near House, New Mexico, which is home to 69 people.

House, New Mexico – October 3, 2003 [] The wind center captures eastern New Mexico’s brisk winds to produce up to 204 MW of electricity, or enough to supply 94,000 average-sized homes. Unlike most power plants, it uses no water for energy production, which is an important feature in a drought-stricken state. The most significant use of fresh water in the world is for cooling thermal power plants. FPL Energy, a subsidiary of FPL Group, owns and operates the wind center; and PNM, a subsidiary of PNM Resources, purchases all of its output. “I want our state to be a national leader when it comes to wind and solar energy,” said Governor Richardson. “The New Mexico Wind Energy Center is a great first step toward fulfilling my goal to have 10 percent of New Mexico’s energy come from renewable sources by 2010.” The wind center is located 20 miles northeast of Fort Sumner. The turbines sit atop towers 210 feet tall and are powered by blades more than 110 feet in length. “The New Mexico Wind Energy Center is a prime example of a great project put together by a terrific team,” said Jim Robo, president of FPL Energy. “Through hard work, dedication and teamwork, we have put together a project of which we can all be proud. We appreciate the support we have received in the area for our company and this project and are grateful for the commitment by our partners to wind energy.” The new facility will allow PNM, the state’s largest electric and gas utility, to begin offering renewable energy to its 385,000 electric customers for the first time. “With this facility now operational, we have crossed a threshold from worthy goal to new reality in New Mexico,” said Jeff Sterba, PNM chairman, president and CEO. “This is a living symbol of what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors work together to achieve sustainable economic prosperity.” Albuquerque lawyer Suedeen Kelly, a White House nominee to fill a vacant position on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), became the first PNM residential customer to subscribe to PNM Sky Blue, PNM’s voluntary renewable program. Kelly was a commissioner on and chair of the state Public Service Commission, a predecessor organization to the state’s current Public Regulation Commission, and currently practices law with Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris & Sisk, P.A., a New Mexico-based law firm. Many ranchers and environmentalists in the area have expressed support for the wind center, which is expected to generate a local economic impact of more than $40 million during the next 25 years through lease payments, salaries and payments to local school districts in lieu of taxes. “This has been a wonderful shot in the arm for the community,” said Renee Carter, whose cattle ranch plays host to six of the center’s 136 wind turbines. “The droughts have really hurt the local ranchers and farmers, and this has given us a viable option to keep our homes and ranches. Agriculture is our bedrock business. Now the locals are able to hang on, in spite of the drought, and to look to the future.” The Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy (CCAE), New Mexico’s largest energy-oriented consumer interest and environmental group, hails the new wind farm as a major step forward for New Mexico. “This very serious wind power facility will displace half a million tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and the main cause of global warming, use no water to do so, and will bring great benefits to our rural communities,” said Ben Luce, CCAE chair. “We strongly encourage New Mexicans to support this project, and thereby help us expand renewable energy generation even further in New Mexico.”
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