Xcel Energy finishes installing 240 wind turbines in SE New Mexico

New Mexico News

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PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) – After more than a year of construction with much of it during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of New Mexico’s largest renewable energy projects is finished. Xcel Energy the last of its 240 wind turbines near Portales and Dora has been commissioned and the project is nearly to start generating electricity.

The utility celebrated the installation milestone alongside New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Senator Martin Heinrich in a virtual ceremony Wednesday. At full capacity, Xcel’s 240 turbines will be able to generate power for nearly 200-thousand homes in New Mexico and Texas. The project is expected to be “live,” generating electricity by December 31, 2020.

“We do have very high aspirations for this wind farm,” said Sagamore and Xcel Project Manager Brian Hudson. “Based on our initial studies it should be one of the most efficient wind farms in the area, so (we) definitely have very high expectations over the first year.”

The massive wind turbines stand 460 feet tall from their base to blade tip, placed across 156-square miles of private land between Portales and Dora. Xcel Energy has been working on building the project since fall 2019. The utility also built a 14-mile transmission line and two collector substations for the project.

“Over the next couple of weeks before the end of the year, we will be finishing up some of our park wide testing that we have to do with some of the balancing authorities that regulate us,” Hudson said. “The first three months (of 2021) should be … just getting everything up to speed and running efficiently, but by March or April, we’ll be definitely in full swing and should see this thing really perform well.”

Utility officials said Wednesday the project hit several hang-ups during construction because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the equipment used in the project was being made in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of COVID-19 where several turbine-related factories were shutdown.

Xcel says crews still managed to finish the project on time. In the process, the Sagamore project generated 500 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs to maintain the turbines. The project is expected to be operational for at least 25 years, but will likely remain operational for longer.

Xcel says it wants to do more wind projects, but it also has its eyes on solar. Today, Xcel buys solar power from a solar farm near Roswell.

“(Sagamore) is a very sizeable project, we will be looking at other opportunities in the future,” said David Hudson, Xcel Energy’s President. “I think New Mexico is ripe for future photo voltaic solar on a large scale.”

The Sagamore wind project cost Xcel 900 million dollars, according to the utility. New Mexico will get around 150 million dollars in gross receipts and property taxes from the project over the next 25 years.

The project also crosses a lot of private property that Xcel doesn’t own. 175 land owners will earn royalties from leasing the New Mexico land to Xcel for those turbines. Those leases are worth a total of $89 million dollars in payouts over the next 25-years. According to Xcel, of the entire 100,000-square acre project site the wind turbines cover, 98% of it will remain available for agricultural use.

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