Pattern Energy completes New Mexico wind project

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A California-based renewable energy company says work is complete on four wind farms in New Mexico that total more than a gigawatt of capacity.

Pattern Energy officials announced Thursday that the Western Spirit Wind project has started commercial operations. The company had billed it as the largest single-phase construction of renewable power in the U.S.

The wind farms span three counties in central New Mexico and while electric consumption varies by state and the size of homes, company officials have that Western Spirit’s generating capacity can provide enough electricity to meet the needs of about 365,000 homes.

Power purchase agreements already are in place to serve several California utilities, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the city of San Jose. Some of the electricity will also serve customers in New Mexico.

Western Spirit is projected to provide nearly $3 million per year in new property tax revenues for Guadalupe, Lincoln and Torrance counties and the two school districts that encompass the area over the next 25 years. Pattern Energy also plans $6 billion in wind energy and related infrastructure projects in New Mexico over the next decade that will net more tax revenues.

Pattern CEO Mike Garland said in a statement that the Western Spirit project generated over 1,100 construction jobs during the 15 months that work was underway. More than 50 workers will operate and maintain the wind facilities going forward.

“Western Spirit Wind is a groundbreaking mega-project that demonstrates large-scale renewables can be developed and built in the United States,” Garland said. “These projects create significant job opportunities and local economic investments.”

The transmission line that connects the Western Spirit wind farms took much longer to build than installing the wind turbines. It was about 11 years before all the federal, state and local permits were in place, and officials have said that streamlining the process for transmission approval will be key to ramping up renewable energy development in remote areas like eastern and central New Mexico as more utilities face zero-carbon emissions mandates.

In New Mexico, investor-owned utilities have to be carbon-free by 2045.