Eastern New Mexico could become the Saudi Arabia of wind

Source: By Ariel Hansen, Yale Climate Connections • Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019

It could produce a huge amount of cheap electricity. But there’s a catch.

Wind turbines

Location, location, location. It’s a truism not only for real estate, but for wind farms, too. It makes sense to put them where wind is plentiful, but often that’s in rural areas, far from where the energy is needed.

Sarah Webster is with Pattern Energy, a company that’s building and operating wind farms in eastern New Mexico.

“It’s like the Saudi Arabia of wind,” she says. “You want to harness that because the better the wind, the cheaper the price of the wind.”

She says that price can be as little as 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. “That’s unbelievable. There’s no other electricity on the planet that’s able to do that,” she says.

But there’s a catch: the region’s wind resource is huge, but its demand for electricity is not. So Pattern Energy is also developing long-haul transmission lines. The goal is to carry clean renewable power from eastern New Mexico to the existing grid farther west.

“And that takes a tremendous amount of community engagement and regulatory engagement,” Webster says.

So it’s a long-term, challenging effort, but with a big up-side. The company expects wind power from the region to be cost-competitive even after transmission, and that means harnessing it could help get more clean energy on the grid.

Reporting credit: Ariel Hansen/ChavoBart Digital Media.