New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy
Wind Powering New Mexico: A Fact Sheet
Produced by the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy
Wind Power is Booming!
Wind energy is now the fastest growing electricity source in the World by percentage. Because wind is produced by the sun’s heating of Earth’s atmosphere, wind power is a truly renewable resource that will never be depleted. Wind energy has been used for centuries to propel ships, grind grain, and pump water. Nowadays, modern utility-scale wind turbines power over 5 million homes in the US alone, and are increasingly recognized as a valuable alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear generated electricity. Small turbines are now also in widespread use by many homeowners and farmers to help meet energy needs.
New Mexico has Enormous Wind Power Potential!
The developable wind power resource of the US, that is, what could be developed without incurring undue impacts to birds, noise, or visibility, is estimated to be between 2 to 10 times the entire electricity consumption of the US. The Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL) estimates that New Mexico could generate over 435 billion kilowatt hours per year of electricity from wind – nearly fourteen times the total amount of electricity the state generated in 1999. New Mexico’s resource is ranked twelfth in the nation. Idaho, which ranks thirteenth, has a resource only one sixth as large as New Mexico’s.
Won’t Wind Power Take Too Much Land?
The footprint of wind power is actually very small compared to both conventional energy sources and other land uses by society. For example, the area of land affected directly by the foundation of a single 1 megawatt wind turbine is only an area about 10 feet by 10 feet - much smaller than the footprint of a single house, yet that same turbine can permanently and completely power over 300 homes, displacing over 3000 tons of CO2 emissions every year. On the other hand, the same area of a coal strip mine can only power a single home for 3 years on average! Moreover, unlike coal mines, wind turbines can be easily integrated with agriculture, and the land they impact can be much more easily remediated if necessary, because the impacts are light and there are no impacts to aquifers.
Isn’t the Remote Location of Wind Resources a Barrier?
In addition to gross assessments, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has also made conservative estimates of New Mexico’s wind resource by measuring its potential only in areas that met stricter wind classifications and that were located within ten miles of existing transmission lines. Under these much more stringent criteria, NREL estimated New Mexico could generate over 116 billion kilowatt hours per year of electricity annually, which is still over three times the amount the state generated in 1999.
Don’t Wind Turbines Kill Birds?
There were some problems with bird kills at the first big US wind farm at Altamont Pass, CA. This problem has been practically eliminated by the re-engineering of wind turbines and better siting. If a wind farm site is not located in the natural migratory pattern of birds or where bird populations exist, this potential problem is avoided. Wind power development companies and utilities now research potential wind-farm sites for many months prior to construction to determine what possible impact the wind farm might have on bird populations.
|Cause||Amount (per year)|
|Glass Windows||100 - 900+ million|
|House Cats||100 million|
|Automobiles/Trucks||50 - 100 million|
|Transmission Lines||174 million|
|Wind Turbines (2.19/year * 26,000 turbines)2||58,000|
1What Kills Birds?, Curry Kerlinger, LLC.
2Avian Collisions with Wind Turbines: A Summary of Existing Studies and Comparisons to Other Sources of Avian Collision Mortality in the United States, Erickson, et. al., August, 2001.
How is Wind Power Potential Measured?
The potential to harness wind resources is measured by wind power classes, which range from class 1 (the lowest average wind speeds) to class 7 (the highest). The DOE Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency considers wind resources of class 4 and above to be suitable for utility scale power generation. New Mexico has vast land areas, mostly on the Eastern Plains and in mountainous areas with wind resources of class 4 or higher. The Energy Conservation and Management Division of the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department of the State of New Mexico has identified and studied many specific sites that are suitable for development, and made this information available to land owners, wind developers, and utilities.
Active Wind Power Development in the Region
Many utility-scale wind farms have already been developed in Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, and other states, and are performing extremely well. New Mexico also now enjoys some very significant projects. These projects demonstrate the tremendous potential for increased development of wind power in the Interior West. The following chart includes details of the major wind projects in the region:
|State||Megawatts Installed||Megawatts Under Construction|
Programs and Policy in place to promote wind power
There are a number of program and policy options available to states, public utilities commissions, and municipalities for promoting wind power.
Financial Incentives: These include income tax credits for both the capital cost of and the energy produced by wind power systems, and sales tax exemptions. New Mexico has versions of all three types: Corporate Income Tax credits for capital costs and production (1 cent/kwh), and sales tax exemption for purchase of wind equipment by Municipalities and Nonprofits
Investment & Awareness Programs: These include utility green pricing programs and municipal green power purchasing. New Mexico has three green pricing programs to date: The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) "Sky Blue" Program, for wind power from FPL Energy's 200MW facility near Fort Sumner, NM; Southwestern Public Service Company’s program, for its three 660kw turbines near Clovis, NM; and Kit Carson Electric’s green power program which sells Wyoming wind power in northern New Mexico.
Rules, Regulations & Policies: These include renewable portfolio standards (requiring utilities to include a certain percentage renewable power in their mix), net-metering (allowing utility buy-backs or credits for renewable electricity generated by a residence or business), public benefit funds (a small surcharge on utility bills that generates money for renewable energy projects).
More information on wind power: