By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
Rep. Jose Campos thinks the winds of eastern New Mexico could fuel economic growth and the state’s energy options.
Windmills would be advantageous to farmers and ranchers, and 200 windmills already spin in Quay and De Baca counties, Campos said.
“Some (ranchers and farmers) are making more (money) on wind mills than on ranching,” he said. “This is helping people keep their land.”
A bill to establish a state renewable energy transmission authority, written by the Santa Rosa Democrat, will make its way through committees and may hit the house floor by the end of the week, he said.
The quasi-governmental agency would regulate 4,000 to 5,000 windmills, each generating one megawatt of power, Campos said, which is enough eletricity to supply roughly 1.5 million households annually.
A 120-turbine, $160-million wind farm north of Elida went on line in December.
Gov. Bill Richardson is also pushing for renewable energy expansion.
“We have an incredible opportunity in New Mexico to build a high-wage renewable energy industry. New Mexico has the potential to produce more than triple our energy needs in wind and solar energy. If we can export that energy to neighboring states, we can create good jobs — particularly in rural New Mexico,” Richardson said at his State of the State Address.
The New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority Campos proposes would oversee facilities that would generate electric transmission and storage, according to the Fiscal Impact Report.
Republican legislators agree steering away from oil dependency is the wise road to take in the future, and said they’d support such legislation.
“Oil and gas won’t last forever, we shouldn’t wait till we run out,” Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, said. “We have to start looking at alternatives as the population continues to grow. We have to look at alternatives to oil.”
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, hasn’t seen Campos’ bill, but she thinks the idea of renewable energy is a good one.
“I support anything that would add to renewable energy opportunities. There’s wind energy on our side of the state,” she said.
Campos thinks renewable energy could benefit the state through both internal use and inter-state sale, he said.
“We could create an opportunity to export energy. Capture wind and convert it to electricity, then send it to California and Colorado,” he said.
Campos introduced a similar bill last year, but it didn’t make it through committees and onto the floor, he said.
This year, Campos is more confident the bill will pass through the house and senate, he said.
“I envision windmills in Roosevelt, De Baca, Quay and Curry counties, and eventually all across the state,” Campos said.