Blowing in the wind

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

West Texas might be right on the heels of eastern New Mexico in expanding its economic base with wind farms and biodiesel plants.

Energy companies have expressed interest in building wind farms in Parmer and Bailey counties, according to local economic development officials. Bailey County has also been named as a potential site for an ethanol plant.

Roosevelt and De Baca counties are already home to large wind farms while ConAgra recently announced plans to build an ethanol plant west of Clovis starting in October 2007.

Bovina City Manager Ernest Terry said the city funded a wind study and made inquiries of area farmers in an effort to make 3,000 acres of land available for windmills.

“Free money — they’re all for it,” Bovina Mayor Ernest Terry said of local farmers’ interest in having modern windmills dot their land.

While declining to specify which companies were interested in Bovina, Terry estimated landowners where windmills conceivably could be built stand to gain approximately $5,000 a year as a royalty payment.

“You can put it on your property and still have access to your property,” Terry said.

The day that windmills around Bovina becomes a reality is likely a couple of years away.

“We are currently collecting wind data so we’ll be in the position to be able to have wind farms in the next couple of years,” said Terry, adding measurements from the first month of the study show the average speed is around 16 miles per hour.

“Anything over 10 is supposed to be good,” he added.

Muleshoe Director of Economic Development Janet Claborn said a windmill firm has also been in contact with her town about similar development.

“They are interested in some acreage south of town,” said Claborn, who also declined to specify the company. “That’s just the first step. There’s still lots of hurdles to go through before we can get there.”

Claborn also said discussions are ongoing with a biodiesel firm.

“We’re working with a company and we’re hoping that this area will prove to be beneficial to them if they’re still interested in us in the future,” Claborn said.
Claborn said an economic incentive through the Texas Department of Agriculture may be a major boon to development of this industry. The state is offering a production incentive that would give companies 20 cents per gallon for the first 18 million gallons of ethanol produced per year — for the first 10 years.

“I heard there’s (an ethanol plant) on the drawing board in Levelland and Plainview — and the announcement has already been made in Hereford,” Claborn said. “I think this is something that’s going to fit well with this part of the country.”