County farmers proposing wind farm

MCT photo A group of Curry County farmers have formed a company in hopes of attracting investors for a proposed wind farm.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Hoyt Pattison has been raising wheat, milo and pastured grass on his land in Curry County for more than a half century. Now he and more than a dozen other farmers hope to harvest a relatively new and potentially lucrative crop in eastern New Mexico — the wind.

Pattison said he is the president of Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, a limited liability company composed of 15 farmers who hope to build a wind farm of about 67 towering wind turbines on 9,800 acres of land between Running Water Draw and Frio Draw.

The proposed farm would generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes a year based on figures from the Web site for the American Wind Energy Association.

Pattison said the farmers are looking for a developer to fund the project.

“We who have grown up here, know the wind blows,” he said. “Interest in alternative energy throughout the country (has grown) and there are large corporations that are interested in investing in wind farms and building them, so we figured that we needed to get in on that trend.”

But the lack of infrastructure is a problem for potential wind farms in eastern New Mexico.

Pattison said his company will try to sell the electricity generated to power grids on the East or West coasts.

Pattison said the three-megawatt wind turbines would cost between $3 million to $4 million.

“It’s a real capital intensive process. But the production tax credit and the depreciation in investment tax credits and various other incentives make it worth while for large money interests to get involved,” he said.

New Mexico ranked number one in the United States in 2006 in wind generated electricity sales, according to New Mexico Energy Conservation & Management Division Energy Bureau Chief Brian Johnson.

The state generates about 497 megawatts of electricity from four wind farms.

“I think we have more resource in wind than any other states we hear are developing,” he said.

While wind energy has economic potential, eastern New Mexico faces some challenges, particularly with infrastructure.

Pattison said transmission lines, which connect wind farms to national power grids in the west and east coast, aren’t available in the area.
The Renewable Energy Transmission Authority was created in 2007 to develop transmission lines for renewable energy in the state. But Johnson said it would take decades before any development could happen.

One solution Pattison sees is for wind farm projects — he said he is aware of six others — should work together to attract transmission line builders to the area.

“All of the wind farm groups in Curry County need to work together on solving the transmission problem,” he said. “The more megawatts you have total, (it would be easier to attract) a transmission line construction company.”

The city of Clovis is also proposing to construct a six-megawatt wind farm near the city landfill to meet the city’s power needs. The excess would be sold to Xcel Energy, according to the proposal.