Agency looking into small wind energy projects

By Gabe Monte: CNJ staff writer

Large wind farms that supply electricity to major power grids are still a long way from coming to the immediate Clovis area, according to Eastern Plains Council of Government Executive Director Lee Tillman.

However, he said the wind in eastern New Mexico could be used by individual companies as a source of power.

“There’s a great potential with smaller (wind) projects, but we haven’t been able to foster that development of small wind turbines in New Mexico,” he said.

EPCOG has been studying the feasibility of wind energy in eastern New Mexico for almost 20 years, according to Tillman.

He said part of the organization’s function is working with local governments to develop the infrastructure to support alternative energy industry in the region.

But lack of transmission lines to sell electricity to power girds in the east and west coasts is large hurdle to entice wind energy companies to build in the area.

“Until we can sell power, we can’t build a project,” he said.

New Mexico Energy Conservation and Management Division Energy Bureau Chief Brian Johnson has said it could be decades before any transmission lines could be installed in the region.

Wind farms in Elida, Fort Sumner and Texico use transmission lines from Xcel Energy and PNM, who purchase the electricity.

Because of the lack of transmission lines, small wind energy projects might be more feasible, Tillman said.

EPCOG conducted a study for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to identify the use of wind energy as a source of electricity for manufacturing plants.

The organization selected the Sunland Peanut Plant in Portales and conducted a three-year study evaluating the possibility of erecting a wind turbine that would supply power to the plant.

He said lack of sustainable winds to produce enough electric plus to be cost effective was not feasible for the Sunland Peanut Plant.

He said small wind energy projects in Clovis are feasible because the town is at a slightly higher elevation than the Sunland plant.

The Clovis City Commission set up a wind energy subcommittee in the Water Policy Advisory Committee to investigate the feasibility of installing a three-turbine wind farm near the city landfill to power city facilities.

Commissioner Randy Crowder said the main obstacle is finding a wind generator company willing to sell a small number of wind turbines. He said the city might have to “piggy back” on bigger wind projects that would buy 30 or more wind turbines.