Tres Amigas official hopes to break ground in fall

Kevin Wilson

Tres Amigas is pushing paperwork at the moment. The company is hoping to push materials by August, and push power across the nation two to three years later.

Clovis Industrial Development Corporation Executive Director Chase Gentry figures it will be mid-2012 before any significant economic impact comes from the project, which will connect the nation’s three power grids in 22.5 square miles east of Clovis.

But David Stidham, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Tres Amigas, is hoping the project is shovel-ready soon with up to 50 jobs — mostly construction — by the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to try to do a groundbreaking early fall,” Stidham said. “We have signed an agreement with Austin for multisource converters. We’re in negotiations with a contractor and we’ll get them on board this fall.”

Officials with Tres Amigas, the CIDC and area utilities met at the end of May to discuss the next few months.

The two biggest obstacles to the groundbreaking are picking a precise spot in the acreage Tres Amigas has, and getting the paperwork finished. Interconnect agreements with PNM and Xcel Energy are being negotiated, and should be ready for the Public Regulation Commission by the end of July.

“They know it’s coming and we’ve got their support,” Stidham said. “We’re getting a lot of support with other utilities.”

Regarding the land, Stidham said the northern area of the 22.5 square miles is being examined. That involves punching a dozen 45-foot-deep holes and testing the soil for electrical characteristics.

“If those prove out correct, we have the footprint pretty much pinned down,” Stidham said. “(The pending location) minimizes impact to existing agricultural operations, and the north road is adequate. We’ll do improvements, but the basic road is adequate enough to move the heavy equipment to the site.”

Equipment, Gentry said, can be as heavy as 30 tons. Gentry wants to avoid taking that type of weight onto any overpasses, but he said a road with a good chip seal base should withstand that kind of load.

Stidham is working with CIDC and BNSF Railways to use the rail spur at the city’s industrial park.

An example of the problem Tres Amigas is trying to solve lies in the Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest. The BPA had over-generation from hydropower producers due to spring runoff, and was already trying to balance new power from wind farms.

Ideally, Stidham said, Tres Amigas could take that excess power and transmit it to an area anywhere in the country.

“There are a lot of wind farms that are being curtailed because the grids can’t handle the power generated,” Stidham said. “Tres Amigas will allow it to go to different geographic areas.”