Tres Amigas is moving ahead at full power for a $1.5 billion electricity transmission superstation in Curry County, but a competition is on for its additional control center and headquarters.
Officials with Tres Amigas plan to make a decision in mid-May regarding the control center, which would bring 100 jobs to either Clovis, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Belen or Amarillo.
"I can't say which way they're leaning," Tres Amigas Public Information Officer Adrienne Smith said. "We're still getting some final information coming in. We have a lot of electrical and safety requirements, and a lot of cities are seeing if they meet it."
Tres Amigas plans for a July groundbreaking of the superstation, which will act as a power hub for the Eastern, Western and Texas interconnections — the three largest grids in the nation. Joining the grids on 14,000 acres of Curry County land 11 miles northeast of Clovis would give more ability for electricity producers to transfer their product across the country — primarily renewable energy, where states with the most potential for wind and solar energy don't have the population to use it. For example, the Western Governors Association estimates New Mexico has potential to produce 27 gigawatts of power annually, but the state's population uses less than one-fifth of that. One gigawatt is enough to power 200,000 homes.
A control center and business office could be located anywhere in the country, but Smith said the ideal scenario is to have a location in Texas or New Mexico so, "you can get in a car and actually drive out to the headquarters."
That portion of Tres Amigas, plus a backup station required by law to be at least 10 miles away, would combine for about 100 jobs. If a city other than Clovis is picked, Smith said, there will still be some office presence in Clovis with about 10 to 12 people.
The New Mexico Legislature went to bat for enticing the company to locate its control center in New Mexico instead of Texas. House Bill 116, which creates "certain deductions in the Gross Receipts and Compensating Tax Act for converting electricity and operating an electricity exchange," according to the text of the bill. It was passed in both houses unanimously and signed into law Feb. 29 by Gov. Susana Martinez.
"Now that that's been passed, New Mexico is competitive," Smith said. "In terms of the headquarters and where the control center is going to be, there's nothing more that Clovis can do other than what it's done, which is put its best proposal forward."
Smith said there should be 250 to 400 jobs created at the superstation, with a majority of them permanent. Smith said many construction jobs, which are temporary with most new industries, will be permanent due to the long build-up and a goal to build as need increases. Construction of the three phases — connections of Eastern to Western, Eastern to Texas and Texas to Western — is estimated at anywhere between five and seven years.
Tres Amigas officials declined to release information on salary estimates at either location. Chase Gentry, executive director of Clovis Industrial Development Corp., said his staff hasn't received enough financial information to do an impact analysis, but he thinks it's fair to assume the higher-paying jobs will be at the control center.
"It's been kind of a moving target (to figure out economic impact) over the last two to three years, anyway," Gentry said. "It would be a substantial economic impact (having the control center in the Clovis area), but I don't know off the top of my head."