ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state attorney general’s office and advocacy groups have brokered an agreement with a utility that is planning to build a massive wind farm near the Texas-New Mexico border to ensure that businesses and vendors will have a shot at being hired once construction begins.
Xcel Energy and its subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. are seeking regulatory approval to build two new wind farms — one on the New Mexico side of the border in Roosevelt County and the other in Hale County, Texas.
The Sagamore Wind Project would be the largest wind farm in New Mexico, providing more than 520 megawatts of power once it comes online in 2020. That’s enough to provide electricity to about 194,000 homes per year.
Under the agreement unveiled Thursday, 30 percent of plant costs would ideally involve subcontractors, vendors and labor from New Mexico.
Attorney General Hector Balderas said small businesses often feel left out. The proposed wind farm could result in as much as $57 million going toward business and labor costs in New Mexico.
“I think New Mexico can raise the standard of living. We have some of the most abundant solar and wind resources so it’s important that we all work together,” he said, adding that measuring and tracking the effects of the project on the local economy will boost transparency around the utility’s efforts.
The agreement includes language that provides for regular updates and meetings with an adviser about the project’s progress.
A separate agreement was reached earlier this week that addresses concerns about the benefits of the project for New Mexico customers. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will consider that agreement next week, with a final decision expected in March.
The utility is working on similar agreements with stakeholders in Texas, where regulators also will have to sign off.
In New Mexico, Southwestern Public Service Co. already operates the state’s biggest facility — the 250-megawatt Roosevelt Wind Project that came online in December 2015.
Xcel has estimated that adding more wind generation to its portfolio will help lower the cost of energy and save customers in Texas and New Mexico around $2.8 billion over the next three decades.
Company officials reiterated Thursday that they are watching the debate in Washington, D.C., as any negative changes to production tax credits could derail the projects.
Aside from consumer savings, supporters say the projects represent an opportunity for New Mexico to establish more of a foothold in the renewable energy market through jobs and education programs focused on the industry.
As part of the negotiations, Southwestern Public Service Co. has agreed to contribute a $25,000 grant to Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, which is home to a wind research and training center.