Renewable energy in New Mexico could triple after the State Land Office completed an auction of public land throughout the state to be used for wind energy production.
The land leases sold in the auction went to Pattern Energy – about 147,685 acres – and could increase renewable energy capacity on state land to more than 1,200 megawatts, compared with about 400 MW in 2019.
The 11 leases sold to Pattern in the auction were mostly in central New Mexico, with five in Lincoln County, four in Torrance County and two spanning Torrance and San Miguel counties.
They will expire in 2077.
About 39,945 acres, or 27 percent of the sale, was in Lincoln County, while another 28,718 acres, about 19 percent of the sale, was in Torrance County.
The other two leases spanning Torrance and San Miguel counties made up 79,019 acres – about 54 percent of the sale.
The winning bids for the leases totaled about $9.3 million, and the State Land Office expected them to produce $196 million in revenue during the lifetime of operation on the land for the Office and its beneficiaries – mostly public schools, universities, and hospitals in New Mexico.
State Trust land has a renewable energy capacity of 438 MW in operation, with another 366 MW under development, records show.
The Pattern leases sold in the auction were expected to generate another 500 MW, meaning after they were developed, New Mexico’s renewable energy capacity on State Land would grow by 866 MW to a total of 1,304 MW.
It was the largest renewable energy lease sale in the history of New Mexico, said New Mexico Public Lands Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, and the project was expected to be three times larger than the state’s current largest wind farm – the largest in the Western hemisphere.
“I made a promise when I took office to triple renewables on state trust lands, and today we met that goal,” Garcia Richard said. “By tripling renewable energy production, we are guaranteeing a new and steady stream of revenue for New Mexico’s school kids and other beneficiaries of state trust lands for the next several decades.”
Pattern’s 11 leases brought New Mexico’s total wind farm lease count to 26. New Mexico also has 12 solar power leases.
In total, the State Land Office reported it had 56 applications for new leases being processed.
Jeremy Turner, Pattern Energy director of New Mexico project development, said the lands leased were part of the larger SunZia Wind Project which will ultimately have a capacity of 3,000 MW in Lincoln, Torrance and San Miguel counties.
When complete, Turner said the project will generate enough electricity to power 2.9 million American homes.
“New Mexico is now a leader in wind energy and we are proud to be a part of that,” Turner said. “Pattern Energy has already built nearly 1,600 MW of wind in the State and we have plans to invest in additional wind energy and related infrastructure projects in New Mexico over the next decade, putting thousands of people to work. Together, we are building a cleaner and more sustainable future.”
That capacity will be augmented by the 1,050 MW Western Spirit Wind project completed in December 2021, Turner said, that will allow renewable electricity in rural parts of the state be moved to market.
“These projects create significant job opportunities and local economic investments,” said Pattern Chief Executive Officer Mike Garland. “This is just the beginning for New Mexico – Pattern Energy has committed to $6 billion in upcoming wind energy and related infrastructure projects in the state over the next decade.”
The state ranked 11th in the nation in wind power potential last year, reported the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with most of the state’s wind power focused in eastern New Mexico.
Wind power was second to coal in the state in total electricity generation, per the report, and ranked 10th in the nation in overall wind power capacity with almost 4,300 MW installed.
Wind alone generated about 30 percent of the state’s electricity last year – five times more power than it did in 2015, the report read, as renewables for the first time in history accounted for the largest share of New Mexico’s in-state electricity generation.
“New Mexico has substantial renewable resources, much of them still undeveloped,” the report read. “There is significant wind energy potential on the high plains in the eastern half of the state, and the state ranks 11th in wind energy potential.”
The state ranked third in the nation, per the EIA, for solar energy potential as utility-scale solar power generated about a 5 percent of New Mexico’s power generation last year, with small-scale facilities accounting for 1 percent.
“New Mexico’s climate is typified by abundant sunshine, and the state ranks third in the nation, after Nevada and Arizona, in solar energy potential,” the report read.
Garcia Richard said New Mexico’s solar and wind power sectors were expected to continue their growth in the coming years, to harness the abundant resources, she said, were waiting to be tapped throughout the state.
That will help cut down on climate-change-causing pollution, Garcia said, while broadening New Mexico’s economy.
“We are blessed with incredible wind and sunshine here in New Mexico, and we must capitalize on those renewable resources to help mitigate the impacts of climate change while diversifying economic opportunities,” she said.