Largest U.S. Wind Project Online in New Mexico

A wind farm comprised of four projects in central New Mexico, serving areas of that state and California, is now online and takes the title of the largest wind power installation in the U.S.

Pattern Energy Group, among the world’s largest privately-owned developers and operators of wind, solar, transmission, and energy storage projects, on Feb. 24 announced the opening of Western Spirit Wind, a project in Guadalupe, Lincoln, and Torrance counties in New Mexico with more than 1,050 MW of generation capacity.

The project features 377 GE wind turbines ranging from 2.3 to 2.8 MW in size. Pattern officials on Thursday said the turbines “utilize various tower heights to optimize the wind capture at each facility.” Blattner Energy, a Minnesota-based contractor that specializes in renewable energy project, was the engineering, procurement, and construction lead for the four wind farms.

“This project is doing it all: creating good-paying jobs, providing clean power to New Mexico and beyond, and cutting emissions from the energy sector,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a ceremony to mark Western Spirit Wind’s opening. “New Mexico is leading the pack–nationally and globally–in the renewable energy space. At the state level, at the county level, at the city level, at the village level, New Mexico is all in on the economic and environmental benefits this industry provides.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at the ceremony marking the opening of the Western Spirit Wind project in New Mexico. Courtesy: Pattern Energy

The ceremony marking the project’s opening included Grisham, as well as American Clean Power CEO Heather Zichal; Martin Adams, general manager of the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power (LADWP); Cynthia McClain-Hill, LADWP board president; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Pattern Energy CEO Mike Garland.

“The largest wind power project in the entire country is now producing strong benefits for the state of New Mexico, including millions of dollars in tax revenue to local counties and school districts,” said Garland. “This is just the beginning. We have committed to $6 billion in upcoming 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.”

Larger Project Near Completion in Oklahoma

A larger onshore wind project, the North Central Energy Facilities installation in Oklahoma, will have 1,485 MW of capacity in total when it enters commercial operation. That project, which includes three wind farms—the 287-MW Maverick, 199-MW Sundance, and 999-MW Traverse—is scheduled to come online in April. The Maverick and Sundance wind farms are already in operation.

The New Mexico project has long-term power purchase agreements with the LADWP; San José (N.M.) Clean Energy; East Bay Community Energy; California Choice Energy Authority and member cities; and international energy company Uniper Global Commodities, which provides power in New Mexico.

“If we’re going to make this decade one of exponential climate action, we need more than just bold goals and lofty long-term promises—we need real solutions and results today,” said Garcetti. “Bringing this state-of-the-art facility online makes it our largest wind project to date—providing clean energy for hundreds of thousands of Angelenos and bringing us one major step closer to becoming a city powered without fossil fuels.”

The Western Spirit Wind project in New Mexico will provide power to areas of that state as well as California. Western Spirit comprises four wind farms in three New Mexico counties. Courtesy: Pattern Energy

The project will utilize the 155-mile, 345-kV Western Spirit Transmission Line, developed by Pattern Energy along with the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority. Officials on Thursday said the wind project and transmission line involved about 1,500 workers on-site during peak construction, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, laborers, and others. Officials said a group of more than 50 workers will operate and maintain the Western Spirit Wind facilities in New Mexico.

The transmission line, completed in December of last year, will send power to the grid managed by Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM). The line was built by EC Source, a a Houston, Texas-based subsidiary of Mastec.

Economic Benefits

Local officials have touted the project’s economic benefits, with Western Spirit Wind projected to provide an estimated $3 million per year for the three counties and two school districts in the project area.

Martin Heinrich, Democratic senator from New Mexico, said, “The Western Spirit Transmission Line literally rewrote the energy landscape in New Mexico—allowing us to build four new utility-scale wind projects in central and eastern New Mexico that make up the largest single-phase wind project in all of North America. As we build more transformative infrastructure projects like this, New Mexico will grow our ability to export cleanly generated electrons to hungry energy markets in neighboring states and import thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars of private investment back into our communities.”

The addition of Western Spirit Wind brings Pattern Energy’s global portfolio to 35 renewable energy projects, according to the company, with operational generation capacity of more than 5.9 GW in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Mexico.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).


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