Western Spirit is scheduled to be online in 2021 and will transport wind energy generated by an 800MW project being built by Pattern Development
Fort Worth, TX, May 7, 2019 – Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) will pay $285m to acquire the Western Spirit transmission project after its completion in 2021, bringing 800MW of new wind power capacity to the existing grid in the US desert southwest state.
The New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, a quasi-governmental entity, presently owns Western Spirit and is co-developing it with San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group 2 (Pattern Development).
RETA’s sale of project rights requires approval by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC).
Pattern and RETA will begin construction early next year of the 165-mile (266km) project, among the largest intrastate 345kV wind line initiatives in the US.
The investment and acquisition cost will be fully repaid by Pattern’s wind projects through incremental delivery charges over 20 years for their energy.
Pattern spokesman Matt Dallas tells Recharge about half of the 800MW capacity Estancia Valley Wind Center in southeast New Mexico being constructed is under contract and the other half is being “actively marketed” throughout the western US.
Western Spirit will transport the electric power to PNM’s Pajarito substation southwest of Albuquerque, where it will enter the existing grid up to Four Corners – one of four power trading hubs in the western US.
New Mexico’s electric system is currently at capacity between Albuquerque and this has hindered growth of low-cost power in wind-rich areas in the central and eastern parts of the state.
He noted the electricity enabled by Western Spirit will be available to interested New Mexico utilities or electric co-ops, not just PNM, provided off-take agreements are approved by regulators.
“However, Western Spirit is not being built with any expectation or requirement that PNM should buy any of the enabled wind power, and PNM’s acquisition of the line does not represent any express intention to contract for the wind power,” he said in an email.
The co-developers of Western Spirit say it will add both capacity and “significant” strength to the grid, as well as making PNM’s own system more prepared to operate on majority renewable power – as now required by 2030 under law.
PNM has told investors and the state’s political leadership that said it can achieve carbon-free generation by 2040.
Western Spirit had been under development since 2010 with RETA and Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, which sold its involvement in May last year to Pattern to raise cash and narrow its focus to a single long-haul transmission project in the Plains states.
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