Opportunity blowing in the wind, in New Mexico
By Rikki Seguin
It used to be a common refrain across New Mexico—people cursing the wind after clouds of dust blew across their path. But today these winds don't feel so bothersome. Instead, they represent the path to prosperity—wind is powering opportunity in our state.
The rapid growth of wind energy in New Mexico is creating enormous economic development opportunities and well-paying careers. And with the right policies in place, these opportunities can grow even larger.
As we celebrated "American Wind Week" this past August, I thanked the leadership in the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for passing the Energy Transition Act (ETA). It puts New Mexico in the national clean energy spotlight by setting a bold statewide renewable energy standard, with our valuable wind fuel resource leading the way, and growing and powering the businesses who power our state.
To fully reach our potential, we need to modernize and invest in our transmission infrastructure to harvest these resources. It isn't enough to build wind farms or solar projects—we need to get that power to market. New transmission lines will transport wind-generated electricity from our blustery plains to homes and businesses in small towns, cities, and manufacturing hubs across the region. Building new transmission also makes our entire power system more reliable, resilient, and affordable.
New Mexico has always had strong winds. In fact, only two states in the U.S. have greater wind energy potential than the Land of Enchantment. However, we've only begun to fully tap into this resource.
In 2017, New Mexico added new wind projects faster than any state in the country and, based on the projects under construction or in advanced development, we're now one of eight states on track to double our installed wind capacity in the near-term.
This means new jobs designing, building, operating, and maintaining wind farms. Today, more than 2,000 New Mexicans have well-paying careers in wind. Many of these are wind technician positions, one of America's two fastest-growing jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only solar installer jobs are increasing faster, so based on our abundance of wind and sunshine, New Mexico is well-positioned to be a leader in creating 21st-century clean energy jobs.
In rural New Mexico, wind is the new cash crop fueling new economic prosperity. In exchange for hosting wind turbines on their property, New Mexico landowners are paid over $5 million in lease payments every year, and that amount is growing. That's income our farmers and ranchers can count on during years of drought or low commodity prices. Wind projects also pay us over $8.5 million in state and local taxes each year. That boosts our local coffers and helps us invest in schools, fix roads, and fund emergency services.
Because of our ability to tap into the power of the wind and sun, new businesses are investing right here. Facebook has expanded a state-of-the-art data center in New Mexico, largely because it could power it using renewable energy. That means new high-tech jobs are relocating to our state. And Facebook isn't the only business looking to take advantage of our affordable, clean power sources—more companies are looking to do business in New Mexico because of our renewable resources.
The future is bright—and windy—in New Mexico. Wind is powering opportunity across our state, and by updating our infrastructure to harvest 21st-century clean energy resources like the wind and sun, we can make it even brighter.
Rikki Seguin is Executive Director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, a nonprofit trade association that represents the leading companies in the renewable energy industry in the U.S., bringing them together with regional non-governmental organizations in the West (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). www.interwest.org