For the past 15 years, eastern New Mexico has suffered from what seems like a never-ending drought. Ranches are dwindling and ranchers like Don Thompson and Max Tenorio have in recent years sold cattle and land to survive. However, this flat landscape may offer another possible resource: wind to serve as an alternative energy source. The ranchers needed to prove to investors that wind on their land can produce consistent power.
To start their Siempre Wind Project, Thompson and Tenorio attended a five-month series of courses coordinated by the Coalition of Renewable Energy Landowners (CRELA) Landowners Institute presented by Los Alamos National Laboratory through NMSBA. At this series of courses, the ranchers connected with Los Alamos engineer G. Loren Toole. For this project, Toole and his team applied an innovative siteassessment method to estimate wind development potential. The method analyzed a variety of elements and factors of interest to commercial developers. The site assessment has a key element of wind profile mapping, a tool developed at Los Alamos specifically for this application.
With their assessment and wind map profile, Thompson and Tenorio secured a contract with a California wind developer who paid the ranchers an option lease/retention fee for a to-be-constructed wind-turbine farm. Transmitting the wind-generated electricity into New Mexico’s grid will be a 345-kilovolt transmission line known as Western Spirit, now under development. Los Alamos’ site-assessment method has proven invaluable. Early estimates indicate that about 400 wind turbines could be built in eastern New Mexico,
bringing an initial capital investment of $1.6 billion.