Alternative Energy Resources
Renewable Energy State Mandates and Resource Potential
New Mexico has a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), enacted in 2007, that calls for 20% of total electricity sales from investor-owned utilities (IOU) and 10% of sales from rural cooperatives to be derived from renewable sources by the year 2020. New Mexico further specifies for IOUs that 20% of the renewable energy generation must come from solar generation by 2020, equal to 4% of total sales. In addition, 20% must come from wind generation (4% of total sales); 10% from biomass, hydro, and “other” renewable (2% of total sales); and, by 2015, 3.0% from distributed energy technologies (equal to 0.6% of total sales). New Mexico requires hydroelectric sources to originate from new/smaller installations in order to qualify for RPS contributions.
There are presently about seven operational wind energy projects on private or state land with a total capacity of 750 MW; however, there are currently no wind energy projects on BLM public lands in New Mexico. The American Wind Energy Association estimates New Mexico’s total potential wind energy capacity at 497,000 MW. The Western Governors’ Association presents a more modest estimate indicating that proposed Western Renewable Energy Zones in the state are capable of generating 13,184 MW of wind power with the theoretical potential to generate 36,576 GWh/yr.
There are two authorized rights-of-way for wind site testing on BLM public lands in New Mexico.
Studies indicate that New Mexico has fair biomass resource potential, however there are currently no biomass projects on BLM public land.
Geothermal & Solar
New Mexico has high-temperature geothermal resources that are suitable for electricity generation, as well as low temperature resources suitable for direct use and heat pump applications. Currently there are no geothermal projects on federal lands in New Mexico that are generating power. However, there is one federal lease which is being considered for power generation, and one active “direct use” geothermal lease, being used for heating a green house.
New Mexico has an excellent solar resource development potential. An estimated four million acres, with low slope, high solar insolation values, and relatively few known resource conflicts are being analyzed in BLM’s Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS). The possibilities are especially good in BLM’s Las Cruces District, located in the southern part of the state. In October 2011, the Secretary of the Interior included one area (29,964 acres) in the BLM Las Cruces District among the 17 Solar Energy Zones identified in six Western states with the intent of examining the possibilities for expediting development of utility-scale solar energy production on BLM public lands. There are presently about 15 photovoltaic solar projects (133 MW) and two concentrating solar projects (6 MW) operating on private lands in New Mexico. There is one photovoltaic (2 MW) under construction and four photovoltaic projects totaling 376 MWs under development this year on private lands in New Mexico (Solar Energy Industries Association, 2012).
There are currently no solar energy development applications on BLM public lands in New Mexico.
Pipelines & Transmission
SunZia Southwest Transmission Project
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) approving a right-of-way (ROW) for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Line Project. The Project consists of the construction, operation, and maintenance of two parallel overhead 500 kV transmission lines located on Federal, State, and private lands from the proposed SunZia East Substation in Lincoln County, New Mexico, to the existing Pinal Central Substation in Pinal County, Arizona. The length of the transmission lines in the preferred alternative would be 515 miles in length. Three segments, totaling five miles of the Project in Socorro and Torrance Counties in New Mexico, will be buried in order to mitigate impacts to military operations at White Sands Missile Range. The impacts of burial have been analyzed in a Mitigation Proposal Environmental Assessment (EA) that has also been approved. The Project has the potential to add 3,000 to 4,500 megawatts of added electric capacity to the desert southwest region of the United States.
The SunZia Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) provides a comprehensive analysis of potential environmental impacts that could result from Project development. The Mitigation Proposal EA analyzes the effects of burial, and compares those impacts to the impacts already assessed in the Final EIS. Approval of the ROD and the ROW grant follows an extensive public involvement process initiated by the BLM in 2009 to identify relevant issues and concerns.
Check out the BLM’s SunZia Project website at www.blm.gov/nm/Sunzia.
The Southline Transmission Project
The Southline Transmission Project (Project) is a 360 mile new and rebuilt 345 kV double circuit transmission project proposed by Southline Transmission LLC that extends from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Tucson, Arizona. The BLM and Western Area Power Administration are joint-lead agencies in the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Project. For BLM, New Mexico has been designated as the lead State for the Project. The Project would also cross State land in New Mexico and Arizona, a National Forest System Lands, the Tohono O’odham Reservation, and private holdings. The Project is a bi-directional transmission line designed to fulfill three key objectives: (1) improve regional grid reliability in southern New Mexico and southern Arizona; (2) mitigate existing congestion on the regional transmission grid; and (3) facilitate the interconnection of renewable and conventional energy resources with the grid. The Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS was published in the Federal Register on April 11, 2014. Six public meetings were held in New Mexico and Arizona. The Final EIS is expected to be available spring 2015. http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/more/lands_realty/southline_transmission.html.
San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project
The San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project, proposed by the Tri-State Generation and Transportation Association, is 64.3 mile transmission project located in northwest New Mexico and southwestern Colorado. About 25.4 miles are located on BLM lands, 15.6 miles on Southern Ute Tribal lands, 3.6 miles on State of New Mexico-owned lands, and 19.7 miles on privately-owned lands. The BLM is the lead Federal agency. The cooperating agencies are: Southern Ute Indian Agency; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Southern Ute Indian Tribe (SUIT); Navajo Nation; Western Power Administration; U.S. Department of Agricultural Rural Utility Service; New Mexico State Land Office; and La Plata County in Colorado.
The Notice of Availability for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was published on March 14, 2014. The comment period for the DEIS closed on May 20, 2014. In response to comments received by the SUIT, the BLM will consider other possible project routes that would affect a smaller portion of SUIT lands. The BLM, Tri-State Generation, and SUIT have agreed to conduct a feasibility study to examine potential options on SUIT lands. The BLM will then determine next steps and will develop a project schedule.
For more information, visit http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/more/lands_realty/san_juan_basin_energy.html.
Centennial West Clean Line Project
The Centennial West Clean Line Project, proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners is a high voltage (+/- 600 kV) direct current transmission line that will gather and transmit energy from renewable energy generation sources in eastern New Mexico and surrounding areas to entities serving load in southern California. The proposed project would be developed to accommodate delivery of approximately 3,500 megawatt of wind generation. The Project area has been broadly defined to include existing linear facilities and designated utility corridors, which will facilitate connecting major wind resource areas in eastern New Mexico to customers in Southern California. Final design for the HVDC transmission line will not be determined until further transmission planning, and engineering studies are completed. The BLM and Western Area Power Administration are joint-lead Agencies in the preparation of an EIS for the project. Arizona has been assigned the lead state for this project.