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
SunZia Transmission LLC (Applicant) submitted a right-of-way application on September 11, 2008 to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) New Mexico State Office. The proposed right-of-way application is for the construction, operation, and maintenance of up to two 500 KV transmission lines traversing southern New Mexico and southern Arizona. The proposed project would enable the development of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, and geothermal generation by creating access to the interstate power grid in the Southwest. The initial route proposed by the applicant would be approximately 460 miles in length, crossing about 45 miles of BLM lands in Arizona and 170 miles in New Mexico, along with state and private lands.
The BLM is the lead federal agency for the process and began public scoping in June of 2009. The public scoping period ended on June 10, 2010. The BLM has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state land departments in both Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the Department of Defense on developing and selecting alternative routes for the transmission lines that would be analyzed in the EIS. An internal Administrative Draft EIS (ADEIS) was completed in early 2012 and reviewed by all cooperating agencies thereafter to provide input so that a final Draft EIS could be released to the public for input, review and comment. A Notice of Availability (NOA) was published on May 25, 2012 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which officially announced the public release of the Draft EIS. The Draft EIS identified a BLM preferred route which is approximately 530 miles in length which commences at the proposed SunZia East Substation site in Lincoln County, New Mexico and terminates at the proposed Pinal Central Substation site in Pinal County, Arizona. The BLM preferred alternative route traverses approximately 191 miles of public land administered by the BLM in Arizona and New Mexico (36% of overall length) and 226 miles of state administered lands in both New Mexico and Arizona (43% of overall length). Approximately 113 miles of private lands in both Arizona and New Mexico would be impacted by the BLM preferred alternative. Private lands account for 21% of the overall length. The EPA publication of the NOA official began a 90-day public comment period, which will run through August 22, 2012. There will be ten public meetings held to gather public input and comment on the Draft EIS. The first of five public meetings will be held in New Mexico commencing on June 26th, 2012. The second set of five public meetings will be held in Arizona commencing on July 11th, 2012. The BLM will consider all public comments received on the Draft EIS and prepare a Final EIS. The Final EIS is scheduled to be released in December off 2012 or early 2013. The Draft EIS and related documents on located on the BLM’s SunZia Project website at www.blm.gov/nm/Sunzia.
The Southline Transmission Project
The Southline Transmission Project, is a 360 miles of new and rebuild 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 EIS for the project. For BLM, New Mexico is the lead State for this project. The project would also cross State lands in New Mexico and Arizona, a short segment of National Forest System lands, a segment of Tohono O’odham Reservation, and the remainder crossing 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 Intent was published in the federal Register on April 4, 2012, notifying the public of the intent to prepare an EIS. Six public meetings were held in NM and AZ. The public scoping comment period has been extended another 30 days to July 6, 2012. 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 a 248 mile 230 kV transmission project located in northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado. About 84 miles are located on BLM lands, 64 on Southern Ute Tribal lands, with the remaining 100 miles on private lands. BLM is the lead federal agency; the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and the Western Power Administration are cooperating agencies. The public scoping period ended on March 11, 2011. The BLM is moving forward with the development of the draft Environmental Impact Statement. 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.