By Ray Powell, Commissioner of Public Lands
New Mexico has the potential to lead the nation in new energy jobs and the production of clean, renewable energy. The New Mexico State Land Office is working hard to seize the opportunities to create a bright future.
On the Job Creation Fron —The Land Office is working with private-sector companies to provide land to create high-paying jobs, including the manufacture of world-class solar panels and other energy-associated technologies. Two examples are EMCORE and Sumitomo, which are located on state trust land in the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque. Other state-of-the-art companies are locating at Innovation Park, another State Land Office project in Albuquerque at Mesa del Sol. Almost 5,000 high-paying jobs have been established in these two locations alone.
Recently, we have partnered with Lea County to create a 1,400-acre business park near Hobbs. One of the first tenants is Joule Inc., which is developing an innovative renewable-energy-producing technology. Salt water and CO2 by-products of the oil and gas industry, are converted to high-quality biofuels by using sunshine to promote photosynthesis of patented algae. As Joule ramps up production, about 1,000 acres of state trust Land will be used to produce millions of gallons of biofuel each year.
The State Land Office is also working with private and governmental entities to expand the state’s electric transmission capacity to increase the use and export of New Mexico-generated power. As transmission lines develop statewide, revenue from renewable-energy production will grow substantially.
In addition, we worked with state Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) to pass legislation to provide incentives for the use of geothermal energy. This makes New Mexico competitive in attracting this growing industry. As a result of this new law, New Mexico’s first utility-scale geothermal project can expand to nearby state trust lands.
On the Renewable Energy Front—New Mexico has an abundance of sunshine, wind and geothermal resources, making it a natural location for renewable-energy production and clean-energy jobs. In fact, New Mexico has vast geothermal-energy resources and is ranked second in the nation for potential solar-generated electric power production and 10th in wind potential. Taken together, New Mexico has more renewable-energy potential than any other state.
A new and growing source of income for the State Land Office is renewable-energy leasing, which is expected to be the largest growth area for commercial leasing. In 2002, during Commissioner Powell’s previous administration as state land commissioner, a lease was signed creating New Mexico’s first wind farm with the utility Florida Power and Light in east-central New Mexico near Fort Sumner.
Today, there are three existing wind wind-energy projects located on state trust lands that are expected to earn more than $9 million over the life of the projects. There are also five pending applications that are projected to earn more than $138 million in future years.
One pending wind-energy project, proposed by lease applicant Iberdrola, would be located on 39,400 acres of trust land in Torrance County. The proposed “El Cabo” project ultimately could generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity—enough to supply up to 400,000 homes. The development would reduce CO2 emissions by 2.6 million tons and save over 1.1 billion gallons of water annually compared to coal-driven electricity. The project would be built in several phases over the next 10 years, creating 1,600 construction jobs and over 250 permanent positions.
In terms of solar projects, there are four existing solar-energy arrays located on state trust lands that are projected to generate more than $12 million, and five pending applications, which could earn more than $149 million.
In May 2013, I was pleased to participate in the groundbreaking of the state’s largest distributive solar array, located on state trust lands at the Sandia and Science Tech Park, which transformed a former landfill into a clean-energy producing site that will power 20 percent of the energy needs for the EMCORE facility.
Construction began this summer on the largest solar array in New Mexico, expanding the state’s solar capacity by over 20 percent, on about 440 acres of state trust land in Luna County. This will create 200 jobs during the construction phase and provide clean, efficient solar power for use by New Mexicans. First Solar, our private partner, manufactures its own solar panels, which use the most current technology to provide the same amount of electricity with half the size of regular solar panels, reducing the impact on the surrounding natural world.
These projects provide us with a tremendous opportunity to earn more money for state trust land beneficiaries—public schools, universities, and hospitals—and to do so while creating jobs and protecting our spectacular and unique natural world in New Mexico.