The Land of Enchantment’s Amazing Energy Transformation

State Economy

The population of the “Land of Enchantment”  New Mexico is approximately 2.10 million people[1]. New Mexico is the 37th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, New Mexico’s economy was ranked 37th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the aerospace, defense, oil, natural gas, agriculture, logistics, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2002, New Mexico enacted a Renewables Portfolio Standard[4], mandating all investor-owned and cooperative utilities sell 40% of their electricity from renewables by 2025 and 80% by 2040.

In 2019, New Mexico legislators overwhelmingly approved the Energy Transition Act, which requires all investor-owned and cooperative utilities sell 100% of their electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045.

In 2020, New Mexico released a comprehensive report[5] on the plan to develop the state’s vast renewable resources and achieve zero-carbon emissions.

In May 2021, state utilities[6] used  renewable energy (43.8 %), natural gas (34.5 %), and coal (22.4 %). Wind and solar are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in New Mexico.

In May 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in New Mexico was 13.30 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.71 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in New Mexico include –

  • 1,050 MW Wind Project – California renewable energy company, Pattern Energy is continuing work on the Western Spirit Wind Project in central area of the state. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 650 MW Solar + Energy Storage Projects – The Public Service Company of New Mexico is continuing work on four solar power plus energy storage projects in northwestern area of the state. The four projects are scheduled to be commissioned by June 2022.
  • 235 MW Wind Project – Texas renewable energy company, Leeward Renewable Energy is continuing work on the Aragonne Wind Project in the central area of the state. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 100 MW Wind + Energy Storage Project – Florida renewables company, Borderlands Wind is continuing work on the Borderlands Wind Project in the western area of the state. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 50 MW Solar Project – Illinois renewable energy company, Hecate Energy is continuing work on a solar project on Jicarilla Apache tribal lands in the northern area of the state. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by June 2022.
  • 21 MW Solar + 15 MW Energy Storage Project – Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is continuing work on a solar plus energy storage project in the northern area of the state. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 15 MW Solar + 12 MW Energy Storage Project – In September 2021, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative commenced work on a solar plus energy storage project at a site approximately 50 miles northeast of the capital, Santa Fe. The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2022.
  • 6 MW Solar + 4.5 MW Energy Storage Project – In September 2021, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative commenced work on a solar plus energy storage project at a site approximately 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe. The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2022.

Conclusions

Commercial coal mining began in New Mexico in the 1880s[7], prior to statehood. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, forges, and furnaces.

In 2019, New Mexico had three operating coal mines[8], which produced approximately 14.6 million short tons of sub-bituminous and bituminous coal. New Mexico’s coal is primarily used to fuel electric power plants.

In 2010, 74.1% of New Mexico’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[9]. In May 2021, 22.4 % of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Economics The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. EnvironmentCoal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[10].
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Coal, oil, and natural gas have been an integral part of New Mexico’s economy for over 100 years. However, the state recognizes the threat of climate change and the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Unlike many states, New Mexico completed a comprehensive assessment to develop the state’s vast renewable resources. New Mexico has now implemented a plan to become carbon neutral and to transform the state into one of America’s new, clean green energy hubs.

New Mexico is undergoing an amazing energy transformation, which other states should emulate.

 Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

[1] New Mexico Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in New Mexico – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5]New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission and Storage Study” by ICF Resources in partnership with NM RETA

[6] U.S. Energy Information Agency – New Mexico  Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[7] The Economic Impact of Coal Mining in New Mexico, by James Peach and C. Meghan Starbuck, October 1, 2008

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Annual Coal Report – 2019, October 2020

[9] U.S. Energy Information Agency, New Mexico Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018,

[10] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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1 thought on “The Land of Enchantment’s Amazing Energy Transformation”

  1. NM’s progress is an example that all states should try to emulate.

    It’s great to see that most of these projects also have storage. New Mexico is part of the western power grid, and when Texas had the blackout during the February winter storm, the El Paso area was also hooked to New Mexico and they didn’t lose power like the rest of Texas. The New Mexico and Western power grid has been properly winterized; the rest of Texas suffered because they failed to winterize their grid.

    Let’s hope New Mexico installs a lot more wind turbines. They have some very good wind resources in the East near Texas. They can generate power around the clock instead of just during daylight.

    Here in California we have been importing power generated by coal in the Four Corners area by the native American plants. They are planning to or already have shut down the coal plants and are going to replace them with renewables, solar, IIRC. Most of the power has been sold to the Los Angeles Dept. Of Water and Power.

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