Land of Enchantment’s Green Energy Transformation

State Economy

The population of the “Land of Enchantment”  New Mexico is approximately 2.11 million people[1]. New Mexico is the 37th most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, 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, mining, 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 announced plans[5] to expand the regional power grid and develop the state’s vast wind and solar resources.

In December 2021, state utilities[6] used  renewable energy (44.4 %), coal (37.4 %), and natural gas. Wind and solar are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in New Mexico.

In December 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in New Mexico was 13.07 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.75 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in New Mexico include –

  • 1,050 MW Wind Project – In December 2021, California renewable energy company, Pattern Energy commissioned the Western Spirit Wind project in central area of the state.
  • 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 – In February 2021, Texas renewable energy company, Leeward Renewable Energy commissioned the Aragonne Wind Project in the central area of the state.
  • 100 MW Wind + Energy Storage Project – In December 2021, Florida renewables company, Borderlands Wind commissioned the Borderlands Wind Project in the western area of the state.
  • 100 MW Energy Storage Project – Florida utility, NextEra Energy is continuing work to add battery storage at the Saint Solar project in the northwestern area of the state. The project is forecast to be completed in 2023.
  • 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 – In November 2021, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative commissioned a solar plus energy storage project in the northern area of the state.
  • 15 MW Solar + 12 MW Energy Storage Project – In November 2021, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative commissioned a solar plus energy storage project at a site approximately 50 miles northeast of the state capital, Santa Fe.
  • 6 MW Solar + 4.5 MW Energy Storage Project – In November 2021, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative commissioned a solar plus energy storage project at a site approximately 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe.

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 2020, New Mexico had three operating coal mines[8], which produced approximately 10.2 million 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 December 2021, 37.4 % 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.

New Mexico completed a comprehensive assessment on the state’s power grid and renewable energy resource potential, prior passing legislation that all state utilities sell 100% of their electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045. New Mexico will soon be one of the new, clean green energy hubs in the United States.

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, August 13, 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 – 2020, October 2021

[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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