ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After years of planning and delays, work has resumed on what officials are billing as one of New Mexico’s largest wind farms as companies look to take advantage of extended federal tax incentives in hopes of boosting the role of wind in the nation’s energy portfolio.
Politicians and executives with Avangrid Renewables gathered Monday in Torrance County to celebrate the restart of construction on the El Cabo Wind Farm, a complex that will span nearly 90 square miles of private property and state trust land in east-central New Mexico.
Foundations for the towering wind turbines are being poured. Company officials expect installation to be complete by the end of 2017, with the electricity generated heading to Southern California Edison customers soon afterward.
“We really excited. It’s taken a number of years to get to this point where we’re turning dirt and pouring foundations,” said Jesse Gronner, vice president of business development for Avangrid.
The El Cabo project represents a $500 million capital investment for the company, and Gronner said the potential exists for additional phases of development in the future, which would require enough capacity on transmission lines and the grid to export the power beyond rural New Mexico.
The state already is home to a dozen utility-scale wind farms that supply customers from New Mexico and West Texas to Arizona.
State energy officials and industry experts say New Mexico has the potential to produce much more electricity via wind than what the population could consume, putting it in a good position to export the power.
Avangrid and other companies point to the extension of key federal tax incentives in 2015 as encouragement for the industry. Since 2008, industry officials say the federal protection tax credit has helped to more than quadruple wind power in the U.S. to roughly 70,000 megawatts, or enough to supply an estimated 18 million homes.
Avangrid also is developing other wind projects in California, Colorado, Vermont and North Carolina.
The El Cabo project will consist of more than 140 turbines and is expected to provide at least $2 million in lease revenues and payments in lieu of taxes each year over its 30-year life.
Last year, Avangrid acknowledged that construction had slowed while transmission-related constraints were addressed. Construction first started in 2013 as companies raced to get projects underway to take advantage of federal incentives that were on track at the time to expire.