Jan 8, 2022
Dominic Ellis

Largest US renewable energy project up and running

Energy
Renewables
Wind
USA
Pattern Energy Group has begun commercial operation of its Western Spirit Wind power projects, which comprises four wind power facilities

A major renewable energy project - billed as the largest in American history - is now up and running in central New Mexico.

Pattern Energy Group has begun commercial operation of its Western Spirit Wind power projects, which comprises four wind power facilities totaling more than 1,050MW located in Guadalupe, Lincoln, and Torrance Counties.

US Senator Martin Heinrich said Western Spirit connects rural communities in central New Mexico to local customers and other major energy markets beyond state borders. "This project literally changed the map of our state's energy landscape, allowing New Mexico to help power our nation with clean electrons," he said.

Western Spirit Wind is a groundbreaking megaproject that demonstrates large-scale renewables can be developed and built in the US, said Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy.

"These projects create significant job opportunities and local economic investments. Western Spirit brought over 1,100 construction jobs to New Mexico, generated local spending, tax revenue and landowner payments in a remote area of New Mexico, and is now delivering enough renewable energy to meet the electricity needs of more than 900,000 Americans," he said.

"The collaboration of our teams of workers around the state shows what can be achieved – building the largest single-phase wind project in US history in less than one year – a truly remarkable achievement. This is just the beginning for New Mexico – Pattern Energy has committed to $6 billion in upcoming wind energy and related infrastructure projects in the state over the next decade. Together, we are building a cleaner and more sustainable future in New Mexico."

The four wind power facilities utilise a total of 377 GE wind turbines ranging from 2.3 to 2.8 MW. The GE turbines utilise various tower heights to optimise the wind capture at each facility.

Western Spirit Wind was developed by Pattern Energy and Blattner Energy served as the construction contractor.

The wind project and accompanying transmission line involved more than 1,100 workers on-site during the 15-month construction period, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, laborers, and others. Going forward, more than 50 workers will operate and maintain the Western Spirit Wind facilities in New Mexico.

Western Spirit Wind will have far-reaching economic benefits for the local area and is projected to provide an estimated $3 million per year for the three counties and two school districts in the project area. Stable, long-term funding directly contributes to improved quality of education, services, roads and first responder capabilities for the entire community.

Western Spirit Wind will provide clean, renewable energy to California and New Mexico through long-term power purchase agreements with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, San José Clean Energy, East Bay Community Energy, California Choice Energy Authority and member cities, and international energy company Uniper Global Commodities. Western Spirit Wind will also provide power to New Mexico municipalities, including Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities, through the Uniper Global Commodities power purchase agreement.

The wind power generated by Western Spirit Wind has a complementary generation profile to solar and typically delivers power around the clock. The power will provide resource diversification to western energy markets to help meet customer demand during the crucial early evening hours when demand is high but otherwise available renewable energy supply is typically low.

Last month, Pattern Energy and the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) announced the completion of the Western Spirit Transmission line, enabling the suite of Western Spirit Wind projects to be connected to the grid.

The 155-mile 345 kV transmission line, developed jointly by Pattern Energy and RETA, is delivering wind power from Western Spirit Wind in central New Mexico to the electric grid managed by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) near Albuquerque. PNM owns and will operate the transmission line.

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