Power lines key to New Mexico becoming a renewable leader

New Study highlights opportunity for local industry to see $11 Billion in private investment


For Release: July 29, 2020


ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (NM RETA) today released findings from a landmark New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission and Storage Study that explore the state’s renewable capabilities. The study concluded there are more than enough renewable energy resources for development in New Mexico to meet the Energy Transition Act’s (ETA) requirement of 50% renewable electricity for utilities and rural electric cooperatives by 2030. The study covered 2020 to 2032 and was researched by Virginia-based ICF Resources, in partnership with NM RETA. ICF is an international consulting firm with extensive industry knowledge, distinguished professionals, and innovative forecasting tools for complex energy issues.

The study also concluded there would be substantial surplus of energy to export wind and solar resources to customers in the western United States. But a significant hurdle that the renewable energy industry faces in New Mexico is a lack of sufficient electricity transmission. Strategic expansion of power line networks is needed to tap into the extensive wind and solar resources available for development.

The study indicates that there is an opportunity for up to $11 Billion in private investment in New Mexico’s renewable energy and transmission infrastructure.  A grid modernization effort featuring 900-to-1,300 miles of high voltage transmission lines is needed, in parallel with an unprecedented expansion of New Mexico renewable energy development. The study demonstrated an astounding amount of development would be possible: 11,500 megawatts (MW). This tremendous investment in clean electricity would create 3,700 construction jobs; an additional 600 to 800 jobs would permanently exist beyond 2032.

$9-$11 Billion

Total Private Investment

900-1,300 Miles

New High Voltage Transmission Lines

3,700 Jobs

Up to 3,700 at Peak Plus 600 to 800 Permanent

11,500 MW

Total Renewable Capacity in New Mexico

Transmission & Storage Study Findings

The Renewable Energy Transmission and Storage Study includes specific information addressing four key areas (the full report is available at NMRETA.com).

New Mexico has the potential to support extensive wind and solar resource development, for the study period and beyond, on State Trust and private lands. There is potential to support 137,000 MW of wind, while solar potential is even greater, at 824,000 MW.  Only a fraction of this potential capacity is needed for the 50% ETA target by 2030.

Wind EnergyThe study estimated 20,500 square miles of developable land area for commercially viable wind energy projects utilizing high quality wind resources.

Solar EnergyThe study also estimated 68,000 square miles of developable land area for solar projects within high quality solar resources. 

The economic potential of renewable development was analyzed in the study. New Mexico, within the broader western and southwestern power markets, has the ability to meet the goals of the Energy Transition Act (ETA), plus serve other western states with significant growth expected in their demand for renewables, including California, Washington, and Colorado. 

Given the current market conditions, by 2032, 5,900 MW of new renewables could be exported by removing firm transmission barriers. This level of new development would ensure that the ETA targets through 2030 could be met. 

The associated transmission needed to support renewable resources development was then evaluated. Adding MW capacity to New Mexico’s transmission system would largely be driven by growing demand in the western states. Based on these results and the huge potential for renewable capacity development, centralized and decentralized siting of renewables was evaluated. 

These scenarios were analyzed due to the future renewable capacity additions, not yet sited, directly affecting power flow across the statewide grid. This will guide the resulting transmission needed. Other factors of the analysis remained unchanged: proximity to load, access to existing transmission lines, expected performance, cost, and ease of siting.

The essential transmission expansion will need to be concurrent with or before solar and wind development. The first grid improvements will need to be online by 2026; a second round will need to be online by 2031.

Finally, the economic benefits of transmission and renewable resources development were found to be quite positive. Total investment in the development, construction, and operation of new renewables and transmission ranges from $9 billion to $11 billion through 2032. Additionally, annual operations and maintenance investments total $155 million to $190 million each year. The construction phase would support up to 3,700 jobs, with up to 800 additional jobs created through 2050.

The study underscores New Mexico’s unique position to supply renewable energy to western states that have limited wind/solar development footprints. In addition to New Mexico, both California and Washington are targeting 100% clean electricity supply by 2045. Most of the other western states have Renewable Portfolio Standard targets.

NM RETA Response

NM RETA will undertake short-term measures to address administrative, policy, and technical issues raised by ICF’s report. Actions will include: expanding NM RETA’s public outreach regarding the transmission and energy storage study; continuing to work with existing partners and expand relationships; developing new agreements and partnerships with world class renewable energy and transmission developers; working with the major participants in renewable energy development to prioritize transmission corridors to simplify transmission siting; and participation in the WestConnect/Southwest Area Transmission planning process to advocate for best-candidate transmission projects.

NM RETA will also continue to evaluate the delivery of renewable energy to in-state customers; monitor the technological advances and potential implementation of large-scale storage facilities in New Mexico; and follow the development of microgrids. 

About New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority

The NM RETA was created by New Mexico lawmakers to facilitate the development of electric transmission and storage projects. The goal is to implement the transmission infrastructure needed for renewable energy development across New Mexico, for both in-state utility customers and export markets. 

Press Information

Contact RETA

Seeking more information? We’re ready to talk with you. Our representatives are available Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, to provide more insight to you.

Public Records requests of the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority should be sent to:

Valerie Moquino, New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, 1400 S. Saint Francis Drive, Suite C, Santa Fe, NM  87505