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