By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
ELIDA — New Mexico’s land commissioner visited Elida on Wednesday to speak about the incoming Padoma Wind Energy plant south of the community.
“Not only is this a prime opportunity for the industry but it will provide yet another form of economic development in eastern New Mexico,” Patrick Lyons said. “The potential for electrical generation from wind is enormous in some areas of New Mexico, especially on the eastern plains.”
As the state’s land commissioner, it is Lyons’ job to oversee the approximate 13 million acres of state land and find ways to use that land and create revenue for the state and local school districts.
“The facility is projected to consist of 120 wind turbines on private and state lands, producing 120 megawatts, or enough electricity to power close to 47,000 homes,” Lyons said, who graduated from Clovis High School in 1972. “Fifty of the turbines are expected to sit on 4,320 acres of trust lands, producing a little more than $5.1 million in revenues for the state land office.”
District conservationist Joe Whitehead said Lyons’ visit brought “good information” to Elida, and thinks the wind power plant is right in line with Lyons’ duties as state land commissioner.
“The (tax money gained) is great for schools,” Whitehead said. “It’s Pat Lyons’ job to find ways to make money off of state lands.”
Also at the gathering, Whitehead announced the winner of the district’s land steward of the year. The selection was Dwain Woody of Elida.
“What makes this award so wonderful is that it’s given by my peers,” said Woody, who lives in the district covering northern Chaves County and southern parts of Roosevelt County. “(They’re) people who experience the pleasures as well as the sorrows of working with the land.”
Xcel Energy Inc. has already contracted with Padoma Wind Power LLC of La Jolla, Calif., to purchase all the electricity from the plant for its first 20 years of operation.
Officials estimate that 200 jobs have been created due to construction of the plant, which was projected to be operational by the end of 2005.
During a open question session after his speech, Lyons was asked what he planned to do regarding the Melrose Bombing Range and its 80,000 acres should Cannon Air Force Base be shuttered.
“If Cannon closes, we want the Melrose Bombing Range back,” said Lyons, who added that it would probably require a brutal court fight.