Ag Sense: Center tracks wind energy potential

By Rex Kiksey

Wind is a proven, cost-effective and environmentally friendly source of power. The most important factor to consider in the development of a wind energy facility is the site’s wind resource.

Regional wind maps, which provide guidelines to an area’s general suitability, indicate that large portions of eastern New Mexico are favorable for wind energy generation. Mean annual wind speed for these areas, at 150 feet above ground level, is estimated at 17 to 18 mph, which is favorable for commercial wind energy production.

New Mexico, in the past three years, has experienced significant development of its wind energy resource, and ranks sixth in the nation in wind-generation capacity with 407 megawatts. All of the state’s existing utility-scale wind farms, including the nation’s fourth largest, are located in eastern New Mexico.

Of the commercial-scale wind turbines in New Mexico, four turbines, with a combined capacity of 2.64 megawatts, are located in Curry County, near Texico.

Other larger projects include:

• New Mexico Wind Energy Center, near House, with 136 turbines and a capacity of 204 megawatts;

•Caprock Wind Ranch, near San Jon, with 80 turbines and a capacity of 80 megawatts;

•San Juan Mesa, near Elida, with 120 turbines and a generation capacity of 120 megawatts.

The Argonne Mesa project in Guadalupe County, with 90 turbines and a generation capacity of 90 megawatts, will be going online in the near future.

One megawatt of electrical energy is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy utilized by 250 to 300 traditional homes. Thus, New Mexico’s wind-generation capacity is sufficient to provide the electrical needs of around of 125,000 homes, or about one of every six New Mexico households.

But, the wind in New Mexico isn’t constant, even though it may seem that way at times. Wind turbines in eastern New Mexico generally operate in the 30- to 40-percent efficiency range.

Even though there has already been a significant investment in the development of wind energy in New Mexico, there are opportunities for additional development. To further investigate the feasibility of wind development on the plains of east-central New Mexico, the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Clovis has initiated a Wind Monitoring Project to evaluate the potential for wind energy generation at its location, which is 13 miles north of Clovis.

The center erected a 50-meter Meteorological (MET) tower in November, and has begun collecting site-specific wind data. Staff at the Clovis center are collaborating with personnel from the Southwest Technology Development Institute at NMSU to perform data monitoring and processing functions, and additional analyses related to the potential for commercial wind energy production in east-central New Mexico.
Monthly summary reports from the wind monitoring project can be obtained by contacting the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Clovis at 985-2292 or from the center’s Web site at clovissc.nmsu.edu.

Rex E. Kirksey is superintendent at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Centers at Clovis and Tucumcari. He can be reached at 985-2292 or by e-mail at rkirksey@nmsu.edu.