Business feature: Transmission lines major topic at energy forum

Local officials agree the plains of eastern New Mexico have plenty of untapped potential for wind and solar energy.

But the key, Gene Hendrick said, is just how all that potential power will get to the rest of the country. That's a big part of this week's Pure Energy Forum and Expo Wednesday and Thursday at the Clovis Civic Center. The event is the first of its kind for Clovis, though a similar event took place in Tucumcari in 2008 — set up with Hendrick aiding Tucumcari officials.

"It was similar to this," said Hendrick, an economic development specialist with the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, "but it wasn't quite as comprehensive as this one is. In 2008, we didn't know how critical transmission lines were going to be."

Officials from Tres Amigas — a $1.5 billion power superstation to be built near Clovis — are planning to attend the Wednesday afternoon session and have been given a 1 p.m.-2 p.m. block. Adrienne Smith, public information officer for Tres Amigas, said Chief Financial Officer Russ Stidolph would be at the expo to discuss the project.

Tres Amigas had planned a July groundbreaking, but has noted extra time is needed to get through paperwork and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Stidham is indicating a groundbreaking will be "early fall," without further details.

Hendrick is optimistic about Tres Amigas

"There's still a little doubt now that it will ever happen," Hendrick said of Tres Amigas. "But once we have some dirt moving out, we'll have some people who are putting out transmission lines."

Hendrick said Tres Amigas is a considerable part of the power equation, but nothing gets done without transmission lines. They're necessary because electricity isn't a product that can be loaded as freight, but they can be cost-prohibitive.

"Those lines are extremely expensive, and I can understand people not jumping into putting those lines up," Hendrick said. "But I didn't think it would be this difficult."

SunZia and Xcel Energy officials are also slated to speak at the event. Other speakers include Sweetwater, Texas Mayor Greg Wortham to discuss the economic development of wind energy in Texas, Public Regulation Commissioner Patrick Lyons and experts in the fields of solar and nuclear power.

Information: www.pureenergyexpo.com

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