Tres Amigas officials optimistic on Clovis’ future in energy

Years down the road, Tres Amigas is optimistic it will make Clovis the center for cross-country energy transmission and a heap of other benefits.

Leading off the Pure Energy Expo on Wednesday afternoon, Tres Amigas Chief Financial Officer Russ Stidolph spoke of the hub that would connect the country's three largest power grids.

"It's going to change the nation, it's going to change the landscape of eastern New Mexico and west Texas," Stidolph told the audience at the Clovis Civic Center. "And best of all, it's right in your backyard."

The hub to connect the Eastern, Western and Texas interconnections on 14,000 acres of Curry County land 11 miles northeast of Clovis will be done in three phases, with the first phase of about $485 million dedicated to building up 750 megawatt transfer capability in early 2015.

When fully operational around 2019, the superstation would have capacity of 5,000 megawatts — enough to power 1 million homes.

"The people in this town and New Mexico have done nothing but support us as we get closer to the finish line, which is a groundbreaking," Stidolph said.

Tres Amigas officials have estimated between 200 and 600 construction jobs will be created when the project takes off, and the company will start with around 50 permanent positions in early 2013. Stidolph also noted that other energy projects would locate in the area to take advantage of Tres Amigas' presence.

Stidolph said there were four reasons, sometimes overlapping, to get Tres Amigas going:

  • The need for transmission infrastructure overall, especially given the higher dependence on electronic items.

"We have more computers, more televisions, more air conditioners," Stidolph said. "But we've done nothing to improve the backbone."

  • The ability to move power where it is most valued. Stidolph called the Midwest region, including New Mexico, the "bread basket" of renewable power, but the biggest consumers of power are along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
  • Structural price differences, largely due to an inability to sell to different markets. Stidolph made an analogy to a corn grower who had no way to move his product out of state. He can grow the best corn possible and in great abundance, but it won't matter if nobody is there to buy the product. Likewise, a wind energy producer can produce all kinds of power, but it's worthless if it can't go outside of a grid that's already got enough power for its customers.
  • Providing a greater avenue for renewable energy.

"We are building a piece of equipment and a business model for how electricity is moved, bought, sold and traded in the United States," Stidolph said.

The company is working with Curry County on industrial revenue bonds, and is optimistic for an "early fall" groundbreaking, according to Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Stidham.

Prior to the Tres Amigas presentation, Patrick Vanderpool of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. said times were challenging for power producers, as a down economy is coupled with the possibility that wind energy tax credits may expire, shelving many good wind energy projects if not devastating the entire industry.

"A lot of our discussions are based on politics, rather than economics," Vanderpool said.

The Thursday slate for the expo includes representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Patrick Lyons and various power pools and groups.

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