BY DEVIN BENT
A giant European company focusing on offshore wind energy buys a much smaller American company with a similar focus. What, if anything, does this have to with New Mexico – so far from any ocean? Should we care?
Yes. We should care a great deal.
Our politicians see a wonderful future in the winds of eastern New Mexico. They uncritically believe that we can generate electricity from wind energy and sell it to California utilities. And they may be right — in the short term. However, to do so, they must string uninsulated high voltage power lines and the requisite gigantic towers across the middle and western portions of the state — i.e., us.
For example: the Verde line proposed by Texas-based Hunt, a mere 33 miles long, will still manage to despoil sites historic and sacred, pass recklessly close to schools and playgrounds in Santa Fe and Rio Arriba Counties, threaten a wildlife refuge, and run down a dangerously narrow right-of-way through a residential neighborhood.
Do we need this power line for use in New Mexico or to send electricity to California? Who knows? Verde is what is called a merchant power line and will be built free of any state planning or regulation – as will the other proposed lines.
Will this power line create jobs? Once Verde is built, less than a single position will be required for inspection and maintenance. Will it generate tax revenue? 90% (estimate) will pass over BLM, state, or Pueblo land and won’t generate a penny in taxes for the two counties. The counties however will retain responsibility for dealing with fires and other emergencies created by the entirely uninsulated high voltage power lines.
How long will California utilities need our electricity? Probably no longer than the length of the first contract they sign. Offshore wind blows harder, longer, more consistently, and at a more needed time of day than onshore wind, and the Pacific Ocean is a lot closer to California’s urban centers than we are.
The US has lagged far behind Europe in the development of offshore wind technology, but now that European companies are buying in, we should see rapid progress and the loss of interest in our inferior wind-generated electricity. The depth of the water off California used to be a problem, but now a floating wind farm in deep water off Scotland has operated successfully for a year, and the technology has been proven.
Large areas off the California coast will be off-limits to wind farms for various reasons. Can the remaining areas produce electricity sufficient to meet California’s need? Yes, the areas outside “use exclusion” have a capacity twice that of California’s highest peak summer load projection for 2018.
(https://www.utilitydive.com/news/developers-see-value-in-california-offshore-wind-development/531447/) In the not so distant future, California will have no need for our electricity.
What will happen to the high voltage power lines festooning our state once the California utilities decline to renew the contracts? Does anyone think that the unregulated, out-of-state, wholly-owned subsidiaries that build these lines will do anything except quietly go out of business and leave standing the lines and monstrous towers?
In a state where outdoor recreation, tourism, and film making are economic mainstays, even a short high voltage power line can cause significant damage to our economy as well as our environment, our safety, and our views. We should think long and hard before we open our state to wholescale degradation.