ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A company that once planned a $1.5 billion effort in New Mexico to link three major U.S. electricity grid systems and pump more renewable energy to more populated markets said Wednesday that it has scaled down the plan to one that would cost about $200 million.
The Tres Amigas electrical infrastructure development company provided details about its plan a day after New Mexico's State Land Office suggested that the project was dead with the relinquishment of a long-term lease covering thousands of acres of state trust land in eastern New Mexico where the company's high-voltage transmission hub was supposed to be built.
Russell Stidolph, the company's chief financial officer, said advances in technology and changes in the project's business model have reduced the amount of money and land required for the project and that Tres Amigas has identified a significantly smaller parcel as a backup site.
The company's focus, he said, remains a project to connect independently operated electrical grids and move renewable energy generated in the rural reaches of eastern new Mexico to western U.S. population centers, including California.
"Tres Amigas is not abandoning our project," he said.
Stidolph made the comments after New Mexico state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said in a statement that he appreciated "Tres Amigas' efforts to help the country achieve its aggressive renewable energy goals, but they failed to meet certain benchmarks and abandoned their plan."
The Rio Rancho-based company and the State Land Office both indicated they are open to negotiating a new lease.
Land office spokeswoman Kristin Haase said Tres Amigas would have to go through a bid process again if it remains interested in another long-term lease. The company has not yet made a formal request, she said.
The original project would have provided an average annual revenue stream to the State Land Office of more than $9 million, funds which could have been used to support public schools and other government facilities.
The Tres Amigas project initially included plans for building a super hub across 22 square miles of rangeland near Clovis. It would have served as the meeting point for electric transmission interconnections that serving eastern and western halves of the U.S. and a separate grid that supplies Texas.
The hub would have provided more opportunities for buying and selling electricity across the three grids. The transmission infrastructure around the project, if expanded, was planned to allow large-scale wind and solar projects in the Southwest and the Great Plains to access large power markets.
The company said progress has been made on a 35-mile transmission line built just west of the Texas-New Mexico border as part of a partnership between Tres Amigas and San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group. The line will serve major wind farms being developed in the area.