It Started With a Vision: Western Spirit Wind

pattern stories
Written by:
Ed Domain

New Mexico is getting good paying jobs, earning tax revenue, and family ranches are supplementing their income while tending to the land they love.

In a remote part of central New Mexico, something transformational was built in 2021.

With an eye toward the future of our nation and the needs of the New Mexico economy today and tomorrow, Pattern Energy completed the construction of Western Spirit Wind, the most substantial single phase renewable energy build-out in the history of North America.

Western Spirit Wind encompasses four wind energy sites totaling 1,050 MW of installed capacity, which will produce electricity every year equal to the needs of more than 900,000 Americans. 

New Mexico is getting good-paying jobs, earning needed tax revenue, and family ranches are supplementing their income while tending to the land they love. 

To understand the uniqueness and significance of this project, one must understand New Mexico, the land, and its people. Just ask Leon Porter, a rancher instrumental in bringing this game-changing project to the state.

Energy companies came to New Mexico in 2006 to talk to Leon and other landowners and ranchers about a deal to install wind turbines on their land.

“Right away,” Leon says, “I politely told them I wanted to talk to my neighbors first, and they agreed.”

“After I spoke to a few of my neighbors, we all agreed we were interested, and I formed the New Mexico Corona Landowners Association shortly after.”

Word of the Landowners’ Association got around, and according to Leon, “We had more people express an interest, and we welcomed them in. There’s power in numbers.”

The Landowner’s Association negotiated a deal for the ranchers, and the start of what would become the largest investment in the state’s energy infrastructure since 1986 got underway.

Western Spirit Wind became a reality because of the visionaries who work the land and the generations that came before them. With deep respect for what was here before us and what remains, we are celebrating a historic milestone.

Karen and Lois Ann

A rancher’s dream turned into reality

The impact of Western Spirit Wind comes to life in the stories told by the landowners and ranchers that are seeing the effects in their lives and the lives of the communities they are a part of.

One such family includes the Holleyman sisters. Karen Holleyman Kibbe and her sister, Lois Ann Holleyman Ratcliffe, are the ranchers and owners of Holleyman Family Ranch, LLC.

John and Eva Mae Holleyman’s early days

The sisters grew up on the family ranch they now run in Corona, New Mexico. The cattle they breed are called “Angus crossbred cattle” and have provided for the Holleyman family since the sisters and their brother were small children.

The Holleyman siblings started their story by recounting the fabulous love story of their parents.

“Dad was in the Pro Rodeo in New York at Madison Square Garden,” Lois Ann said with pride, “And he was one of the three top calf ropers in the world.”

Karen nodded and added, “Mom was a Glamour Girl, or what we’d call a, ‘Ms. Rodeo Texas,’ these days. She performed with all the old country stars, like Gene Autry, and she was in New York performing in Boston Garden when she met our dad.”

Eva Mae

Fast forward, and once the new couple was married, they moved from Texas to Corona where their dad bought the beginning of their ranch.

“Dad spent his life building this ranch for us so we could keep it in the family for generations,” Lois Ann said, while Karen added, “He wanted us to have financial security, but he also wanted to help his fellow rancher neighbors, his town, and the whole state.” At this, Lois Ann finished the thought by saying, “Dad was a hero around here, a great man who wanted to help everyone.”

The two towers

Years went by, and the family loved their ranch life. Karen said the ranch remained a family ranch as the children grew into adulthood.

“While we were growing up, we took care of cattle we had for ourselves,” Karen explains. “It was a great experience for us, and even after we went off to college, Dad would manage our cattle for us, and would sell the calves too. It helped provide for us financially in college and long after we were married. Then, one day, he told us about a dream he had.”

Lois Ann nodded and said, “This was really unusual, because Dad was a realist. He never talked about dreams.” Karen nodded as she said, “This was the only dream he ever mentioned to us in his life.”

The Holleyman family ranch

Their dad told them he had a dream of two towers on their land. He said he thought it meant they would have oil wells for a while. Later, he realized it wasn’t about oil wells — it was wind turbines. And as history now shows, Dad was right and the sisters have wind turbines on their land.

“My regret,” Karen says, “is that Dad didn’t get to look out his window and see these turbines. It would have made him really happy to see them,” she said with a smile.

Sustainability and growth

Both sisters are hopeful when talking about the future for Corona and the surrounding New Mexico communities.

“Growing up, we did everything for ourselves,” Karen said. “We even made our own clothes! Sustainability is a part of who we are, and wind power is sustainable,” she says.

“It is good for the environment, financially good for us, and good for the whole state like my dad wanted. And while I don’t think wind has to be the only power solution, it should be an important part of the future’s solution. I hope a larger part than it is now.”

Lois Ann smiled a big grin. “If you think the wind won’t blow in Corona, you’re in for a surprise!” Karen nodded in acknowledgment and said, “Today is unusually calm,” while Lois Ann laughed, “And there’s still 12 mile per hour winds!”

Eva and John Holleyman in later years

John and Eva Mae’s 50th Wedding Anniversary

What’s next
Western Spirit Wind and its transmission line brought real local benefits to the area during construction, including more than 1,100 workers on-site over a 15-month construction period. 

Moving forward, 35 permanent full-time team members operate and maintain the four wind energy sites. The number of workers on-site will nearly double when supplemental maintenance needs arise. 

Karen smiled as she said, “Now that Western Spirit is built, it is my hope that the people working on maintaining and running the turbines settle here in Corona and in our other small towns in the greater community.” 

Western Spirit Wind is projected to provide 3 million dollars every year in new tax revenues for two school districts and three counties over its first 25 years of operations. The affiliated transmission line will contribute approximately $1 million in additional taxes each year on average over 40 years.  

Lois Ann concluded her thoughts on the impacts of Western Spirit Wind, “We are seeing growth, and a big part of that is all the workers that have been here. We love it. There are several new businesses open in town, all the houses are occupied, there’s a real feel of things starting to happen, and I hope it continues into the future.”

Wind turbines on the Holleyman ranch

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