Western Spirit Transmission
Together with the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) Pattern Energy is jointly developing the 155-mile 345 kV transmission line that will connect more than 800 MW of new wind power to the existing New Mexico grid. Once the line achieves commercial operation It is contracted to be sold to PNM.
Enables new investment of over $1.5 billion in renewable generation and transmission
Increasing grid reliability by harnessing New Mexico’s natural resources
Providing relief to a congested New Mexican electrical grid
Opening access to consumers across the state and the region to clean and affordable energy
Bringing hundreds of construction jobs to New Mexico
Project at a Glance
Collect Renewable Power
The Western Spirit Transmission Line will collect renewable power from central New Mexico and deliver approximately 800 MW of power to the existing electric grid in northwestern New Mexico.
In 2010, RETA commissioned studies by Los Alamos National Laboratory and identified the Western Spirit Transmission Line project as a means of facilitating transmission in eastern and central New Mexico.
Reduce Water Withdrawal
The Western Spirit Transmission Line will reduce water withdrawal from lakes and rivers by 850 million gallons per year – water that would otherwise be needed for cooling thermal power plants.
We understand the importance these construction projects have on the local economy and are happy to join with local resources by hosting local vendor fairs in advance of construction to engage local contractors and individuals.
If you are interested in working with our construction teams please fill out our Contractor Questionnaire.
What is Western Spirit Transmission?
The Western Spirit Transmission Line (”Western Spirit”) is a proposed 345 kV transmission line that will connect more than 800 MW of new wind power to the existing New Mexico grid. Western Spirit is currently owned by the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (”NM RETA”), which is co-developing the line with Pattern Energy Group LP (“Pattern Energy”), a private renewable power company. After Western Spirit is constructed it will be acquired by the Public Service Company of New Mexico (”PNM”), and it will strengthen New Mexico’s grid and enhance its ability to run on renewable power. Western Spirit was selected by PNM as the best option for a capacity upgrade needed to enable the construction of over 800 MW of new wind projects. The line has been under development since 2010 when NM RETA first identified it as a benefit to the New Mexico grid.
Who are the participating entities?
New Mexico Renewable Transmission Authority (“NM RETA”)
NM RETA is a state authority established by statute to identify and develop transmission to enable renewable energy in New Mexico. NM RETA first identified Western Spirit in 2010 as a benefit to the grid and is the current owner & co-developer of the project.
Pattern Energy Group LP (“Pattern Energy”)
Pattern Energy is NM RETA’s private co-development partner for Western Spirit. Pattern Energy is a global leader in wind, solar, and transmission with over 5,000 MW placed in service, including New Mexico’s largest wind energy investments to date.
The Public Service Company of New Mexico (“PNM”)
PNM is the largest grid operator in New Mexico and will acquire Western Spirit when it is operational as a capacity upgrade that will enable the construction of over 800 MW of new wind energy. The investment and acquisition cost of Western Spirit will be repaid by Pattern Energy’s wind projects.
Who will own the line?
NM RETA currently owns the line and is co-developing the project with Pattern Energy. NM RETA and Pattern Energy will construct Western Spirit, and once it is operational PNM will acquire the asset.
Who is getting the wind power?
More than half of the 800 MW is already under contract, and the remaining is being actively marketed throughout the west. The wind power enabled by Western Spirit would be available to interested New Mexico utilities or electric co-ops, provided the power contracts are deemed just and reasonable by relevant regulatory bodies such as the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission (NM PRC). However, Western Spirit is not being built with any expectation or requirement that PNM should buy any of the enabled wind power, and PNM’s acquisition of the line does not represent any express intention to contract for the wind power.
Will the line benefit New Mexico?
Yes. The Western Spirit transmission line will create hundreds of jobs, support local communities through property tax payments, and allow New Mexico to harness and export its great wind energy resource, bringing new investments of approximately $1.5 billion in new wind farms to New Mexico.
In addition, the line will help address a need for increased transmission reliability in light of new renewable energy goals. The New Mexico electric grid is currently at capacity between Albuquerque and the wind-rich areas in the central and eastern parts of the state, but Western Spirit will add capacity and significant strength to the grid, making the PNM system much more prepared to run on a majority of renewable energy power, as required by 2030 under
New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act.
The new wind farms made possible by the Western Spirit transmission line will also bring significant financial contributions to local communities through employment opportunities, college training, property taxes, and landowner royalties. State and local governments can use their new sources of revenue to support local community needs, such as improvements to schools, hospitals, fire departments, and police services.
Currently, New Mexico has more than 1,100 MW of installed wind capacity and 1,000 to 2,000 people in jobs related to the wind industry. The Western Spirit transmission line will almost double the amount of wind energy available in New Mexico, enabling 800 MW of wind to come onto to the grid, tapping into New Mexico’s incredible natural wind resources, and making wind power from central New Mexico available to New Mexico utilities and co-ops that otherwise would not be able to access this incredible natural resource.
Has Western Spirit Transmission completed an environmental assessment?
A comprehensive suite of biological and cultural resource studies was conducted for the Western Spirit Transmission Line project. Biological studies conducted include an avian risk assessment of the project. This assessment identified areas of the project where for bird flight diverters installations to reduce the potential risk of avian collisions. Prairie dog colony and raptor nest surveys were conducted, and minimization measures have been implemented into the project design to reduce impacts.
Waters of the U.S. surveys were conducted for the project to identify streams and wetlands. Impacts to those features have been minimized to the greatest extent possible. The results of the surveys were coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Environment Department, Surface Water Quality Bureau and the Isleta of Pueblo Environmental Department.
Cultural resource surveys were completed for the project and avoidance and minimization measures were implemented into the project design to reduce potential impacts.
An Environmental Assessment was conducted for the project crossing of the Bosque/Rio Grande River. The Bureau of Reclamation issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the project in 2018. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also concurred with the Bureau of Reclamation’s determination that the project “may affect but is not likely to adversely affect” several threatened and endangered species at the Bosque/Rio Grande River crossing.
An Environmental Assessment was also completed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Isleta Pueblo section of the project. The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the project crossing of the Isleta Pueblo in 2017.
The project also crosses New Mexico State Lands. Cultural Surveys of 100 percent of the State Land’s crossings were conducted and the results coordinated with the New Mexico State Land Office and the State Historic Preservation Officer. The State Historic Preservation Officer concurred with the New Mexico State Land Office’s proposed avoidance and minimization measures included in the project design. The New Mexico State Land Office was also provided the results of the prairie dog colony and raptor nest surveys.
What was the regulatory approval process?
The successful siting of a long-haul transmission project is a lengthy, complex process.
New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and Pattern Energy representatives work with land, engineering, and environmental specialists to study and review many variables that determine a route for the Western Spirit Transmission Line. This process includes review and evaluation of potential project impacts, involving federal, state and local managed lands, heavily populated communities, recognized tribal lands, areas with high resource value, known cultural resources, water resources, and federal and state protected species. In addition, engineering considerations such as corridor width and terrain the project traverse is also evaluated. After receiving additional stakeholder input and conducting further environmental studies, we identify a preferred route, as well as alternative routes.
In June of 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted Pattern Energy the authority to sell transmission rights on the Western Spirit Transmission Line. Receiving this authority from FERC allows Pattern Energy to negotiate market-based rates with potential customers of the project, likely energy generators in New Mexico or utilities and other load serving entities in the West.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) completed their review of the relevant portion of the Western Spirit Transmission Line and issued a Grant of Easement in March 2017. Since 2015, Western Spirit has been working closely with the Pueblo and its Tribal Council. The BIA concluded their analysis of the grant under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and issued a Notice of Decision in January 2017