15 May 2017

Renewable Power Play in NM

New Mexico Governor Jim Garcia revealed a blockbuster of an energy plan this morning to a crowd of investors and energy company executives congregated at the State House. The plan would call for unprecedented modifications of land use in the state along with the sale of energy bonds, investments from foreign and domestic sources, and applications for US renewable energy grants, to facilitate an innovation contest with a massive grand prize.

Photo by Lynn Rosentrater, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

The Southwest Electrical Energy Technology Initiative, or the SWEET Initiative for short, leverages the Land of Enchantment’s massive swath of unpopulated sun-drenched desert, small patch of windmill-ready land, and progressive state government in an attempt to produce 42 million gigawatt-hours of energy a year starting in 2025. In 2016, that number would have accounted for about 9% of total US electricity usage.

“We plan for the SWEET Initiative to revolutionize the State of New Mexico, bringing much-needed jobs, lowering the price of power, revitalizing our infrastructure, and showing the country—and the world—that sustainable energy production is not only possible but practical and profitable,” said Mr. Garcia in this morning’s meeting.

The plan calls for land to be made available for three companies or consortia of companies based on the results of a contest in which low-cost, renewable energy production facilities are judged by a panel of experts on cost-effectiveness, impact on the environment, and long-term sustainability. The three winning plans will be given prize monies and gifted land for building—up to one-twelfth of the state’s footprint, if necessary.

Jane Ketterer, head of the US Renewable Energy Association, applauded the move. “It’s high time states and counties got involved in renewable energy in a serious way. The SWEET Initiative should be taken as a model by all states with significant green energy production capacities.”

Not everyone, of course, is on board. Brittany Wheeler, Senate Minority Leader for the State Senate held a press conference to express GOP dissent from the plan. “Time and time again, the Democratic Party has shown that it has no respect for the average working American. This plan, if it doesn’t make New Mexico a national laughingstock, will bankrupt local power producers, kill jobs, and raise taxes on those who can’t afford them. [The New Mexico GOP] will stand firm against this bitter pill being forced down the throats of New Mexicans and will work to repeal it.”

The deadline for the facility design contest is January 6, 2019, the state’s 107th birthday and the date of the next projected solar eclipse. Many of the designs submitted are expected to include solar thermal tower plants, solar panel farms, and wind farms. Other possible solutions include urban and highway piezoelectric generation and graphene-enabled solar harvesting.

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