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Working is a Breeze in New Mexico

Renewable energy powers homes and businesses, and the economy in New Mexico.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on December 20, 2022

Mesalands College in New Mexico.
Mesalands College

New Mexico has paved the way forward for a diverse renewable energy industry. The state ranks second in the U.S. for solar energy potential and in the top 10 for wind energy potential.

The wind industry is growing, and various programs across the state are meeting workforce demands.

Mesalands Community College (MCC) offers unique work experience while students are in the two-year program at the North American Wind Research and Training Center.

“Our curriculum is set apart by mainly one thing — a commercial wind turbine on campus,” says MCC’s Director of Renewable and Sustainable Technologies Andrew Swapp. “This gives our students hands-on training, not just labs and books. Our students maintain our turbine with us. When an error message pops up on the system, we allow students to assess the situation, troubleshoot and repair. It doesn’t get any better than this. Our students go out with confidence that they can climb almost 300 feet and work safely. We get grease under our fingernails!”

MCC’s program was established in 2008, resulting in collaboration between the college and high schools to develop the curriculum and the college and local employers to fill the workforce pipelines. As a result, most MCC program graduates start between $22 and $24 per hour with full benefits, Swapp says.

Employers benefitting from New Mexico’s trained workforce include Pattern Energy Group, among the world’s largest privately owned developers and operators of wind, solar, transmission and energy storage projects.

Danielle Osborn Mills, Pattern’s senior manager of political and regulatory affairs, says the clean power sector so far has created 3,800 jobs in the state and invested more than $9 billion in capital and $30.9 million per year in extra payments to local farmers, ranchers and landowners.

“Businesses and manufacturers need to know that they will have reliable electric service to keep their companies running and their costs down,” she says. “New wind and solar projects compete with conventional sources — and win on both cost and value — on a regular basis. Once built, renewables protect customers from fuel price volatility and inflation.”

In 2021, Pattern Energy completed the construction of Western Spirit Wind and Transmission, a complex of four wind energy project sites in central New Mexico, generating 1,050 megawatts of installed capacity. With the SunZia Transmission and SunZia Wind projects, Pattern Energy has committed to an $8 billion investment in New Mexico over the next decade.

“Western Spirit Wind represents the most wind power ever constructed as a single phase in the Americas,” Osborn Mills says.

Want to know more?

To learn more about New Mexico, check out the latest edition of New Mexico Economic Development

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