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Poco Windy #30: Wind Energy and the Magic of Christmas

As the 2021 holiday season approaches, it might be good to update again regional developments in the wind energy business for a few minutes. Just think. By this time next year those twinkling red, green, and white California Christmas lights will be lit up by Lincoln County wind-generated electricity! As we noted an earlier Poco Windy Blog “all the gold in California is in a bank in Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name” according to Country Music’s Gatlin Brothers. By this year’s end, some of that gold however will have moved back to power a Felix Navidad in rural New Mexico.

Unlike in the old days, major holidays now use unprecedented seasonal amounts of electricity. Halloween, for example, is no longer just carved pumpkins with a lit candle and an old sheet for a ghost costume. A good part of the estimated $11 billion Americans just spent on Halloween in late October went for inflatable, lit, and moving yard displays. Christmas will be even more. Indoor trees and other traditional display lights. Twinkling outdoor lighting displays, elves, and Santa’s reindeer, and sleighs. Backlit nativity scenes - highlighting the reason for the season. And increasingly, electric luminarias! Even the unglamorous stuff in the background- electric heat and hot water. With more and more energy efficient technology, all will use lots of electricity. Both holidays will be powered next year in part by central New Mexico electricity as far west urban populations grow and more older power plants are taken off line.

One major supply chain (this year’s big Christmas gift word!) starts in central New Mexico - one of New Mexico’s top three wind resource areas, certainly by far its largest. With a crop now about to be harvested, Western Spirit, north of Corona. What would you see now if you drove through there? 377 wind turbines, four substations, and four operations centers. A $1.4 billion project completed in just ten months by an estimated 1,800 construction workers. You would see 300 foot tall towers bolted to gigantic underground concrete foundations randomly placed (not really), methodically placed by engineers spaced across a landscape where years of 24/7 wind velocity measurements identified the best, steadiest wind locations. By the way, in the new wind farms, there are still a few, a very few, new met towers still monitoring wind velocities, sending data 24/7 to the pattern operations center in Houston. Met towers never go away. Atop the turbine towers, of course, are nacelles that house the 2.3 to 2.8 GE turbine equipment. And outside, each with three long blades…..

Back on the ground, you would also see a narrow road leading to the base of each tower, nicely landscaped up to a short ladder leading up to a door just above the base. The areas between towers have undergone restoration, groomed, and reseeded with blue gramma and other native grasses. Hoping for moisture this winter to get them started! Restored land, cattle guards, fences, new drive thru gates on narrow dirt roads topped with caliche, some of them used as daily school bus routes for Corona kids. Others to the local operations centers where now an estimated 20-40 Corona folks have already been hired to staff the centers. Pattern Energy is getting ready to hire wind energy technicians, to contract with drone operations companies, to begin their next big wind project. Full-scale electricity is expected to be flowing to California in January. New technologies never sit still.

But now, the Corona region quietly settles in for Christmas. Red, green, and white LED lighting. Christmas music programs. Community dinners. Experiencing again the innocence of children, new traditions and old, the sense of community, and sharing. And outside, the wind never stops. 

So, as noted earlier, much of the gold is still in California. But since January 2021, more has moved back to Lincoln County New Mexico - where the Christmas magic has begun! 

Happy Holidays y Un Prospero Ano Nuevo!

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