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Poco Windy #31 - The 2022 CTE Playbook: The Next Chapter Begins

It was July 20, 1969. The nation’s attention was riveted on what was happening a world away—238,900 miles away—on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility, where humankind was about to take its first step on an extraterrestrial surface: “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” An estimated 600 million people (roughly a fifth of the planet’s population) watched on television the first human step from Apollo 11.

As usual, New Mexico had played a major role leading up to that historic moment. Apollo 11 and 13 Flight Director Gene Kranz had worked years before at HAFB in Alamogordo. Early space rocket testing took place at the nearby White Sands Test Facility. Lunar surface geo training for the original seven astronauts happened at the Kilbourne Hole, west of Anthony, NM. 1960s Mercury and Gemini astronaut physical and psychological condition testing took place at Albuquerque’s Lovelace Research Institute. Apollo 17 Astronaut/Geologist Harrison Schmidt hailed from Silver City and was later to become the second to last human being (and the only scientist) to have taken yet another “small step” onto the lunar surface.

The 21st century NASA space program now has pretty much moved beyond New Mexico. The Blue Origin space launch site is just outside of NM, near Van Horn, Texas. Competitor Virgin Galactic does launch space vehicles from the spaceport in southern New Mexico, finally starting in 2021 after long delays—more high-priced space tourism rather than lunar landings. The new US Space Command headquarters was located elsewhere. The Orion satellite project, slated for Albuquerque, recently collapsed. Evidently, greater state and national attention and investment have now moved out of New Mexico.

There remains hope, though, for the return of attention and major investment to an expanding story, where forecasts suggest NM will soon be in first or second place in American wind power generation. Numero Uno o Dos. Pattern Energy’s Western Spirit set of wind farms in central NM is now up and running, generating 1050 MW sent to California on the Western Spirit 345 kV transmission line, now owned by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). As of this report, Western Spirit is the largest single-phase renewable energy buildout in U.S. history. A big story—one that should begin to catch national attention.

Next in the playbook? An even bigger story, SunZia Transmission and Wind—a pair of 500 kV lines connected to seven wind farms (3,000 MW of wind energy generation)—lies just ahead. One historic project eclipses in yet another size. Other transmission projects and wind farms elsewhere in eastern New Mexico are also on the drawing boards. Wind turbine technology and battery storage research continue at a brisk pace at Sandia National Labs. It’s time for the wind energy “gold rush” in New Mexico to take its rightful place at the head of US renewable energy’s future.

The need for Region 9 wind energy CTE has never been greater! The need for NMPED increased investment in wind energy CTE equipment and training also needs to become ‘historic.’ We need a new CTE playbook for young people living in Lincoln/Otero and adjoining counties to the north and east; for high school kids who need better jobs to stay here; for young veterans who wish to remain in New Mexico (that is, to live, work, and play here); for mid-career adults who need a career change. The benefits? You name ‘em—great climate, outdoor recreation, art and history, unique cultural attractions like Billy the Kid and Smokey Bear, and high-paying, hands-on CTE jobs. Endless possibilities in the regional wind energy industry. That’s where all the talk is and national attention is now focusing.

The torch has been passed. The next chapter in New Mexico’s storied CTE history has begun.

This is the home of Region 9 CTE. Thanks for dropping by.

By Dr. Jim Miller