Clovis, CAFB join forces on clean energy plan

Staff and Wire Reports

SANTA FE — The state, the U.S. Air Force and three New Mexico cities agreed Wednesday to pursue solar, wind and “cow power” projects with the aim of increasing the use of clean energy.

The potential projects include a wind electricity generation facility and a plant to produce energy from dairy waste, both in Clovis, and a project to supply solar power to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo.

Clovis City Commissioner Randy Crowder, who leads a task force to develop a proposed 15 to 20 megawatt wind farm on city property near the landfill, said engineers from Cannon Air Force Base are working with the city to develop the project.

“I hope that it’s a very successful partnership,” he said.

An Albuquerque area project would supply solar and other alternative energy to Kirtland Air Force Base.

According to Gov. Bill Richardson’s office, the projects could require between $600 million and $800 million of capital investment.

The agreements did not include any details of proposed projects nor outline any financing options. Those would be developed later, as part of business plans that are due in four months, officials said.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force William C. Anderson said the four memoranda of understanding are the first such renewable energy MOUs the Air Force has signed with any state. He said it would be a cornerstone for similar agreements elsewhere.

“Because of the footprint of the Air Force across the country and in many places around the world, our ability to help drive clean energy alternatives certainly stands out there,” Anderson said at a news conference with the governor.

Air Force bases in New Mexico — Kirtland, Holloman and Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis — could be potential customers for the energy, could provide sites for projects, or contribute expertise as communities near the bases put projects together, Anderson suggested.

“Each of these clean energy projects — from moving Holloman and Kirtland toward green-power purchasing to the generation of electricity from biogas — strengthen our claim that New Mexico is the clean energy state,” Richardson said.

The agreements were the product of a round-the-clock planning session that included state and Air Force officials, energy experts, utilities, the dairy industry and potential private investors, according to the administration.

Anderson, who is the Air Force’s assistant secretary for installations, environment and logistics, said the planning session grew out of a conversation he had with Richardson a couple of weeks ago. Richardson prodded the group on Tuesday to come up with agreements by Wednesday, which Anderson called “breakneck speed.”

The agreement involving Alamogordo specifies a 20- to 30-megawatt solar system located on Holloman or city-owned land.

One of the Clovis agreements says the city would locate a site for a wind electricity generation facility and find a private-sector partner to build and operate it. The biogas agreement says the Southwest Biomass Cooperative will study the feasibility of building and operating a plant to convert dairy waste to power. It could be a cogeneration project to generate electricity and bio-methane gas.

The Albuquerque agreement says a feasibility study could lead to building a commercial-scale alternative energy facility that would serve Kirtland, the city and the state.