Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

The 155-mile 345 kV “Western Spirit” Transmission line has been energized and is up and running. Developed jointly by Pattern Energy and RETA, the line will collect up to 800 megawatts (MW) of wind power from central New Mexico and connect it to the electric grid managed by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) near Albuquerque.

“Thanks to New Mexico’s mighty winds—some of the strongest wind resources in the entire country—these nearly $2 billion projects created thousands of jobs, generated economic activity in rural areas and will now generate pollution-free clean power for thousands of homes,” Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy said about the project’s completion.

Pattern Energy’s suite of Western Spirit Wind power projects, totaling more than 1,050 MW, are scheduled for completion at the end of December 2021. Representing over $9.5 billion of planned investments, Pattern Energy has more than 4,500 MW of New Mexico wind in operation or development. The engineering, procurement and construction contractor on the transmission line was EC Source Services, a MasTec Company.

The transmission line is enabling the construction of Pattern Energy’s suite of Western Spirit Wind power projects, which is scheduled for completion at the end of December 2021. The projects, located in Guadalupe, Lincoln and Torrance Counties in central New Mexico, will be one of the largest single-phase renewable power build-outs in U.S. history. PNM will acquire and operate the transmission line after full commission is completed.

“This is the largest transmission upgrade to the PNM system since the 1980s and is increasing grid reliability by harnessing New Mexico’s natural resources,” said Robert E. Busch, Chairman of RETA.

“We are proud to have designed this project with input and support from the local communities, environmental organizations and state government, making this a successful collaborative investment in New Mexico infrastructure,” Garland said.

The completion of the Western Spirit transmission line and wind farms represents a major leap for New Mexico toward a clean energy future. In addition to reducing the need to burn coal and natural gas and the health threats from the emissions they produce, the wind transmission line will reduce water withdrawal from lakes and rivers by 850 million gallons per year—water that would otherwise be needed for cooling thermal power plants.

“Today marks a critical milestone to achieve the State of New Mexico’s vision of zero carbon emissions by 2045. After a decade of hard work RETA is accomplishing what it was tasked to do,” Busch concluded.