Ground broken on Sagamore
December 18, 2019
In a year's time, the open fields and farmland east of Dora will be filled with towering white windmills that will harness New Mexico's strong winds to generate enough electricity to power 194,000 homes.
The towers themselves won't start arriving until April, but members of Wanzek Construction will be plenty busy until then as they build foundations and roads for them at the site of the Sagamore Wind Project.
Local and state officials, representatives from Xcel Energy and nearby landowners met Monday morning for the project's groundbreaking ceremony at the main worksite eight miles east of Dora.
Representatives from the local and state government spoke about the benefits and economic incentives the project will bring to the area with an estimated $131.5 million in local and state benefits to be generated throughout its lifespan, $43 million of which will be gross receipts tax.
"In politics you quickly learn which companies care about their customers and we have some of the best electricity rates in the state," said New Mexico State Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales. "We're very glad that this project is here and very glad that we're going to get much of the tax benefit that will be generated and the jobs that will be here for many years to come."
"This project is going to cost $100 million and is a substantial investment right here in Roosevelt County," said Xcel President David Hudson. "We haven't asked for any tax abatements because we feel as a public utility we shouldn't be doing that."
The construction portion of the project is expected to finish by December 2020 and will employ 400 people over the course of the year. The completed project will feature 240 wind turbines and will be staffed by 30 full-time employees as the largest wind farm in the state.
Sagamore is expected to generate 522-megawatts at a time and the towers will have a life expectancy of at least 25 years.
The wind farm is part of Xcel's effort to convert its various energy sources to renewable resources like solar and wind as the company hopes to be carbon free by the year 2050. With the completion of Sagamore, Xcel will be 50 percent of the way toward that goal. Hudson said Xcel will keep the site maintained over the next few decades and periodically reevaluate the location as the towers reach the end of their lifespan.
In addition to the local economic and tax benefits, several landowners leasing property to the wind farm will profit directly through royalties.
According to Xcel Senior Siting and Land Rights Agent Bryant Coon, once the wind farm is fully operational, Xcel expects to distribute over $2.1 million in royalty payments to 150 families a year and Xcel estimates it will distribute $85 million in royalties throughout the life of the project.
Some farmers like Billy Hays, who has owned property in Dora for nearly 60 years, said they're glad to see the land used for something after spending recent years receiving Conservation Reserve Program funds from the government in lieu of farming crops.
"We don't know a whole lot and we came to see what they'd be paying us," said Hays. "It's very exciting. We can't farm this old land and make money anymore. We do the CRP and they pay us not to farm. My son farms near Dora too, but doesn't make much."
Others like Jolene Garrison, whose family raises cattle and crops in the area, are wary about the project and just how much they'll benefit from its construction.
"I was skeptical and still am. I just don't know how all this will pan out in the long run," Garrison said. "I'm all for wind energy and all that, but I might not even be around in 25 years."