Tres Amigas founder lobbies for support

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

With giant modern windmills visible on the horizon, during a day with ample sunshine, Grady was a site most apropos for presentations on renewable energy.

At the second annual meeting of the Frio Ridge Energy Development Association (FREDA), one major speaker of interest on Saturday was Phil Harris, CEO and founder of Tres Amigas.

Harris is proposing an energy superstation near Clovis to connect the nation’s three primary electricity grid. He was in Grady to ask members of the association for their support.

Harris said his company will be petitioning federal and state agencies for a variety of reasons during the start-up phase. He said he hoped landowners in the area would write favorable letters to officials when the time was right.

“We think it’s the right engineering design and the right location,” said Harris, who plans on building the station northeast of Clovis.

The project has an estimated cost anywhere from $500 million to as much as $3 billion, depending on the amount of subscribers, according to Harris.

When completed, it would enable energy to be moved through all portions of the country.

For the land-owning members of FREDA, that could mean money.

Ken Starcher of the West Texas A&M Alternative Energy Institute gave audience members tips on how to negotiate with energy companies seeking to use their land to gather wind and solar energy.

Starcher said it would be advantageous for energy developers to set up shop within a 30-mile radius of the proposed Tres Amigas superstation.

“It is only because their interconnection requirements would be reduced,” Starcher said. “The shorter their extension cords, or high line wire…to this three-legged interconnection giant lowers their upfront costs — and that’s the big advantage.

“The solar energy much closer matches the utility load pattern, so that’s why we really love solar,” he added. “But wind is always the economic choice for true production of energy. A lot of that energy is produced at two or three in the morning, but we need it at two or three in the afternoon.”

Harris told FREDA members his company plans for significant battery storage of energy at the Tres Amigas site. Starcher believed that would enable the storage and later use of wind energy.

The reason Clovis has been selected by Tres Amigas as the site for its proposed superstation is its proximity to the three major electricity grids in the United States: The Western, the Eastern and the Texas (ERCOT) grids.

Starcher told the audience eastern New Mexico and west Texas have not traditionally been a high-priority point for any of the three grids.

Earlier, Harris emphasized high quality transmission lines in the area would have to be built for the Tres Amigas station to be fully effective. He suggested the State of New Mexico needed to be more proactive in establishing corridors, where the lines could be built.

“It’s time to step up,” Harris said. “I’m willing to locate in New Mexico. My question for the state is, ‘Are you willing to step up and build these lines?’”

The FREDA members, totaling 137 in all, hold property from as far north as the Caprock to an area about 15 miles north of Clovis.

“I think it’s the revolution we’ve been looking for. I think it’s a revolution for our nation and a revolution for our area,” said Paul Stout, president of FREDA. “I think the future of electric grid management is Tres Amigas and the possibilities are exciting and endless.”