Tres Amigas: Project 75 percent financed

By Alisa Boswell

CMI staff writer

aboswell@pntonline.com

The anticipated groundbreaking for a proposed power superstation northeast of Clovis has been delayed again, but Tres Amigas officials say the project is still moving ahead.

Financing for the $550 million “power highway” that would allow electricity to move from coast to coast remains the primary holdup, Chief Operating Officer David Stidham said on Friday.

Tres Amigas Illustration This shows the layout for the future power superstation. At left are the three construction phases for Tres Amigas.

Tres Amigas Illustration
This shows the layout for the future power superstation. At left are the three construction phases for Tres Amigas.

“It is no longer a question on if it will be financed but when,” Stidham said. “That process just takes time. We’re talking half a billion dollars. Once you get to a certain place, you just can’t imagine how much money that is.”

Stidham said officials have about 75 percent of the financing needed — up from 50 percent in October — and hope the rest can be in place in six to eight weeks, which would allow construction to begin in June.

Officials originally said they expected a July 2012 groundbreaking. Four months ago, they predicted building could begin by March of this year.

“As soon as financing is complete, everything is in order to construct the project and transmission lines,” Stidham said. “Everything will be placed on order and our contractor will probably be on-site within 90 days to begin getting the ground ready.”

Officials have said construction is expected to take place over eight years, in three phases.

While about 100 permanent jobs have been awarded to Rio Rancho, Clovis would see 200 to 600 jobs during construction and up to a dozen permanent jobs when the facility is complete, officials have said. Wind farms and other energy projects would be expected to locate in the region to take advantage of Tres Amigas’ resources.

Tres Amigas would allow 4,750 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 3.6 million homes — to flow through all three of the nation’s power grids.

Tres Amigas Illustration This map of the U.S. shows where the Tres Amigas project will be located in proximity to the three power grids in the nation.

Tres Amigas Illustration
This map of the U.S. shows where the Tres Amigas project will be located in proximity to the three power grids in the nation.

Stidham said the company is still negotiating an agreement with one of the power grids — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) — but feels positive about those discussions. The first phase of the Tres Amigas project does not involve ERCOT anyway, so there’s plenty of time to reach agreement, Stidham said.

Robbie Searcy, spokesperson for ERCOT, said Tres Amigas has been part of many of the grid officials’ meetings and that a study is being done to determine if there would be any liability issues pertaining to connecting with the Tres Amigas project.

She said ERCOT officials are also evaluating policies related to the ERCOT grid as a means to determine if the interconnection is feasible.

Stidham said one big achievement last year was the interconnection agreement made with Xcel Energy, a process that took 18 months to accomplish.

“We have put in an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a certificate of convenience and necessity, which gives us permission to build a transmission line between Tres Amigas and Xcel’s power plant in Muleshoe and that’s a big step right there,” Stidham said.

“We have over 90 percent of right-of-way with that transmission line, which is a good accomplishment.”

Tres Amigas SuperStation officials have detailed three phases for construction. The highlights:

 

Phase 1

  • This will cost $429 million and produce equipment that can transfer 750 megawatts of power between the eastern and western power grids. That’s enough power for more than 550,000 homes.
  • Buildings will be constructed for plant administration and security and to store parts and voltage source converters, which will generate alternate current (AC) from direct current (DC).
  • Officials expect to break ground in April and complete the phase in three years, when the plant is scheduled to be operational.

 

Phase 2

  • Cost is estimated at $436 million.
  • Two additional buildings will be constructed for equipment storage. Upon completion about 36 months after it begins, the facility can transfer an additional 1,500 megawatts of power between the eastern grid and Texas grid.

 

Phase 3

  • Officials estimate cost at $793 million.
  • Three more buildings will be constructed to store more voltage source converters.
  • The proposed site is 10 miles northeast of Clovis.

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