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NM seeks federal waiver for transmission line

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm •  Published: May 3, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's largest electric utility, the state's transmission authority and Power Network New Mexico have filed a request with federal regulators that would clear the way for a new transmission line to funnel solar- and wind-generated power to western markets.

The Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and Power Network New Mexico are developing the $350 million project.

The 200-mile transmission line would be capable of delivering 1,500 megawatts of electricity from eastern and central New Mexico to Public Service Company of New Mexico's switching stations. From there, it could be sent elsewhere in the West.

"It represents a practical near-term solution for addressing the lack of transmission needed for additional New Mexico renewable energy development," Jeff Mechenbier, Public Service Company of New Mexico's director of transmission, said in a statement.

Mechenbier said PNM customers will be protected from any cost risks associated with the project since the transmission authority has arranged for private capital. The project will be backed by equity from GS Infrastructure Partners II.

Developers are hoping to have the transmission line up and running in 2015.

The developers are seeking a waiver from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would allow for a first-ready, first-served approach for energy producers interested in connecting to the line.

Currently, PNM must study customer requests on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of whether the customer is ready to produce electricity.

"With the level of interest in developing renewable energy in New Mexico, a first-come, first-served rule has resulted in lengthy waits and frustration for PNM and its customers," Mechenbier said. "We need improved processes that are fair and meet the needs in our region for timely and efficient transmission and generation development."

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