SANTA FE, N.M. – Legislation to institutionalize renewable energy production at the State Land Office passed the New Mexico Senate today with a bipartisan floor vote of 27-8. In 2019, Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard established the Office of Renewable Energy within the State Land Office. Over the last four years, the agency has increased annual revenue from wind and solar power generation to over $12 million in fiscal year 2022, and more than tripled the amount of energy under lease.
Prior to Commissioner Garcia Richard’s term, renewable energy development was largely absent from the agency’s revenue portfolio. House Bill 95, which is sponsored by Reps. Tara Lujan and Debra Sariñana and Sen. Carrie Hamblen, would codify this function in statute and build on its early successes. Establishing a permanent office dedicated to the development of wind and solar power on state lands should also help New Mexico get closer to meeting the new standards for statewide renewable energy development outlined in the Energy Transition Act, which became law in 2019.
“With the abundant wind and solar resources at our disposal, it would be foolish not to aggressively pursue renewable energy development. This bill would ensure that the State Land Office continues doing business with this booming industry for decades to come,” said Commissioner Garcia Richard. “The fact that we were able to triple renewable energy on state lands in just a few short years shows that there is a strong appetite for growing the industry in the state. I thank Representatives Lujan and Sariñana for recognizing the important role this program plays in diversifying revenue sources for the public schools and institutions that rely on these earnings and for sponsoring this bill.”
“As renewable energy becomes an increasingly important part of New Mexico’s energy future, we have to make sure that this burgeoning industry has the support it needs to flourish,” said Rep. Lujan. “With our economy and climate at stake, we have a responsibility to ensure we deliver on New Mexico’s potential to be a clean energy leader.”
“Our public education system and many other critical public institutions rely on the revenue generated by the State Land Office,” said Rep. Sariñana. Creating the Office of Renewable Energy within the Land Office will allow us to meet the needs of New Mexico’s future in ways that are sustainable and supportive of our just transition to clean energy.”
There are currently 27 leases for wind energy production either operational or under development on state lands, totaling about 1.6 gigawatts of wind power – roughly the amount of energy needed to power 320,000 homes. In June 2022, Commissioner Garcia Richard awarded leases to Pattern SC Holding LLC (Pattern Energy) to construct what will become the largest wind farm in the Western hemisphere and is projected to generate $431 million of revenue for the State Land Office over the lifetime of the project. Additionally, there are currently 12 leases for solar energy production either operational or under development on state lands, totaling about 273.5 megawatts of solar power, or enough energy to power roughly 54,700 homes.
Revenue that the State Land Office generates from sources that do not permanently deplete resources, such as renewable energy, are distributed directly to public schools, universities and other institutions each month.
Since its creation, the Office of Renewable Energy has been housed in the Commercial Division at the State Land Office. The office and its four full-time employees are funded under the agency’s existing base operating budget and no additional positions or funding are required to establish the office should HB95 become law.
Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard has overseen the New Mexico State Land Office since 2019. In that time the agency has raised more than $5 billion for New Mexico public schools, hospitals, and universities. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The State Land Office has a dual mandate to use state trust land to financially support vital public institutions, while simultaneously working to protect the land for future generations.