BELEN — Eight months ago, President Joe Biden toured an empty warehouse with hopes for its place in the nation’s clean energy transition. On Friday, federal leadership celebrated the first towers coming off the Arcosa Wind Towers manufacturing line. 

Texas-based Arcosa Inc. wants to employ 200 people at its $60 million facility in Valencia County that’s now starting to get material on the ground. 

A huge wind turbine tower with wiring through it sat in the middle of the large, open space that drew in U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. She joined U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and U.S. Rep Gabe Vasquez, D-N.M., on Friday. 

“It’s an honor to be here as the first big power line comes off the assembly line,” Granholm said, “because I know when the president was here last summer, this was a dream; it was a vision, and you had a big building. But now you have made this vision a reality.” 

Jon Austria | Albuquerque Journal photo
U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, center, walks past a windmill mast before a ribbon cutting ceremony at Arcosa Wind Towers Inc. LLC in Belen on Friday, April 26, 2024.

Heinrich said Arcosa Wind Towers, a leading manufacturer of wind towers in North America under parent company Arcosa, is a shining example of why local production and manufacturing matter. 

“We are creating jobs you can build a family around in the United States of America again, and we are making things in the United States again. And that is something to be very proud of,” he said. 

Vasquez said supporting made-in-America initiatives correlates to “investing in our communities,” through job creation, economic growth and energy independence. 

“If we can research it in New Mexico, we can generate it in New Mexico. We should be able to build it in New Mexico,” he said. 

Vasquez also said Arcosa shows how rural economies can survive an energy transition and that the renewable energy economy allows for partnerships with local governments. 

“That is the future for these rural communities,” he said. 

Antonio Carrillo is the president and CEO of Arcosa. He said there are about 125 people working at the Belen facility now and he wants to reach 200 people over the next six months. 

“We’re just getting started,” he said. 

Arcosa has been successful in hiring people, Carrillo said, and the company has a school that trains the workers. 

“It’s not only that we’re getting people, but incredibly qualified people with an incredible desire to learn and do the job,” he said. 

Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy, was also at the ribbon-cutting event. He referenced the SunZia Wind and Transmission project, a massive $11 billion project on track to become the largest clean energy infrastructure project in the nation.  

Pattern Energy has received approval to transmit electricity generated by its SunZia wind farm in central New Mexico near Corona. 

Armistead said the scale of these projects is a little overwhelming. 

“It’s beautiful and it’s big, and it’s just really exciting,” he said, looking over at the wind tower in the middle of the room. 

He said New Mexico has the opportunity to continue manufacturing and create jobs. 

“It’s not a coincidence that we’re located here in New Mexico,” Armistead said. 

Granholm said the work makes sense in the Land of Enchantment, with its sun and wind potential. 

“You’ve got, I would say, a comparative advantage because you’ve got lots of wind, you have lots of sun,” she said, “and now you’ve got these incredible companies that are expanding here.” 

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Megan Gleason | Albuquerque Journal