Growth in import of wind-turbine blades prompts improvements at NM port of entry

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Widening exit road a "temporary fix," say business leaders pushing Congress for money to reconstruct one of state's top economic engines

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Wind turbines are producing a greater and greater share of electricity in the United States but getting their giant blades across the border from Mexico is a challenge.

That’s one of the reasons the New Mexico Department of Transportation and others are investing in a road-widening project to ease passage of the blades through the Santa Teresa (New Mexico) Port of Entry.

“The way overweight loads access the port of entry right now is very tenuous. The way wind blades, in particular, have to come in (at an angle) disrupts traffic,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association.

U.S. electricity generation from wind turbines has increased dramatically in the past two decades, going from 6 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2000 to 338 billion kWh in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Wind turbines accounted for 8.4% of electric power generation in the U.S. last year.

Juarez, Mexico, across the border from both El Paso, Texas and Santa Teresa, New Mexico, hosts a TPI company plant that produces 120-foot long and longer carbon composite blades.

Trucks make their way north from the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in Southern New Mexico.

The flatbed trucks coming across from Juarez “pretty much have to make that turn through the dirt, so we’re going to widen (the access road) so they can stay on the pavement,” said Ami Evans, spokeswoman for the state transportation agency.

Twenty-five feet of lateral space will be added to the lanes that come off the inspection booths at the port of entry for about 100 linear feet. State employees will do the work and funding for materials comes from the agency’s district field supply budget, Evans said.

“This is a temporary fix that will allow safer transporting of the blades and alleviate backup issues felt at the port previously,” Evans said.

Pacheco said private money is also involved and that the project will take care of a daily headache. But he agreed permanent solutions are needed to accommodate growth at what has become one of New Mexico’s top economic engines.

“This is a major priority. We are working with our congressional delegation to get the project higher on the appropriations list,” Pacheco said. “We have to keep up with the amount of traffic. We don’t want to get to the point we have a complete bottleneck. The redesign and reconstruction of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry is our number one focus right now.”

According to the Border Industrial Association, New Mexico exported $2.2 billion’s worth of goods to Mexico last year despite the pandemic. That was only 8% below the all-time record for the state. Mexico is now the destination for 60% of New Mexico’s international exports.

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