Some people were lucky enough to have been born in tiny Corona, descended from pioneers who survived in this unyielding frontier. Some of us have chosen to live here, drawn by the gritty ranching community and by the wide skies, the unmarred horizon, the nights rich with stars.
We live between the Gallinas Mountains and the Llano Estacado. Our wells are deep. There is no surface water. Drought strikes hard and leaves scars. Decades ago the mines closed; the ponderosas were logged out and gone. The railroad shuttered its station, though the trains still roar through. Sheep gave way to cattle, and the cattle, in this long dry spell, are struggling.
But one resource we are rich in is wind.
So there are benefits to having Pattern Energy and its partners build a sprawling wind farm around us.
Ranchers lease land to house the towers and substations; many in the village graveled over their gardens and installed hook-ups for the RV-dwelling workforce brought in for the construction.
As the first fleet of wind towers grew, new businesses opened, including a much-needed grocery. One historic building is now a hardware store, and another – the infamous Whiskey the Road to Ruin bar – will soon be a laundromat.
Characterful new signs by a local artist-and-craftsman team brighten Main Street. Our beloved café has longer hours and a new décor. The quirky motel is expanding with a convincing Western town. There’s an air of expectation as more construction looms.
By day the new wind towers can look like a flotilla of tall ships. At night, the syncopated tower lights are less tolerable. But now that Pattern’s promised radar controls are finally complete, most of the lights only flash when aircraft are near. The stars are back.
So there are benefits. But there also are burdens.
During first-phase construction hundreds of workers pressured our village systems. The few roads in and out of town were clogged with enormous trucks hauling nacelles, tower sections and blades. This added long delays to the hundreds of miles we travel for food, services and medical care. Roads like aged, narrow NM 42, fragile Gran Quivira, winding NM 247 and busy NM 54 will be under even greater pressure now, as the next phase builds more than 1,000 new towers along their lengths.
The dust and noise of pre-construction are already irritants. Soon Corona will burgeon as workers arrive for the larger next phase of construction, due to kick in soon. They’ll be here for three to five years, and then they’ll be gone, save a few who will stay to operate the wind field.
Is that the lifespan of our new prosperity? It seems likely.
And there is ongoing worry about what will happen to the towers when they’ve reached the end of their working lives.
Pattern’s young managers are serious about renewable energy and the environment. They provide grants and gifts to local efforts and sometimes hold community barbecues that not everyone attends.
Their goodwill doesn’t redress the gravest insult: the fact that all of “our” wind power flows west over massive transmission lines to Arizona and California. We’re told that New Mexico utilities are “not currently in the market” for this power for which we have given up so much.
Most folks around Corona agree that we’d rather be harvesting wind than Permian Basin oil. This resilient, creative community is adapting as it always has to a changing world. Maybe one day there’ll be pride in our new crown: Corona, Wind
Power Mecca. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Dale Rose is a writer and horse trainer and former journalist and utility company employee. She and her husband retired to Corona.
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