By Tammy Gray-Searles
“We’re still moving forward. We’re hoping for a 2008 construction date,” said PPM Energy Corporate Communications Director Jan Johnson regarding a proposed wind farm that would be located approximately 20 miles southwest of Holbrook along State Route 377.
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit for the wind farm in early January and at that time, PPM officials expected to complete construction in late 2007. However, according to Johnson, the latest projection is that construction will not begin until 2008.
She noted that the company is still moving forward with the project, and still plans to construct the wind farm.
“It’s still in the development process,” Johnson explained.
Issues such as transmission and sale of the energy produced by the wind farm are still being resolved, and PPM has been actively marketing to potential customers.
According to Johnson, the company is still unsure whether recent actions by the U.S. Department of Defense might affect the proposed wind farm. In late June, the Department of Defense, along with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), stopped the construction of several planned wind farms in the Midwest, noting that they could cause interference with military radar. The military is currently conducting a study to determine whether the wind farms can be built without disruption to radar activity.
Meanwhile, the FAA is reviewing wind farm applications on a case-by-case basis. Those found to be within “line site” of military radar will be denied until the military’s study is complete, or until a suit filed against the Department of Defense is settled.
Johnson noted that PPM will not know how the FAA intends to handle the firm’s application until it is submitted, and it cannot be submitted until the exact location of each wind turbine is decided.
“We have not finalized the turbine location,” she said. “We haven’t even begun that process.”
Plans call for up to 99 wind turbines to be installed in an area approximately 20 miles southwest of Holbrook and 18 miles northwest of Snowflake. Johnson noted that they will be a few miles east of State Route 377, where they are close enough to be visible from the highway, but far enough to avoid any safety hazard.
Since the turbine manufacturer has not yet been selected, it remains unknown exactly what they will look like. The lines connecting them to the power grid will be located underground, so the turbines will be the only visible elements of the wind farm.
Depending on production and consumption, the wind farm could power more than 35,000 homes. The electricity generated will be sold and delivered to Arizona Public Service Company (APS) through existing lines adjacent to the farm.
PPM expects to hire about six full-time employees to operate and maintain the wind farm, but will need approximately 55 temporary construction workers to erect the turbines.
Landowners will receive income from the wind farm, since the company will be leasing most of the property where the turbines will be placed. Johnson noted that the cattle grazing operations in the area can continue, as the turbines will only take up a small fraction of the land.
“The turbines will be spread out,” she said. “We don’t take the land out of farming or grazing.”
Johnson noted that demand for wind energy continues to increase, and that PPM Energy is the second largest supplier of wind power in the world. She expects the wind farm to remain on SR 377 as long the wind continues to blow.
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