September 15, 2010

Local wind farm project fans resident speculation

Ryan Williams, Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter,

WILLIAMS – Community reaction to a proposed wind farm north of Williams has been mixed after two informational open house meetings held in Valle and Williams last week sponsored by the project’s developer.

NextEra Energy Re-sources, the largest wind energy provider in North America and a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., owner of Florida Power and Light, has proposed construction of up to 62 wind turbines on Perrin Ranch off Highway 64. The company held a meeting in Valle Sept. 8 and a second meeting in Williams the following evening.

The proposed turbines would be approximately 262 feet tall from base to the hub at the center of the blades. The turbines will be spread over thousands of acres with each turbine taking approximately a half-acre per turbine out of service on Perrin Ranch.

Howard Mesa Ranch Property Owners Associ-ation President Linda Webb said she and other residents are concerned about possible impacts as a result of the project such as the turbines proximity to private property and possible noise issues.

“We think the placement is in the wrong place,” she said. “There are a number of issues there that we would like to get some further data and information on because of proximity.”

Webb went on to say that all the information and wind analysis she has found in her own personal research points to the area being a marginal location for turbines.

“As a matter of fact, sitting down and figuring out the amount of wind needed for the turbines according to the GE paper versus the average winds in this area, indicates that the turbines would probably only be running at about a quarter efficiency,” she said.

As far as visual obstruction, Webb said she feels the impact will be more than NextEra’s estimation.

“The pictures they had on display, the locations were well chosen to minimize the impact,” she said.

Steven Stengel, spokesman for NextEra, said how a project looks in its environment and affects those that live nearby is always something NextEra takes into consideration.

“In this particular case, one of the things that makes this project attractive, in addition to the clean energy benefits and economic benefits, is that the closest house is approximately 1.7 miles away from the nearest turbine and the remainder of the houses in the area are at least two plus miles away from the nearest turbine,” Stengel said.

Not everyone agrees with Stengel’s characterization of the project. Bruce Bloomquist, who lives approximately 15 miles west of Howard Mesa, said he chose to live where he does at least partly for the view.

“From my house, I can see the North Rim,” he said. “It’s the vistas. I have an unobstructed 360-degree view of the peaks, red butte, all the way up to the North Rim and Aubrey cliffs. All that stuff. It’s just incredible. I don’t think the wind farms are going to do anything to add to it.”

Bloomquist went on to say after attending Thursday’s meeting, he was surprised to find out the amount of acreage across which the turbines would be scattered.

“We thought it was going to be a small little area over there by Perrin Ranch,” he said. “They’ve got them scattered everywhere and really close to where I live, which was a major disappointment. Maybe three or four miles off of my boundaries in all directions. Now, they’re even talking 20 miles west of Valle. That would probably obstruct my pristine view.”

A Coconino County conditional use permit is still pending as well as Arizona Corp Commission approval for construction of a four-mile transmission line connecting the project to a major joint participant transmission line, partially owned by APS.

Coconino County District 3 Supervisor Matt Ryan said last week’s meetings were a county planning and zoning requirement.

“Whenever we have a land proposal project there is a requirement that the applicants do their own version of a community meeting along with their proposal,” he said. “They bring that information back and proceed through their application. It’s a combination of fact finding, giving a heads up to the community and if they get responses they are prepared to bring the responses back to planning and zoning staff and show how they dealt with the issues.”

If the conditional use permit is approved at the planning and zoning level without any appeals, Ryan said the process is complete. If an appeal is filed, the issue is then brought before the county board of supervisors for resolution.

Williams City Council member Bill Miller said he is in favor of alternative energy projects in the area but isn’t sure that the Perrin Ranch project will do much in the way of bolstering the local economy.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “We need to move away from fossil fuels. I don’t have any fault with their presentation or their concept but my concern is, they talk about jobs but it’s going to be short lived. The construction period is going to be 10 months and then it’s over. Are they going to hire local people? Are they going to bring people in from outside the area? In that case, it contributes nothing even for 10 months.”

A long term Power Purchase Agreement between Arizona Public Service Co. and NextEra was signed July 22.

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