It was 2:45 a.m. Friday when county planners unanimously approved a large-scale wind energy farm north of Williams over neighbors’ objections.
For more than nine hours, the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission weighed possible impacts to wildlife and scenery, renewable energy, night lighting and where to put the 62 towers (each 405 feet tall from ground to tip of blade at tallest).
At the end of it, NextEra Energy was cleared to install the turbines on the private-land sections of a ranch 13 miles north of Williams at an estimated cost of $180 million.
Power generation will take place over 25 years, and it will is to be sold to Arizona Public Service, perhaps starting in 2012.
The private land under the proposed turbines is owned by rancher Mike McCauley. The nearest home is 1.5 miles away.
It appears likely that there will be an appeal to the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, asking that board to reverse the commission.
But the supervisors previously approved another major wind park east of Flagstaff, although the complex has not been constructed.
Commissioners considered 54 letters of opposition, four of support, and whether to add requirements such as programming the lights on the turbines to activate only when aircraft with radar are flying overhead.
Jose Martinez and his family recently moved to a hilltop overlooking the area where the wind turbines are proposed.
He and his wife support renewable energy, but they say they haven’t made up their minds about this project.
They question how much power the project will really generate – a question the developer didn’t clearly answer on Thursday night.
And they doubt that local construction crews would benefit.
“There’s no benefit to the local community to all this,” Martinez said.
Greg Webb’s parents live near where the turbines are proposed.
“I’m really, really a backer of sustainability. This is a joke,” Webb said.
He, too, questions how much power the project will create, and how many other wind farms will spring up across northern Arizona.
Webb supports solar instead.
“You’ve got a whole city here. Put panels on the rooftops. That doesn’t impact anything,” he said.
Wind farms are proposed along the Aubrey Cliffs near Seligman, on neighboring ranch lands, and on Babbitt ranch lands north of the San Francisco Peaks.
The state’s largest wind farm is already operating outside Snowflake in the White Mountains.
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