Nearly everyone packed into the Torrance County Commission chambers Wednesday morning supported a request by Iberdrola Renewables for a special use district on 87,000 acres near Encino that will be home to the El Cabo wind farm.
The one exception may have been from Kurt Sommer, an attorney representing Singleton Properties, which owns a large ranch adjacent to the proposed wind farm. And even Sommer said his questioning of the project didn’t mean he is against it.
“The Singletons don’t necessarily oppose the project,” Sommers told commissioners. “I think the application does not meet the provisions of your own zoning code.”
Despite the concerns outline by Sommers, which essentially questioned whether the county’s zoning codes allowed using a special use district for a wind farm, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the request from Portland-based Iberdrola.
The commission made its vote after a lengthy hearing followed by and executive session with Dennis Wallin, the county’s attorney.
Mark Stacy, director of business development for Iberdrola, and Matt Heck, project director for El Cabo, gave a run down of the company’s proposal.
Stacy explained that the wind farm would be located on 87,000 acres of private land just west of Encino, but added that only 2 percent of the land would be used.
The project would include 149 wind generators up to 499 feet tall.
Once operational, the wind generators could produce up to 298 megawatts of electricity, which is enough electricity to supply about 298,000 homes.
Iberdrola would most likely sell the electricity to consumers outside of New Mexico, Stacy said, but a customer for the power would not be sought until the project is ready for construction.
“We think what we are doing is good,” Stacy said. “We consider ourselves to be part of the communities where we develop projects.”
What had most people at the hearing throwing their support to the project is the economic development potential.
In a slideshow presentation, Heck said that the construction phase of the project would inject up to $12 million into the local economy and produce about 160 construction jobs. After the project becomes operational, El Cabo will employ at least five people permanently, maybe more, he said.
He added that property owners involved with the project will still be able to use their land.
“Ranching around wind turbines has been done all around the country and the property owners in Torrance County will be able to continue their operations,” Heck said.
Stacy said that Iberdrola will most likely apply to Torrance County for an industrial revenue bond for the project, but did not say what amount would be requested.
Industrial revenue bonds allow industrial developers to sell bonds to finance projects.
In return, the county would forego collecting property taxes on the property in exchange for payments from Iberdrola to go to local school districts to make up for the loss.
Heck said Iberdrola would like to start construction on the project by spring 2012 with completion by the end of that year.
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