More wind turbines may be on the horizon for northeastern Arizona if a project currently before the Navajo County Planning and Zoning Department makes it through the planning process.
Disgen Marcou Mesa, LLC has submitted an application for a special use permit to develop a wind farm across nearly 25,600 acres.
The proposed wind energy generation facility would stretch from about six miles northeast of Joseph City to the southern border of the Navajo Nation, between Porter Road and State Route 77.
Disgen Holdings, LLC, based in Lakewood, Colo., is the parent company proposing the wind farm. The company has already secured long-term easements from 197 private landowners to knit together 15,122 privately owned acres. Disgen is working with the Arizona State Land Department to gain rights of way for wind development on 10,381 acres of state trust land.
In its project description, Disgen said it identified Marcou Mesa, the land form upon which the wind farm would be located, as an attractive site because of its proximity to large electrical transmission lines and the Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) Cholla Power Plant near Joseph City. The area’s high, relatively flat terrain and lack of homes added to Disgen’s approval of the area.
Except for six homes on the southern boundary of the reservation, all other homes are several miles away, according to Disgen owner Dale Osborn. Osborn said his company is working with the Navajo Nation to minimize project impacts on the nearby residents.
Disgen envisions three phases to the wind farm project, which is anticipated to generate 390 mega watts at build out, with 50 to 81 turbines built per phase. The special use permit application stated the total number of turbines could range from 150 to 243, depending on which turbine manufacturer is selected for the project. However, Osborn said the company expects the number to actually be between 130 and 160, explaining the number is less than originally discussed because the company is considering eliminating some of the turbines in the northwest quadrant of the project to reduce noise impact.
Osborn noted that the proposed project location has no electrical, water or sewer service, and the land is used primarily for grazing.
The Disgen Marcou Mesa Energy Farm would be about 25 miles north of Arizona’s first wind energy project, the Iberdrola Dry Lake Wind Farm, which has two phases up and running with a total of 61 turbines online to date. According to Iberdrola officials, the 31 turbines included in its second phase, located about two miles north of the Snowflake town limits, are capable of generating up to 65 megawatts, or enough energy to power about 9,000 homes.
The Disgen Marcou Mesa project would be expected to generate enough electricity for about 131,000 homes.
Osborn expects 20 to 30 permanent jobs will be created by the project, with 300 to 500 people being employed during construction, which he said should be completed by the end of 2012.
During the first two years the turbines are in operation, technicians from the turbine manufacturing companies will work at the plant to ensure the turbines are operating properly. After the warranty period, the plant operation will transition to local employees, Osborn said.
Osborn said the project should cost $650 million to $700 million to construct.
Disgen installed meteorological towers in June 2010 to measure wind data before moving forward with the special use permit application to begin development of the proposed wind farm. The company completed a system impact study with APS in February 2011 and determined the wind farm would interconnect with the Cholla substation, a project that APS estimates would cost approximately $5 million. Once the harnessed wind energy was collected at the Cholla substation, it could then be fed to the Four Corners Power Plant in Fruitland, N.M., which provides power to New Mexico, California Arizona and Texas.
Tierra Environmental Consultants was engaged to conduct an environmental review and found no significant potential impacts, Disgen reported.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has reviewed Tierra’s report and classified the proposed project as a Category II project, or one that is relatively benign in nature in relation to impacts on wildlife.
Disgen has hosted a couple of public meetings in Holbrook, which were attended by fewer than 20 people, Osborn said. Disgen has held three meetings at the Indian Wells Chapter House, meeting with Navajo tribal members.
While the Navajo County Zoning Ordinance does not expressly authorize generating plants in the proposed project area, it could allow such operations by granting a special use permit. In its application, Disgen said it is not requesting modifications to current zoning and asserts the grazing activity in the area could continue “without any significant negative impacts,” noting that ranchers will find greatly improved access to their properties through the construction of project roads. “At this point, public hearings before the Navajo County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Navajo County Board of Supervisors have not yet been scheduled, although it is anticipated that a public hearing will be held before the Planning Commission on Thursday, Nov. 17,” Navajo County Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Greg Loper said.
The planning commission meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Navajo County Complex in Holbrook.
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