WILLIAMS, Ariz. – The Perrin Ranch Wind Farm, a 99.2 megawatt electrical generating project located just north of Williams, will likely be supplying power to Arizona Public Service by the end of the year.
When complete, the project will include 62 wind turbines in all. The turbines are 298 feet tall from base to blade tip and are spread over 20,000 acres with each turbine taking approximately a half-acre per turbine out of service on Perrin Ranch.
The Perrin Ranch facility is the first wind project in Coconino County. A long term Power Purchase Agreement between Arizona Public Service Co. and NextEra Energy, the project developer, was signed July 22.
After two days of hearings and appeals Feb. 7 and 8, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors approved plans for the development. The Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission previously approved the project with a unanimous vote Dec. 17.
Thirty miles of underground electrical collection lines and roads have been built. Once completed, six full time employees will be on site to keep the wind farm operational, monitoring the control system for the turbines.
The turbines will generate electricity when wind speeds reach around six mph with a sweet spot at 26 mph. When wind speeds reach 56 mph the turbines shut down for safety.
Most of the trouble-shooting can be completed from an office on site but some issues require repair work at the turbine. According to NextEra officials, techs climb turbines about once a day with two trips per turbine a month an average number at other NextEra wind sites.
NextEra opted to receive a Convertible Investment Tax Credit at 30 percent of initial investment. The tax credit was then converted to a cash grant worth about $60 million.
“That makes us somewhat competitive to the customer,” NextEra Project Manager Matt Gomes said, adding APS had 14 projects from 10 companies bid into the request for proposal process with price and ability to complete the project in a timely fashion key factors in choosing a renewable energy company for the Perrin project.
NextEra Spokesman Steve Stengel said the company only builds a potential project if there is a buyer for the generated power.
“We don’t build and hope they will come,” Stengel said. “We can’t afford to have a $200 million investment sitting out there for people to look at.”
Not everyone believes the project will generate power.
Howard Mesa resident Linda Webb has been an outspoken opponent of the project. She said she has a letter from the Western Area Power Administration stating the project will never produce the power expected by NextEra.
“You could even swallow the pill, as bitter as it is, if they were going to produce energy but they’re not,” she said.
Webb said the turbines are far more visible along Highway 64 than she expected.
“It’s worse than what we expected and we didn’t expect it to be that good to start with,” she said. “They really are totally out of place because the first thing that catches your eye are the things standing up all along the ridge tops.”
Stengel said the Perrin project will operate at maximum capacity 30 percent of the time – the national average for wind energy facilities.
“One of the things that is very misunderstood is a lot of times you will hear people say, ‘well, they only generate electricity 30 percent of the time,’ that’s the common thing that you hear,” he said. “That’s not true.”
The facility will likely generate electricity 75-85 percent of the time, day and night, just not at maximum capacity.
Local Economic Impact
While the project will not create full time job opportunities for local residents, there has been an immediate economic effect.
Twenty local or regional vendors including Northern Fence Co., L.P.’s Excavating, Jack Adams Blade Service, Arrow Ready Mix, CZ Trucking and Western Technologies have benefited from the project.
“A lot of local impact,” Stengel said. “It’s a significant economic impact.”
One of NextEra’s permit conditions requires the company to make a $1 million commitment to High Country Fire Rescue. Gomes said the company is helping in the permitting process for a new station as well.
Espee Road will be rebuilt to the state it was before construction began or better.
“There is a lot of heavy equipment that comes across that road and over time there is an impact,” Stengel said.
According to Stengel, over the life of the project, around 30 years, Williams Unified School District will receive around $4.2 million in tax revenue from the project.
Williams Mayor John Moore said the project has definitely bolstered the city’s economy from house rentals and hotel stays to meals in restaurants and grocery store bills.
“I don’t know if you can find a vacant rental right now,” he said. “It’s been good here.”
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