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This project is not all it’s cracked up to be

Is this Big Chino hydroelectric project related to NextEra’s proposal for a wind farm on Yavapai Ranch land? NextEra (now calling itself Yavapai Wind but still headquartered in NextEra facilities in Florida) desperately wants to start construction before lucrative federal subsidies expire at the end of 2012. Without the subsidies, it’s questionable if that wind farm would be worth building.

Wind turbines are not only a noisy, raptor-and-bat-killing, maintenance-intensive blight on the landscape, they are very inefficient. They typically average less than 30 percent of rated output and produce less than half of their average output more than half the time. Electrical grids are not designed for intermittent power input, and much of the energy produced is wasted without some form of storage. The cheapest form of storage is pumped hydro. When the wind blows while energy demand is low, the pumps pump. When demand is high and wind is calm, the water flows back down through turbines.

So, I won’t be surprised if this pumping project is used as justification to funnel tax dollars to NextEra, GE, and Fred Ruskin to supply the pumping power. In the end, the major effects will be devastation of wild habitat and the demise of the Verde River.

To supply water to Prescott Valley and keep the river flowing, wouldn’t it make more sense to sequester precipitation that would otherwise flood the Verde, e.g. hydro dams in narrow canyons and diversion into deep settling ponds? Occasional flooding is necessary for the river’s health, but surely more water could go into the aquifer.

David Perrell