SAN LUIS, Ariz. – Planning and zoning commissioners here have recommended approval of a Maryland company’s request to build two large towers on the southeast corner of the city to turn wind into electricity.
By a 5-1 vote Tuesday, the San Luis Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of Clean Wind Energy’s request to rezone 1,760 acres for heavy industrial use, allowing for “downdraft towers” that the company’s CEO previously said would reach about 3,000 feet in height.
The rezoning request now goes to the San Luis City Council for possible final approval at its meeting May 9. The location of the proposed site of is south of County 25th Street and between Avenues A and C, near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The single vote against the project came from Commissioner Hipolito Reyes, who urged postponing a vote until it and the public could learn more about what Clean Wind Energy CEO and president Ronald Pickett said would be a first-of-its-kind green energy project.
One person attending the commission meeting, Elizabeth Carpenter, also urged the commission to hold off a vote, owing to questions about the company’s finances.
She cited Internet reports that the value of publicly listed Annapolis-based company’s shares has taken a large drop in the past 1-1/2 months. Once having traded at a high of 21 cents, it was down to about 4.5 cents per share as of the end of last month.
In an interview after the commission hearing, Pickett said the trading activity would have no effect on the feasibility of the $5 million project that will have outside investors.
Carpenter also raised questions about the level of noise that could be generated by the towers.
As proposed by Clean Wind Energy, water from the Sea of Cortez would be desalted in Mexico, then piped to San Luis and pumped to sprayers at the top of the towers. The water would then be pumped to the sprayers and sprayed out in a fine mist, cooling hot dry air and causing it to fall.
Dropping at speeds of 50 mph and higher, the air would drive turbines that would, in turn, power generators that produce electricity. The company proposes to sell the power to distributors in Arizona and California.
In a recent public meeting in San Luis to explain the project, Pickett said the towers could employ 2,500 temporarily in the construction phase. The company is projecting each tower, when completed, would be operated by 1,000 permanent employees – 250 in each of four shifts.
Addressing questions raised about the height of the towers – which would be taller that practically any building in the world – Pickett said studies done by company indicate the composition of the soil at the proposed location make it an ideal site.
Securing approval from the city of San Luis, he added, represents the first step in the project, which will also require an environmental impact statement.
Noting the site’s proximity to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Pickett said the company has been in contact with the Department of Defense, which, he added, has raised no objections to the project. MCAS officials were not present for the commission meeting.
The company is also in talks with Mexican officials about bringing water from the Sea of Cortez to the site.
Voting in favor of the rezoning request were Commissioners Daniel Bazua, Javier Barraza, Bill Cordova, Case Van Veen and Mary Velazquez. Commissioner Gloria Cisneros was not present.
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