SAN LUIS, Ariz. – The new mayor and city council members here say they will keep an open mind next week about a proposal to convert wind to electricity inside two towers that would stand thousands of feet in height on the city’s southwest corner.
Maryland-based Clean Wind Energy Inc. is scheduled to appear before the council Wednesday to seek rezoning of 1,760 acres of agricultural land to heavy industrial use, allowing for construction of the towers.
The meeting at San Luis City Hall, 1090 Union St., is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The company’s president and CEO, Ronald Pickett, has said the towers would reach nearly 3,000 feet in the air, and would use desalinated water piped from the Sea of Cortez to cool hot, dry air, which in turn would fall through the shafts at high speed, driving turbines that would produce electricity for sale in California and Arizona.
Pickett has said the project would employ 2,500 temporarily in the construction phase, and then 1,000 permanently in each of the two towers, which would be located inside city limits and next to the Mexican border.
The proposal, nonetheless, prompted skepticism among Yuma-area residents about its technological feasibility as well as concern about its possible impact on the environment and surrounding property uses.
The rezoning requests comes to the council after having received preliminary approval last month from the city’s planning and zoning commission.
The site of the proposed towers, located south of County 25th Street and between Avenues A and C, is federal land that the company proposes to lease from the Bureau of Reclamation.
Gerardo Sanchez, the city’s newly appointed mayor, says the council will weigh the possible benefits and drawbacks of the project.
“Just as it could have positive impacts, it can also have negative impacts,” Sanchez said. “We are talking about very big towers, ones that have never been seen before. We have to see what the community thinks, if it wants that for San Luis.”
Notwithstanding the prospect of new jobs for San Luis, Sanchez added said, “this needs to be looked at carefully. We have to ask ourselves if we have the infrastructure to receive all those people” employed by the towers.
Councilman Marco Pinzon says he’s holding off a decision until he sees if the company gets approval from Mexico to bring the water by pipeline from the gulf.
“One of the difficulties I see is that they need to resolve the situation in Mexico. They are negotiating for the water. And if that’s finalized on the Mexican side, there are greater possibilities that it will be viable here.
“We have nothing to lose,” he added. “It would benefit us. I don’t see anything negative. In fact, they have begun to apply for some of the permits need to move the project forward, but I’m not going to get excited about it until they settle the issue of the water.”