SAN LUIS, Ariz. – A Maryland firm won second and final approval Wednesday from the city council of its proposal to convert wind to electricity within two towers erected on the south corner of San Luis.
With two members absent, the San Luis City Council voted 4-0 to approve the second of two readings of an ordinance that rezones 880 acres of agricultural land to heavy industrial use, allowing for construction of the towers by Clean Wind Energy.
The towers, standing thousands of feet in the air, would use desalted 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.
The company’s president and CEO, Ronald Pickett, initially said the towers would reach about 3,000 feet in altitude, prompting skepticism about the feasibility of the project among some area residents and observers. More recently he has said 3,000 feet would be the maximum height but that the towers could end up being shorter.
The site of the project, 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.
The 880-acre rezoning approved Wednesday represents half of what Clean Wind Industry proposes as a 1,760-acre site for the project. On the second half of the site, the company plans to establish a plant where it would assemble the towers as well as a similar energy-producing tower it proposed to erect later in Mexico.
Wednesday’s rezoning represents the first in a series of steps the company must take before proceeding with construction.
Clean Wind Energy now must do an environmental impact study for the project, a process that could take up to 36 months. The actual construction of the project would take place over an 18-month period after that, Pickett said.
He said his firm is working with partners in Mexico to secure permits from the Mexican government to desalinate water from the Sea of Cortez and pipe it north to San Luis.
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.
No one turned out at Wednesday’s meeting to speak for or against the project, but City Councilman Jose Suarez raised previous questions about whether Clean Wind Energy would seek public financing for the project.
Pickett said the company would finance the project with a bond issue but that no public money would be involved.
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