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County adopts energy conservation policy

Coconino County now has a policy in place promoting and guiding energy conservation and renewable energy projects.

During a special session Tuesday, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the Energy Element to the Coconino County Comprehensive Plan.

“This is an outcome of a lot of conversations from a lot of people over eight years,” said Board Chairman Carl Taylor, adding that he hopes the county will continue to move towards energy self-sufficiency.

Linda Webb, a member of Canyon Country Coalition, which was formed after county approval over their objections of the Perrin Ranch Wind Energy Center north of Williams, was pleased that the County addressed energy conservation in the policy. Also, she hoped that less lighting on wind turbines would be addressed before any more projects are approved.

“The red-light district is still blinking,” Webb said, acknowledging that the FAA has yet to approve radar-activated lighting systems.

Duane Weston, an attorney for NextEra Energy Resources, parent company of the Perrin Ranch complex, expressed concern that utility-scale wind and solar projects had been singled out for stricter scrutiny while most of energy goal sections were “warm and fuzzy.”

“The tone changes and instead of (industrial renewable energy) being a good thing, it’s, ‘Well, we can do this but if we do it here are 18 things you have to do before we will even consider it.'”

One component of the energy element is the formation of the Energy Advisory Committee. The EAC will comment on and provide technical support for energy projects. The energy policy will be revisited next year as part of the 2013 review of the County Comprehensive Plan.

The Board voted on the document after recommending some minor technical changes during a page-by-page review. Various board members suggested that this was a good first step toward promoting the use of alternative energy in Coconino County.

Initial meetings prompted the development of a policy rather than an ordinance, where regulations would be enforced. Yet there was a high interest in seeing this policy put in place.

Supervisor Matt Ryan summarized by stating that the policy was not perfect but a work in process.

“I’m glad we’re doing this,” Ryan said.


Goal: Increase the use of technologies and strategies to reduce pollution, environmental degradation, and negative health impacts associated with energy sources.

Policies included in this goal are protection of viewshed, conservation of water and development of carbon-off-setting techniques.

Goal: Reduce energy consumption by increasing energy conservation and efficiency.

Policies included with this goal include project reviews and educational programs with Sustainable Building Program and County assistance for residents to reduce energy consumption.

Goal: Utilize wind and solar resources by encouraging distributed energy systems.

Distributed energy systems have also been called on-site energy systems and are typically roof-top solar systems or backyard wind turbines. The solar array at Cromer School is another example of a distributed system. Policies include monitoring the permitting process to make it more streamlined when appropriate and requiring a Conditional Use Permit when production exceeds 120 percent of the energy used for onsite consumption.

Goal: Develop efficient and appropriate wind and solar energy generation while avoiding and minimizing impacts to the natural environment, wildlife and community character.

This falls under the utilities-scale section. The Perrin Ranch Wind Energy Center would be a local example of a utilities-scale project. Policies include prescribed measures to avoid negative impacts from these projects and the creation of the EAC.

Goal: Support the development of clean biomass energy.

Biomass energy includes use of use of wood and other plant material. On a large scale it could refer to decomposition in landfills. On a small scale it refers to burning wood and wood pellets. One policy describes distribution of forest thinning materials to residents for firewood and utility facilities.

Goal: Diversify Coconino County’s energy portfolio through the responsible expansion of additional renewable energy sources.

Hydroelectric and geothermal energy are included in this section. Policies allow for research into future technologies.