A proposed 51 megawatt Willcox-area wind-farm is slated to go before the Cochise County Planning and Zoning Commission next week.
The Red Horse 2 Wind Farm is scheduled to be on the agenda of the Wednesday, April 10 meeting at 4 p.m., in Bisbee.
Torch Renewable Energy, LLC (TRE) is submitting a Special Use Application for development of the wind farm, which will be located about 21 miles west of Willcox, near Muleshoe and War Bonnet Ranch Roads.
After reading the article “Wind farm seeks county approval” in the March 27 edition of the Range News, a local resident contacted the newspaper with his concerns about Torch’s proposed wind farm development.
“We appreciate the opportunity to respond, and we support an open dialogue,” said Land Manager Glenn Holliday with Torch Energy Advisors, Inc., in Houston.
The large wind turbines are only economical so long as they are heavily subsidized,” said Willcox resident Don Hammer.
“When the subsidies go away the wind companies will go away – they simply are not economical.”
Holliday responded that it is true that wind farms are currently subsidized.
“Specific to the energy industry, energy subsidies are used across all sectors (including coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewables) to reduce costs for consumers and producers, with nuclear receiving the largest portion,” he told the Range News.
“Of the subsidized forms of energy, renewable energy is the only current commercially viable source that does not produce harmful byproducts (and in this case, uses zero water) as a result of generation.
“Renewable energy subsidies are intended allow this relatively new industry to compete in the market, increase production volume, and eventually develop the technology so that the subsidies become unnecessary,” said Holliday, adding, “This strategy has been very successful where renewables are concerned – over the last 10 years, we have seen the cost of renewable energy decrease by more than half.”
He said that these subsidies “ultimately allow utilities to incorporate clean sources of energy into their fuel mix at an affordable price to consumers.”
Holliday points out that “Torch’s project will be selling power to Tucson Electric Power at a fixed price for 20 years – a price that is less than what retail customers are currently paying and projected to be substantially below retail at the end of the contract.”
Hammer said that “some folks have added up the horsepower and concluded that the turbines withdraw more electricity from the grid than they put in the grid.”
“Most turbines have to have the wind at or above 30 mph before they produce rated power. How often and for how long does that happen?” he told the Range News.
“All the time that they have less wind, they are withdrawing power from the grid,” Hammer said.
Holliday responded, “Once operational, wind turbines do not pull power off the grid and do not consume electricity to start spinning.”
It is true that the wind turbines we plan to use have a rated speed (i.e. the speed at which it produces the maximum power possible) around 29 mph, which may be the value the citizen is referencing in his comment,” he told the Range News.
“However, the turbines have a cut-in speed (i.e. the minimum wind speed at which the wind turbine will generate usable power) and will start to produce power at less than seven mph – considered a light breeze.”
Hammer also commented, “When the subsidies go away, the wind companies will go away – they simply are not economical. And then who is going to remove the turbines and restore the landscape?”
Holliday responded, “The Red Horse 2 Wind Farm will have a reclamation bond in place to guarantee the removal of the turbines and restoration of the land at the end of the project’s useful life.”
“The proposed project will consists of 21-28 wind turbine generators and produce 51 MW of clean renewable energy to be sold to Tucson Electric Power,” Holliday said last week.
The wind turbines will be up to 487 feet in total height, with a blade diameter of 191.5 feet.
The electricity generated by the project will produce enough renewable power to serve about 11,000 homes.
As to the project’s economic impact, Holliday said that Red Horse 2 LLC “will invest between $100 – $125 million in infrastructure in Cochise County related to the project.”
“We will source as much local talent and materials as possible during construction,” said Holliday, adding that secondary impacts of about $2.3 million “will be spent in the community during the construction phase for local services and local materials.”
“The project will also create about four long-term stable high paying jobs for local residents,” he said.
“The project will create up to 50 direct jobs to Arizona during construction and hundreds of indirect jobs and revenue from the local economy from out of town consultants during the construction phase,” according to the document, “Project Description and Proposed Use.”
Other economic impacts include increased tax revenue for Cochise County, Holliday said.
Construction is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2013 and commercial operations should commence by the end of 2014.
“The wind farm will create electricity with zero emissions and zero water usage in an arid region,” Holliday said.
The project goes before the County’s P&Z Commission, having recently garnered the support of the Willcox City Council.
Jeff Stoddard, with the City’s Development Services Department, recommended that the Council approve the plant’s construction at its March 18 meeting.
In addition to creating the “50 jobs for the construction of this project,” as well as the four jobs for the plant’s operation, Stoddard added that it would “possibly bring other industries related to this project to the Willcox area in the near future.”
At that meeting, the Council directed City staff to find out the opinion of the Inde Motorsports Ranch, at 9301 W. Airport Road, .
On Thursday, March 19 staff met with Inde CEO Graham Dorland, President C.J. Dorland, and General Manager Richard Finkler.
“We discussed whether or not that the project would be visible to the Ranch,” Stoddard said in his March 25 letter to Council.
City staff went to the project site, determining that it is about 13 miles from Inde and about 21 miles from the City, by way of Airport Road, he said.
“Staff also determined by line of site and Google Map elevations that the Galiuro Mountains will hide the project from the Ranch and the City,” Stoddard said.
City staff again met with Finkle and the Dorlands, who gave their approval to go forward with the wind farm prpject.
“Staff did listen to other concerns about the use of Airport Road during this project, and staff recommended that they write a letter to County P&Z, “ as well as attend the April 10 meeting “to voice any other concerns they may have.”
At its March 25 meeting, the Council voted to send its letter of approval to County Planning and Zoning.
C.J. Dorland told the Range News last week that the proposed wind farm would not have any impact on their “current or future operations.”
“We are supportive of the project because we are in favor of renewable energy, and the project will create numerous local jobs- both short term and long term,” he said.
“Our only concern is the condition of Airport Road, and from our talks with Torch they are prepared to spend the money necessary to repair any and all damage to the road,” Dorland told the Range News.
According to the document, “Activities and Impacts for Proposed Use,” the new road construction for turbine access setup and maintenance will consist of 16-foot wide aggregate roads and temporary 10-foot compacted shoulders.
“The shoulders will be de-compacted after installation of the turbines, and reclaimed to their condition,” Holliday said.
“The majority of the impact to the neighboring property owners will occur during construction, which is expected to be completed in less than one year.”
Holliday told the Range News last week, “We are really excited about his project, and think it will be a huge success for the communities of Willcox and Benson, Cochise County, and the State of Arizona.”
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