The Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of a permit for a planned $300 million wind farm.
The special use permit application by Oso Grande Wind Farm LLC, a part of EDF Renewables North America based in California, for the construction of 32 wind turbines and one alternate turbine, gen-ties and a substation near the Caprock area northeast of Roswell will now head to a public hearing before the Chaves County Board of Commissioners. That is scheduled for the 9 a.m. May 23 meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place.
“The scope of this project is not only Chaves County but … they have several more turbines in Lea County and a few in Eddy County,” said Chaves County Public Services Director Bill Williams. “And the transmission line goes across Eddy County.”
All told, the project encompasses about 24,000 acres in the three counties and involves 61 turbines, which will produce up to 247.4 megawatts of electricity for Tucson Electric Power when operational. The Arizona utility will own the facility and energy once the project is completed.
“We’re the largest third-party operation and maintenance provider for wind and solar in the United States,” said Brian Sarantos, associate director of development for EDF Renewables. “Approximately a thousand employees.”
No public objections were voiced to the permit application at the Tuesday night meeting before the commission. The three commissioners present, Robbie White, Chair Dale Rogers and Melodi Salas, voted unanimously to recommend the request. County staff and Sarantos said after the meeting that they had not received any opposing letters.
Sarantos also told commissioners that oil and gas operators do not have any concerns with the project, because it will use only about 1.5% of the land affected. He also said that there are no endangered species harmed by the project and mentioned that the company will do revegetation and remediation for land degradation or disturbances.
Sarantos said his company, a division of EDF Electricity of France, has been working on the project for two years. The company is dealing with several federal and and state agencies to receive other approvals for the parts of the project in Lea and Eddy counties that cross public lands or that impact military training air space, but it plans to begin construction on the switchyard in Chaves County in July. The project should be commercially operational by September 2020, according to Sarantos.
He added that the company has built two prior projects in Roosevelt County. The Roosevelt Wind and Milo Wind projects consist of 150 wind turbines that generate 299.65 megawatts of energy.
The Oso Grande Wind Project is expected to provide $30 million in property taxes during the lifetime of the project and to pay about $15 million in annual lease payments. At least 100 construction jobs are expected during the nine to 12 months of the construction phase, although the erection of the wind turbines themselves will be done by specialized crews. Six to eight permanent jobs will be created once the wind farm is operational. Sarantos also said that construction support supplies, such as waste receptacles, will come from local companies when possible.
According to Chaves County Planning and Zoning Director Louis Jaramillo, the project in Chaves County involves about 15 parcels owned by three private ranching entities.
When completed, the project will be Tucson Electric’s largest renewable energy resource, according to an EDF press release, and is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 100,000 homes. Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 688,000 metric tons a year compared to fossil fuel-generated electricity.