The largest wind farm in Arizona is planned near Flagstaff by NextEra Energy Resources to provide power to Salt River Project, the companies announced Thursday.
Crews will construct the turbines on Babbitt Ranches land, about 25 miles north of the city off State Route 180, and generate 161 megawatts of electricity when the wind is optimal.
That is enough power to supply about 40,000 homes when the power plant is operating.
The announcement comes shortly after SRP’s decision to add a large battery facility at an existing solar plant in Coolidge, allowing the utility to use the power when it is most needed on the grid.
The Babbitt Ranch Energy Center wind farm should operate by December 2023, according to the company.
“We see this as being very complementary to solar in that it can provide energy in day and also at night,” said Grant Smedley, SRP director of resource planning, acquisition and forecasting. “Also, wind profiles tend to ramp up as our demand is ramping up and solar is coming off (in the afternoon).”
He said the plant is expected to have a capacity factor of about 35%, meaning that it will operate about that percent of the total hours in the year, which is “quite high” for a wind plant.
SRP will buy power from the plant but not own it. He said it was the cheapest wind power available based on proposals the utility got from a 2020 request for proposals.
The wind farm will send power to the Phoenix area on high-voltage transmission lines that previously carried power from the Navajo Generating Station coal-burning power plant, which closed in 2019.
SRP has pledged to get half its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2025 by greatly expanding its use of renewable energy. SRP also has committed to cut carbon intensity from 2005 levels by more than 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050.
But SRP last year also approved a nearly $1 billion expansion at a Coolidge natural-gas burning facility, which has drawn sharp criticism from climate activists who want to see more renewables and less fossil-fuel burning.
Utility officials say the Coolidge gas-plant expansion is needed to stabilize the power grid, allowing for more wind and solar to come online.
“One of the reasons we believe Coolidge is so critical is it is dispatchable, firm, and can provide backup to wind projects and solar as it is coming offline in the afternoon,” Smedley said.
SRP is adding several new power sources to meet the growing demand in its territory as well as to replace phased out coal facilities.
Other wind farms that power Arizona
SRP helped develop Arizona’s first wind farm, the Dry Lake Wind Power Project near Snowflake and continues to get power from that facility today.
The Dry Lake project was built in two phases of 63 and 64 megawatts, with the first going online in 2009.
Other major wind farms in Arizona include the 99-megawatt Perrin Ranch Wind Project north of Williams, which supplied power to Arizona Public Service Co., the 30-megawatt Red Horse II farm in Cochise County that supplies Tucson Electric Power, and Western Wind, a 10.5-megawatt wind farm near Kingman that supplies UniSource Energy Services.
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