Economic Opportunities: Wind Energy

The Rural Planning Area Working Group hosted four workshops in 2004 to explore ideas for enhancing economic sustainability on the ranches. These include conservation easements, ecotourism, Wind Energy Production, low-impact housing, Wood products, value-added beef products, and native seed production.

“Wind Power 101” was presented by LUCINDA ANDREANI and DENNIS DUDZIK on November 12th. LUCINDA is an energy consultant located in Flagstaff and DENNIS is with the URS Corporation, an engineering firm in Sacramento.

Many power companies, including APS, are obligated to generate a certain portion of their power from alternative energy sources. The Arizona has to date focused on sources such as solar and biomass. Wind generation is a clean, affordable energy alternative, yet there are no existing wind tower projects in Arizona.

Prospective sites must be in areas with good wind and must be somewhat near existing utility lines, preferably 69 KV lines. Statewide wind studies indicate there may be adequate wind on the Diablo Canyon lands to justify constructing wind towers for electric generation.

The towers most in use now are much larger than those previously used, for example at Tehachapi Pass in California, and vary from 60 to 100 meters to the hub. They can reach over 400 feet from the ground to the tip of the blade.

Recently the Coconino County Board of Supervisors approved an application for a Conditional Use Permit to construct a wind farm on lands that include Diablo Trust ranch lands. An application has been filed with the County for two wind measurement towers, one on each ranch, to determine the feasibility of wind towers.

Following the approval of the project, Red Gap Ranch filed an action in Superior Court seeking to reverse the Board's action. Motions have been filed back and forth among the plaintiff Red Gap and defendants Coconino County and Sunshine Energy, and the case has been moved to Yavapai County as a result of Red Gap's change of venue request.

In conjunction with the wind energy project, county planning staff testified at a recent Arizona Corporation Commission hearing on proposed increases. to the amount of energy produced in Arizona that would have to be from renewable sources. The current standard is 1.1% and the proposal is to increase this to 5%. County staff, speaking on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, spoke in favor of a higher percentage than proposed by the Commission staff, and also strongly supported a greater consideration for wind energy, as the focus of the proposal is currently on solar energy. Staff mentioned that the development of wind energy in Coconino County as having a significant amount of potential to improve the economic viability and sustainability of the remaining large ranches in the county. This was a point the Commissioners had not previously heard.