After a decade, a new windfarm appears to be moving forward on an area about 30 miles north of Flagstaff.
The project, by the Florida-based company NextEra Energy Resources, hopes to bring about 61 wind turbines and between 400 and 600 acres of solar panels, as well as a battery storage facility, to an area east of Valle.
The turbines would have a maximum height of 614 feet from their base to the tip of the blade. The entire Babbitt Ranch Energy Center would generate a maximum of 160 megawatts of electricity.
The whole area of the project includes about 42,670 acres, a mix of private land owned by Babbitt Ranches and State Trust land. But during a virtual town hall meeting last month, project lead Wardah Abbasi said in total, the structures would only cover about 1,000 acres of the area.
“The closest residents are approximately five miles from the closest turban locations. We are still working on determining the final location for this solar facility. This will be determined based on site constraints such as topography, geology and cultural resources,” Abbasi said during the meeting. “We are currently conducting many environmental studies as part of our permitting process, including cultural resource investigations, natural resource and wildlife studies, and visual analysis and simulations.”
According to NextEra, at that distance, most residents will be unable to hear any noise generated from the turbines and are unlikely to even see them.
Nonetheless, based on digital renderings created by NextEra, turbines will be visible to drivers on some stretches of Highway 180 and State Route 64.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail also passes through the area as it makes its way from the Grand Canyon to Flagstaff. But adjustments already have been made to move turbines more than half a mile from the trail to prevent sound and sight impacts to those using it, according to Babbitt Ranches.
The facilities also would not impact other uses of the land. For example, Babbitt Ranches’ cattle operations could continue and likewise, the area would still be open to hunting and other activities.
The plans come as Arizona Public Service announced last year its goal to transition into 100% carbon-free by 2050 and 45% renewable energy sources by 2030.
The project is not the first for NextEra in Coconino County. The company operates the Perrin Ranch Windfarm north of Williams and has done so for several years.
Additionally, the Utah-based company sPower received approval for the Chevelon Butte Wind Farm south of Winslow last year.
A spokesperson for NextEra said they are expecting to present before the Coconino County Planning and Zoning commission in June or July of this year. The project may also need approval from the state Corporation Commission before it moves forward.
However, if approved, construction could begin as early as the end of the year and could be completed in between six to nine months.
That construction would likely bring with it about 250 temporary jobs. Once completed, NextEra would then have about four full-time local employees to maintain the facility.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached by phone at (928) 556-2261, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @AdrianSkabelund.