In the latest on renewable energy development in the American Southwest, the state of Arizona is planning a wind farm of massive proportions. Soon to be located on a nearly 700-acre plot of Babbitt Ranch land near Flagstaff, the newly christened Babbitt Ranch Energy Center is expected to be open for operation by December of next year. The site collaborates with several parties, including the owners of Babbitt Ranch, developer NextEra Energy Resources, and Salt River Project (SRP), the local power provider for the area.
The measurables of the development are nothing short of impressive. With a total expected turbine count of 53, the farm is the largest in the state of Arizona and will provide an unprecedented level of renewable energy to its nearby communities. Assuming normal wind conditions, the completed site is expected to generate roughly 161 megawatts of clean power. This is enough to run as many as 40,000 homes each year. As the city of Flagstaff is home to little more than one-half of that number, it is anticipated that such a vast surplus of available energy will be used for a variety of other things like municipal government operations, private business, and more. A portion of the power is reportedly being directed to the Phoenix area via high-voltage transmission lines.
Such a substantial energy output has garnered much excitement from many representatives from the organizations involved. The impressive wattage count is the expectation that the facility will stay operating at a capacity factor of 35 percent, which is the amount of time per day during which power will be actively generated. Such a rate is quite high for wind farms and according to SRP representatives, will be the perfect supplemental solution for also-intermittent solar farms within the region. “We see this as being very complementary to solar in that it can provide energy in day and also at night,” says Grant Smedley, director of resource planning, acquisition, and forecasting for SRP. “Also, wind profiles tend to ramp up as our demand is ramping up and solar is coming off.”
Babbitt Ranch Energy Center will bring economic benefits along with environmental impact. The construction will contribute millions of dollars in tax revenue to the nearby communities, a much-needed economic stimulus after long lockdown periods.
The project is also bringing employment: about 250 construction jobs will be available for residents from now until the completion of the facilities, with several permanent positions being offered for full-time maintenance of the site.
The development is the latest investment being made by the Salt River Project by its long-term commitment to increasing the ratio of sustainable to traditional power generation. The company has previously stated the intent to reduce its carbon fuel production by 65 percent of 2005 levels by the end of the decade and 90 percent by 2050. “Wind power from this project will bring more diversity to our resource mix, which is growing rapidly in clean energy generation,” said SRP chief strategy executive Kelly Barr.