Library from Arizona
Salt River Project announced Friday that it was considering raising electricity rates 8.8 percent, opening the next chapter in a long string of rate hikes to hit Arizona consumers over the past decade. But it also offered a glimpse of the future, where more energy will come from cleaner, renewable sources - but will come at a premium. If approved, the increase could go into effect in October.
The Sunzia Group held a scoping meeting on Wednesday to discuss potential routes for its projected high-voltage power lines that may run through the Valley. Several representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, including Adrian Garcia, the project manager for the BLM, were present to answer questions about the effect the project would have on local lands.
A California utility said Friday that it is dropping plans to build a high-voltage transmission line across the Southwestern Arizona desert and is scaling back the project to only its California portion, at least for now. Southern California Edison said it's halting separate efforts to win approvals from Arizona and federal regulators. The project had been approved by California regulators but rejected initially by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Thirty big wind machines rising off a little-used highway between Holbrook and Heber are a curiosity for now in a state that lags its neighbors in alternative energy. But that soon will change. The 412-foot turbines, Arizona's first, will begin sending energy to Salt River Project customers later this year, and many more turbines are on the way.
The Mohave County supervisors will hold a special workshop Monday to discuss renewable energy projects in the county. ...The workshop comes on the heels of an announcement last week by Albiasa Corporation on plans to build a 200-megawatt solar power plant on 1,400 acres off Highway 93, about 40 miles south of Interstate 40.
The SunZia transmission line that would link sun and wind power from central New Mexico with cities in Arizona is just the sort of energy project an environmentalist could love -- or hate. And it is just the sort of line the Interior Department has been tasked with promoting -- or guarding against. If built, the 460-mile line would carry about 3,000 megawatts of power, enough to avoid the need for a handful of coal-fired plants and to help utilities meet mandated targets for use of renewable fuel.
Harnessing the sun and the winds will be looked at Monday by the Mohave County Supervisors. The supervisors will look to hold a special workshop in the coming months dealing with renewable energy projects in Mohave County. No workshop has been scheduled, but, upon recommendation of the county planning and zoning board, one is highly likely.
A Flagstaff company that makes small wind turbines for homes, commercial buildings and even sailboats has laid off more than 10 percent of its staff because of the slowing economy. Southwest Windpower laid off 14 workers at its Flagstaff manufacturing plant on Friday.
Renewable energy companies are putting more emphasis on developing public land for utility-scale projects, and both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona State Land Department are seeing an uptick in the number of applications. BLM officials are planning to open four offices in the West, including one in Phoenix, to handle the growing demand for renewable energy projects - particularly solar and wind developments.
If they could demonstrate there was a desire for renewables here, perhaps Arizona Public Service would sign a contract with an entrepreneur to start a solar, wind or biomass energy project in northern Arizona and create new jobs here, they reasoned. That didn't happen -- APS spent that money on renewable power elsewhere. But backers aren't dismayed and say they will continue the project this coming year.
Last week, the Bureau of Land Management authorized the establishment of special offices in Wyoming and other Western states to expedite that renewable energy development on federal public lands. BLM officials said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne issued a Secretarial Order on Friday that will allow the agency to establish coordination offices in Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada.
A San Diego company that owns Southern California utilities is considering building a wind energy park on the western Navajo Nation, near Cameron, and has been in talks with chapter officials there. Sempra Energy has five wind-testing meters installed on Gray Mountain, to study the wind there. "Gray Mountain is a particularly good site and has some of the best wind resources in Arizona," said company spokesman Hanan Eisenman.
Rebuffed by the state's high court, the Goldwater Institute is trying another venue in its effort to void a requirement that utilities generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources. Legal papers filed Wednesday in the Court of Appeals by the organization which advocates and litigates on behalf of limited government contend that the Arizona Corporation Commission exceeded its legal authority when it approved the rules. Attorney Clint Bolick wants the judges to void the mandate.
City residents will get a chance to review and comment on a proposed windmill ordinance tonight, more than a month before the Flagstaff City Council does. If passed, the ordinance could lead to nearly 100-foot-high wind turbines being installed on lots as small as a half-acre in business zones. Currently, the city's land development code is silent on wind turbines -- it doesn't specifically allow them, nor does it forbid them. The council directed staff in October to fast-track an amendment to the code that would allow wind turbines in industrial and commercial areas.
After a year's worth of hot air, Kingman's City Council on Monday finally voted to establish new development standards for wind turbines within the city limits. Council voted 4-3 to approve a text amendment to the city zoning ordinance instituting regulations for small wind energy systems. The split vote came after more than an hour of discussion and public testimonials in which several Council members voiced second thoughts on the amendment, citing renewed concerns with minimum lot sizes, setback requirements, and whether or not turbines were even a worthwhile means of cutting energy costs.
A proposed ordinance could lead to more wind turbines in nonresidential areas of Flagstaff as early as next spring. The Flagstaff City Council has instructed city staff to fast-track an ordinance that would allow nearly 100-foot-high wind turbines on lots as small as a half-acre in areas zoned for commercial or industrial use. Currently, the city's land development code is silent on wind turbines -- it doesn't specifically allow them nor does it forbid them.
The state's highest court refused Tuesday to overturn a requirement on utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Without comment, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to hear arguments by the Goldwater Institute that the Arizona Corporation Commission exceeded its constitutional authority in imposing the mandate. The lawsuit challenged not only the requirement but the legality of the surcharge that utilities are passing along to their customers.
Wind power may have as much potential as those ads on television promise, but don't expect to see giant turbines dwarfing saguaros on the skyline of the Sonoran Desert. Experts call the wind in Southern Arizona "marginal", and say Arizona overall has few hot spots for wind power. ...The wind, contrary to how we may feel in the breezy spring or during a monsoon storm, doesn't blow reliably in Arizona. Still, industry leaders say, Arizona has the potential for utility-scale wind generation in selected areas .
The Kingman Planning and Zoning Commission will consider no fewer than three amendments to the zoning ordinance at its meeting this evening. The first of the three amendments would create a new subsection within the city's General Development Standards covering standards for small wind energy systems.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Safford Field Office is continuing to assess the Dry Lake Wind Project in Navajo County. The BLM issued its Environmental Assessment (EA) and unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on February 12 and was available for public review through March 28. Many public comments on the 200-page EA were submitted, all of which required careful review and consideration. "The BLM supports renewable energy development on public lands," said BLM Safford Field Manager Scott Cooke. "At the same time we must ensure that all environmental and socioeconomic concerns are addressed in our analysis, and this takes time."