Library filed under Zoning/Planning from New Mexico
County sought balance between wind development and concerns of residents
Steve Elliott, president of the Corona Landowners Association, told county commissioners the group, whose members own the land targeted for installation of wind turbines to generate power, are pleased with the modified ordinance version, compared to the much longer initial draft.
The San Miguel County Commission Monday backed away from a proposal to mandate that all wind energy turbines in the county be at least three miles away from any residence. On a motion from Commissioner Nicolas Leger, the commission instead adopted a much smaller setback requirement for wind farms -- a half-mile.
Scientists and residents of San Miguel County dueled for hours Tuesday night over an ordinance to govern development of wind energy facilities, with the San Miguel County Commission ultimately postponing any action until next week.
At issue is whether land owners may place windmills in San Miguel County, New Mexico including near the town of Cerritos, New Mexico. The Board of County Commissioners heard final testimony December 14th, 2010, about where in the county, if anywhere, windmills may be placed. Angry neighbors and even students showed up to protest the windmill project.
The company that plans a wind farm in the Valley says a proposed three-mile setback from homes would kill the project. Mark Jacobson, business development director for Chicago-based Invenergy, told the San Miguel County Commission this week that the three-mile rule would be far more than what other counties with wind farms require.
After receiving criticism about some of the proposed regulations for a Lincoln County ordinance to govern wind farms, commissioners decided to postpone action and allow a citizens committee and the county attorney to take a stab at narrowing down disagreements.
Santa Fe County installed a 12-kilowatt wind turbine at its newly constructed Public Works facility last October. But the machine is not up and running yet. Community Project Division Director Paul Olafson said the 100-foot-tall windmill is ready to start providing power to the new Public Works building and back into the power grid "pending a windy day." Public Service Company of New Mexico inspectors need to see the turbine in action before they can certify that it's safe to connect it to the power grid.
In a heated meeting that lasted until 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Taos County Planning Commission approved variances for a proposed wind farm, contrary to the county planning staff's recommendation. The commission voted 5-2 to grant Taos attorney and Centinel Bank founder Eliu Romero height and landscape variances and a major land-development permit for a 27-turbine wind farm west of Taos.
The city's planning and zoning commission is recommending to the city commission an ordinance regulating residential wind turbines within city limits. The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the proposal Wednesday during its monthly meeting. ...The ordinance includes regulation of tower height and design standards. The ordinance also requires a building permit to construct a wind energy system on residential property.
Living off the grid doesn't necessarily mean you want to live next to a wind farm, even if it is designed to generate electrical power from a renewable energy source. A well-known Taos attorney's proposal to develop a wind farm has angered some residents near the site, including people in the Cielito Lindo subdivision, where homes rely primarily on solar energy.
Commission Chairman Tom Martin said the need for an ordinance addressing wind turbines surfaced because the city Building Safety Department has received numerous inquiries from residents who want to install wind towers on their properties. The ordinance regulates the allowable height of wind towers and appropriate the square acreage of properties where they could be installed. "We just didn't want them in the center of town," said Department Director Pete Wilt.
According to the loyal opposition's attorneys, the proponents "slipshod" application was short on facts and long on "trust us" promises. Due to the major development status of the projected $150 million wind turbine field and a lack of information and time to digest it, the P&Zers voted to continue the hearing until Dec. 9.
Plans for a wind farm in northern New Mexico hit some turbulence Tuesday as the Taos County Planning Commission postponed a decision in the face of local resistance. The Taos News reports that it was standing room only at the commission meeting Tuesday night where a proposal by Taos Wind Power to install 65 wind turbines outside Tres Piedras was to be voted on. The company, represented by attorney Eliu Romero, needs a variance to put up the towers, each of which is 284 feet high.
Wind-power entrepreneurs still don't know if they have enough consistent winds west of the Río Grande Gorge to be commercially profitable. However, the group headed by Taos attorney Eliu Romero is going ahead with plans to get a county permit to allow them to install some 65 wind turbines for the county's first wind farms. ...If initiated, "Taos Wind Farm" and "Wind Mountain Project" would have 40 and 15 turbines, respectively, on two separate private landholdings that would each generate 1.5 megawatts of power. Electricity would be sold to the Kit Carson power grid. Turbines cost $1.5 million each, Romero said, and rise 284 feet into sky.
Attorney Eliu Romero filed this variance application before the Taos County, New Mexico Planning Commission to erect sixty-five industrial turbines. The purpose of the variance application is to gain permission from the County to place structures in the county that exceed the height limits. Several of Mr. Romero's responses to the application questions suggest he has no knowledge as to the purpose and intent of a variance request or the conditions under which it can be approved. The application inaccurately cites the turbine height at 284-feet rather than 384-feet.
New Mexico's electric transmission grid has a critical need for expansion, Lyons told attendees at the Renew Energy Conference in Tucumcari on Thursday. For example, there is a proposed route across the center of the state by U-P-C, a company planning a windfarm development on trust and private lands in Lincoln and Torrance counties. U-P-C is looking at this route through Torrance, Lincoln, Socorro and Catron counties. However, Lyons said, "We have received some opposition about this particular project. Nobody wants it in their backyard. But we have a number of applications for new wind energy development, but unless be can move the power these projects are futile." ...And Quay County ranks high within the state, Lyons said. "The largest contiguous area of good-to-excellent resources is located near Tucumcari, near the Guadalupe Mountains in southern New Mexico, and in the northeastern part of the state near the Colorado and Oklahoma borders," Lyons said. "Right now," Lyons said, "the Land Office is negotiating with seven companies that have expressed an interest in investing in the state's wind energy generation portfolio." These applications equal an additional 400,760 acres of trust lands for wind farm development.
A wind generating company says it will be ready to start construction on a wind farm south of Willard in the spring. But first, managers of the High Lonesome Wind Ranch LLC plan to submit today to the Torrance County Planning and Zoning Commission an application for a zoning ordinance for a special use district for the farm. "We're ready to put our application in. We had to pull together lots of pieces. These are complex projects," said Amy LeGere, Foresight Wind Energy regional development manager. The wind project is about nine miles south of Willard on private land on Mesa de los Jumanos and is being developed by High Lonesome Wind Ranch LLC, a partnership of Foresight Wind, Karbon Zero and Edison Mission Group.
New Mexico State University has launched a project to track wind speeds in Eastern New Mexico to determine potential locations for commercial wind turbines. NMSU's Agricultural Science center at Clovis erected a 50-meter meteorological tower in November at a site 13 miles north of Clovis to gather wind data. The science center will work with NMSU's Institute for Energy and the Environment and the College of Engineering to process the data, calculate potential to power wind turbines, and make the information available to the public.