Arizona Public Service Co. this week dedicated a new wind power farm in New Mexico that will produce enough electricity to serve up to 23,000 homes in Arizona.
The wind plant adds 90 megawatts of generating capacity to the utility’s system, a 563 percent increase in its renewable energy supplies.
“This is huge compared to what we had in the past,” said APS spokesman Steven Gotfried.
The Aragonne Mesa Wind Project located on a desolate mesa about 25 miles southwest of Santa Rosa, N.M., is being operated by Babcock & Brown, an Australian company with 20 years of experience in financing and developing wind energy projects. APS, Arizona’s largest electric utility, has contracted to buy all of the power produced at the facility.
The cost of the project was not disclosed.
The farm consists of 90 wind turbines towering 227 feet over the New Mexico plain. Each tower has three, 63-foot blades that capture the energy of the wind. Each turbine can generate one megawatt of electricity. Thirty-five miles of transmission lines connect the farm to the nearest interconnecting substation.
The first turbine began operating in December, and additional turbines were brought on line gradually until the farm now is operating at full capacity, Gotfried said.
Previously, APS had generated only 16 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources — ten megawatts of geothermal and six megawatts of solar, the utility said.
Even with the addition of the New Mexico wind farm, only 1.1 percent of the total electricity APS supplies to its customers comes from renewable sources, Gotfried said.
“It shows the reality of renewable energy,” he said. “We have a long way to go, and it will take time to get there.”
The Arizona Corporation Commission has approved a requirement that regulated Arizona utilities acquire 15 percent of their electricitysupplies from renewable sources by 2025. To help meet that goal, APS is joining with Salt River Project on a biomass electricity project near Snowflake that will use wood chips to produce about 24 megawatts of power. Also, APS has requested proposals for additional short- and longterm supplies of renewable energy. Those proposals for an undetermined amount of energy are scheduled to be opened next month.
“As APS looks to meet the growing need for power in this state, renewable energy will play an increasingly larger role,” said Don Robinson, vice president of planning. He added that “we have many more milestones ahead of us.”
The New Mexico wind farm is being paid for in part by a monthly surcharge applied to APS customers’ bills.
Although wind energy is competitive in price, it requires backup sources of power because the wind doesn’t blow constantly, Gotfried said.That extra cost has to be covered by ratepayers, he said.
Salt River Project also is turning to wind power to supplement its power supplies. The project has signed a fiveyear contract to purchase 50 megawatts of wind power and associated renewable-energy credits from Public Service Company of New Mexico.