Planned NextEra Energy wind farm near Flagstaff will power SRP

Arizona’s largest wind farm is planned near Flagstaff by NextEra Energy Resources to power the Salt River project, the companies announced Thursday.

Crews will build the turbines on the lands of Babbitt Ranches, about 25 miles north of town off State Route 180, and generate 161 megawatts of power when the wind is optimal.

That’s enough energy to power around 40,000 homes when the power plant is in operation.

The announcement comes shortly after SRP decided to add a large battery installation to an existing solar plant in Coolidge, allowing the utility to use electricity when it is most needed on the grid.

The Babbitt Ranch Energy Center wind farm is expected to be operational by December 2023, according to the company.

“We see this as very complementary to solar in that it can provide power day and night,” said Grant Smedley, director of resource planning, acquisition and forecasting at SRP. “Also, wind profiles tend to increase as our demand increases and solar power kicks in (in the afternoon).”

He said the plant should have a capacity factor of around 35%, meaning it will operate around that percentage of the total hours of the year, which is “pretty high” for a wind power plant. .

SRP will purchase power from the plant but will not own it. He said it was the cheapest wind power available based on proposals the utility had received from a 2020 request for proposals.

The wind farm will send electricity to the Phoenix area over high-voltage transmission lines that previously carried electricity from the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, which closed in 2019.

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SRP has committed to getting half of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2025 by dramatically increasing its use of renewable energy. SRP is also committed to reducing carbon intensity from 2005 levels by more than 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050.

But last year the SRP also approved a nearly $1 billion expansion at a Coolidge natural gas combustion facility, drawing heavy criticism from climate activists who want to see more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.

Utility officials say the expansion of the Coolidge gas plant is needed to stabilize the power grid, allowing more wind and solar power to connect.

“One of the reasons we think Coolidge is so critical is because it’s distributable, firm and can provide a backup to wind and solar projects as it goes offline in the afternoon,” Smedley said.

SRP is adding several new energy sources to meet growing demand in its territory as well as to replace coal-fired facilities that are being phased out.

Other wind farms that power Arizona

SRP helped develop Arizona’s first wind farm, the Dry Lake Wind Energy Project near Snowflake and continues to be powered by this facility today.

The Dry Lake project was built in two phases of 63 and 64 megawatts, the first coming online in 2009.

Other large wind farms in Arizona include the 99-megawatt Perrin Ranch Wind Project north of Williams, which supplied power to Arizona Public Service Co., the 30-megawatt Red Horse II Wind Farm in Cochise County which supplies Tucson Electric Power and Western Wind, a 10.5 megawatt wind farm near Kingman that powers UniSource Energy Services.

Arizona utilities also receive wind from various plants in New Mexico, including a 100-megawatt wind farm south of Gallup called Borderlands Wind Project that recently began generating for TEP.

The Babbitt Ranch project will use up to 53 wind turbines manufactured by GE, according to NextEra.

NextEra is also proposing to construct a solar and battery storage facility on site.

Contact Reporter Ryan Randazzo at Ryan.Randazzo@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.

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