SRP joins NextEra and Babbitt Ranches with renewable energy production in 2023.
Salt River Project is contracting with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources to purchase wind power from the Babbitt Ranch Energy Center, a 161-megawatt (MW) wind resource to be built on the CO Bar Ranch about 25 miles north of Flagstaff.
With some 53 wind turbines across 669 acres, the project is scheduled to begin delivering clean energy on to SRP’s power grid by December 2023, producing enough power to support about 40,000 residential homes and moving the utility company closer to its short- and long-term carbon-free goals.
“We will have nearly 50% of our power coming from zero-carbon resources by 2025,” said SRP Spokesperson Erica Sturwold. The utility has stated its commitment to cutting its carbon fuel production from 2005 levels by 65% by 2035 and by 90% 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, Corporate Services and Sustainability Executive Kelly Barr. “Furthermore, utility-scale wind power is a great complement to solar power generation, as wind often blows at times when the sun is not shining.”
Babbitt Ranches has been exploring renewable energy viability in Northern Arizona since 2005, measuring wind speeds and conducting solar power evaluations. In 2010, the land company signed agreements with NextEra to explore locations on the ranch. A decade of environmental studies followed.
“It is phenomenal to consider that Babbitt Ranches became part of Arizona’s agriculture industry with 860 head of cattle just 136 years ago and now is the site of diverse and co-existing efforts including renewable energy generation, climate change studies, landscape-scale conservation and space exploration, along with ranching,” said President and General Manager Billy Cordasco. “Our relatives believed in a land use ethic from the beginning, a forged ethic that continues to be at the heart of the Babbitt family and owners’ decisions regarding Babbitt Ranches operations.”
Meanwhile, this latest action represents SRP’s newest wind contract. “We are very pleased to continue working with SRP to deliver low-cost, clean, renewable energy to its customers,” said NextEra Energy Resources Senior Vice President of Development Matt Handel. “The Babbitt Ranch Energy Center will also create a significant economic stimulus for the local community, creating good jobs and millions in additional tax revenue.”
The project, seven-and-a-half miles southeast of Valle, is expected to create an estimated 250 jobs during the construction phase, scheduled to start this year, and four to six full-time management positions through the wind farm’s 30-year life.
SRP was the first utility in Arizona to add wind power to its energy resource mix and continues to receive all energy output from the 127-MW Dry Lake Wind Power Project near Heber, which was the first large-scale wind power facility built in the state.
With the Phoenix metropolitan area growing three times the national average, SRP officials say new generation resources are needed to help meet the rising energy demand from customers and support the utility’s long-term decarbonization goals.
In June 2020, SRP issued a request for information (RFI) for up to 500 MW of wind resources. Following that process and discussions with NextEra as well as other developers, SRP determined the proposed Babbitt Ranch Wind Farm would be the most viable wind project that would be commercially operational within the required timeline to meet the growing demand.
“When I learned we would be receiving power from a wind farm on Babbitt Ranches, it made perfect sense,” said SRP Vice President John Hoopes. “Almost every cowboy I have ever met at one point or another worked for the Babbitts and commented about the constant wind they experienced while working on that ranch.”
NextEra, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun, also is proposing a solar farm and battery storage facility for the Babbitt Ranch Energy Center.
“Back in the 1990s, the Babbitt family and Babbitt Ranches owners articulated a fresh vision for the future of these lands to specifically include agriculture, conservation and scientific discovery,” said Cordasco. “We couldn’t be more thrilled than to participate with renewable energy and Arizona utility companies to support the state’s and the nation’s goals in becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. We are very focused on sustainability and succession and making wise decisions that support generations to come.”
Babbitt Ranches, established in 1886, will be inducted into the Arizona Farming and Ranching Hall of Fame next month. (See related story on page 10.) QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens, QCBN