Wind turbines to be installed this month.
Wind turbines to be installed this month.
“Babbitt Ranches is one of the most innovative land companies in the United States. It is what innovative land management looks like,” said County Board of Supervisors Chair Patrice Horstman to a group of about 50 NACo and federal government representatives on Thursday, June 29. “With its pioneering history, economic impact and vision for the future, Babbitt Ranches has demonstrated creative ways to keep rangelands as open space, keep them intact and keep them profitable.”
Featuring 50 turbines, NextEra’s Babbitt Ranch Project is expected to generate up to 161 megawatts of wind energy. It is estimated that the project will create enough low-cost, homegrown energy to power nearly 40,000 homes and provide millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to Coconino County throughout the life of the project. The wind farm is scheduled to be delivering clean energy to SRP customers in early 2024.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Congressional staffers to see what a project like this looks like,” said NextEra Senior Project Manager Clinton Spencer. “We do what the community wants and what’s the best fit for the land with the most positive benefits and minimum impact. We are thankful to have the county out here supporting the project.”
County Community Development Assistant Director and Planning Manager Jess McNeely told the group Coconino County is in a perfect location for wind and solar projects. “The county’s Renewable Energy Ordinance promotes utility-scale clean energy projects and we are seeing more renewable energy interest as coal-fired energy generation is shutting down,” he said. “Babbitt Ranches is a wonderful partner in working toward the county’s bigger-picture interests.”
Supervisor Horstman spoke about how values important to Coconino County, such as wildlife conservation, dark skies protection, viewsheds and recreation, are considered in the planning process. “What’s happening in Coconino County for sustainability is benefiting the future for all of us,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Babbitt Ranches Community, Babbitt Ranches President and General Manager Billy Cordasco shared core principles that drive the 137-year-old family business and align with the county. “These values we have for protecting wildlife, dark skies, endangered species, cultural resources, recreational experiences and viewsheds, they come from inside of all of us. They are real and they matter. Renewable energy allows Babbitt Ranches to embrace these values and maintain our ability to stay on that land. Renewable energy developers are supporting these values through the Babbitt Ranches Landsward Foundation.”
Cordasco praised the work of the county and federal government and emphasized that renewable energy projects will benefit the next generation, leaving them with options when the projects run their 30- to 40-year lifespan. “What you do matters,” he told the gathering. “You determine how we are going to lead. You are involved in projects that are bigger than yourselves, projects that will benefit generations to come.”
Earlier in the day, county officials showed a video of historic flooding that occurred in Flagstaff during monsoon season 2022, as rain poured over fire scars on the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden and into neighborhoods. The county’s emergency response costs for the damaging flood events totaled more than $9 million.
“Our ability to respond quickly and effectively shows the importance of government agencies working together on public safety, policy and decision making,” said Supervisor Horstman. “Forest restoration is the key to sustainable landscapes.”
The tour was part of NACo’s new Federal Fellowship Initiative, created to connect county representatives with key legislative officials to promote county-level issues at the federal level and build relationships with federal representatives and their staff. FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN
Photo courtesy Stephen Pelligrini and Coconino County: Coconino County hosted representatives from the National Association of Counties (NACo), along with White House and Congressional staff members, on a field trip to the Babbitt Ranch Energy Center north of Flagstaff where wind turbines will be operating soon.