Jan 282011

By Tammy Gray-Searles —

In late December, the second phase of Dry Lake Wind Farm was completed and quietly began operation.

According to Iberdrola public relations representative Jan Johnson, the testing phase is complete and power is being sold to Salt River Project (SRP). Construction was completed slightly ahead of schedule, and the turbines began running on Dec. 22.

“The weather was cooperative over the construction season,” Johnson noted. “Even the wind was cooperative and didn’t blow too hard when we needed to use the cranes.”

A total of 31 Suzlon turbines were constructed at the site. They are capable of generating up to 65 megawatts. Johnson noted that the energy produced is enough to power about 9,000 “typical homes served.”

According to Iberdrola Business Developer Chris Bergen, the second phase represents a $110 million investment by the company.

The latest addition to the wind farm is located just west of Highway 77, about two miles north of the Snowflake town limits, or about five miles north of the start of the business district. In relation to the first phase, it is about four miles southeast of the existing set of turbines. If the two phases were mapped out as squares on a chessboard, they would be diagonal to each other, touching at one corner. Phase II encompasses approximately 10,240 acres.

Completion of the second phase just more than doubles the total number of wind turbines in the project, bringing the total to 61. The first phase of the project, which included 30 turbines, was completed in August 2009.

According to Johnson, the second phase adds five more full-time permanent jobs. About 200 workers were employed during the construction phase.

Power from both phases is sold to SRP as part of a contract between the companies.

Now that the second phase is complete, Johnson noted that Iberdrola is making plans for a third phase of construction.

“It is in permitting,” she said. “We’re hoping to have additional phases.”

Johnson explained that Iberdrola has just started the permit process with Navajo County for meteorological (met) towers. Met tower placement is the first step in a long process, and determines whether an area is suitable for wind energy and where the turbines should be placed for maximum power generation.

Dry Lake is the first wind farm in the state. Since its construction, a number of other companies have expressed interest in placing turbines in the area. According to a Jan. 4 report by planning and zoning, RES Americas currently has a permit for one met tower, with plans to possibly construct 50 to 100 turbines near Antelope Valley; and NZ Legacy had been seeking permits for a massive energy project that included up to 475 wind turbines and 1,430 solar units, but the permitting process is currently on hold at the request of the company. NZ Legacy does have permits for met towers.

Johnson noted that a timeline has not yet been set for potential construction of a third phase of the Dry Lake Wind Farm.