Wind power continues to be in the fastest-growing economic sector, and Arizona’s wind potential capacity could increase by 35 percent through taller turbines, a technology that soon will come to fruition.
NAU’s Four Corners Wind Resource Center released information this week demonstrating that raising the height of turbines from 262 to 459 feet could significantly boost Arizona’s wind energy capacity. The United States Department of Energy expects 20 percent of the country’s electricity may come from harnessing the wind by 2030.
The center, a hub for the latest trends on wind development and emerging technologies, shares information with county governments throughout the west, a critical resource as officials consider new wind development projects.
“Our efforts to assist counties throughout the west, is part of NAU’s outreach, and county officials often tell me the information we provide helps them make decisions on cleaner energy initiatives,” said Karin Wadsack, project director for Sustainable Energy Solutions and NAU’s Four Corners Wind Resource Center.
When the United States Department of Energy retooled its Wind Powering America program, they determined regional initiatives could better serve states with similar wind related issues, Wadsack said. The Four Corners Wind Resource Center includes Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Wyoming.
County decision makers have numerous questions about wind energy development, including potential impacts on wildlife. In northern Arizona, there are concerns for the golden eagle and the Arizona Game and Fish Department studies potential wind development projects with regard to wildlife protection, said Wadsack, who regularly interacts with wildlife biologists.
NAU’s expertise helped Coconino County during the Perrin Ranch Wind Farm planning process and the center also assisted policy makers with the county’s comprehensive plan, said Amanda Acheson, manager of the county’s Sustainable Building Program.
“The Four Corners Wind Resource group has been very helpful by framing some of the emerging wind power trends and trajectories for our region and giving us a good overall perspective of how wind resource project development will play out in Coconino County,” said Art Babbott, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors.