The Puerto Rico Planning Board has signed off on the lease of some 10,000 acres of land in Santa Isabel where San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group will build the island’s first wind farm, the agency announced Thursday.
The approval comes more than a year after Pattern entered into a 20-year power purchase and operating agreement with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority for the sale of 75 megawatts produced at the future Aeolic energy project.
“This action accelerates the construction of another renewable energy project and we take another step in the right direction toward Puerto Rico’s energy diversification, in line with this administration’s vision of the future for our power distribution system,” said Planning Board President Rubén Flores Marzán.
The Pattern Santa Isabel Wind Project is expected to begin producing electricity in late 2011 and will generate clean, renewable energy equivalent to the power needs of up to 25,000 island homes or about 195 megawatts.
Once operational, it will be the largest wind energy project in Puerto Rico, through which Pattern will receive up to $17.8 million annually and as much as $356 million during the life of the contract.
“We are very excited to be working with the local communities, PREPA and residents of Puerto Rico to harness its ocean driven winds into clean and renewable energy,” Pattern Energy said in a statement released in June 2010, upon striking the agreement with PREPA. “The Pattern Santa Isabel Wind Project will be a premier project that will harness the winds on the southern side of Puerto Rico, which are consistent during the peak hours of energy consumption, making them a unique, local resource for the people of Puerto Rico.”
Flores Marzán said the approval was done in accordance with the current Construction and Land Use Joint Permits Rules, and that the wind farm constitutes a “public improvement” project.
“The consultation was discussed, analyzed and evaluated by the Board in light of the provisions of laws, regulations and existing planning rules and the outcome of the study from the environmental point of view,” he said. “Also, consideration was given to population projections and the availability of suitable land for housing and other uses in the area where the proposed project would be located.”
The land lease approval comes at a time when PREPA and the government are under fire from consumers growing increasingly irate over escalating electricity costs.