Rapid progress is being made on the first wind farm in the Kingman area. Western Wind Energy Corporation started putting up the support columns for five 350-foot tall wind turbines and 500-megawatt solar panels on more than 800 acres behind Nucor Steel on Route 66, southeast of Kingman last week. The tall columns can be seen from the top of El Trovatore Hill.

The $24 million project is one of a few projects in the United States that combines both solar and wind energy, said Mike Boyd, executive vice president of development for Western Wind Energy. It is the second wind project to be built in the Arizona. The first is in the Snowflake area.

The entire project will be built on private property, Boyd said. The company purchased more than 800 acres from the developers of the Lazy YU subdivision in 2003 and 2004. The project was temporarily stalled in 2004 and 2005 when an Australian company that had partnered with Western Wind to build the project decided to pull out of all of its projects in North America. Western Wind spent the next few years looking for additional funding to cover the cost of the project, he said.

Western Wind has tried to use as much local talent as possible to help build the project, Boyd said. The company has used local sand and gravel companies, surveyors, electrical and civil engineers, stayed at local hotels and eaten at local restaurants.

Since it is on private property, the company expects to pay $150,000 to $200,000 in property taxes each year to the county, he said, something the county wouldn't have gotten if the project had been built on public land.

The company hopes to complete the project by July, Boyd said. Once completed, it will produce about 10-megawatts of power, enough to power around 4,000 homes, that will be transferred onto UniSource Energy's grid, Boyd said. The company signed a 20-year agreement with UniSource in October 2009.

If the project the project is successful and UniSource needs additional energy, Western Wind might purchase additional land to the east of the existing site and add another five wind turbines to the project, Boyd said.

How much the energy will cost customers is still up in the air, Joe Salkowski, UniSource Energy director of corporate communications said. UniSource won't know the exact cost of the energy to customers until the project is complete. The contract price is proprietary information, he said.

"We're always seeking the most reasonable price for our customers," Salkowski said.

UniSource customers pay a 0.6-cent per kilowatt surcharge in order to defray the higher cost of renewable energy as compared to fossil fuel energy, Salkowski said. The surcharge is capped at $4 a month for residents. Most residents average a high of about $3.57 per month during the peak summer months, he said.