A rush to stake claims for renewable energy projects in the California desert has triggered a federal investigation and prompted calls for reforms to prevent public lands from being exposed to private profiteering and environmental degradation.
Officials said last week that the inspector general's office of the Department of the Interior was investigating Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar Inc.'s recent acquisition of Hayward, Calif.-based OptiSolar, and its unfinished renewable energy projects, for $400 million.
Soledad wants to build a seven-turbine wind farm to power its wastewater treatment plant. Sounds simple enough only the few remaining California condors frequently fly over the city and the Department of Fish and Game doesn't want to take the chance for one endangered bird to be pureed.
"Even though it's a relatively low risk," says David Hacker, staff environmental scientist for DFG, "it's still a risk and any risk can be significant for this species."
The city's press release stated: "AB1318 is essential to the future development of clean and alternative energy generation in the Coachella Valley because it will provide the ability to increase harnessing of renewable energy at the proposed peaker plant while maintaining the highest emission standards."
Nichols took issue with that, saying, "I would like to know how."
Financial turbulence has delayed construction of a massive wind-power project in eastern Shasta County.
Work on the 103-megawatt Hatchet Ridge Wind Project will begin this summer, George Hardie, senior developer for Babcock and Brown International, said Tuesday.
Hardie had said the plan was to start building this spring on the ridge overlooking Burney after the Shasta County Board of Supervisors denied appeals to the controversial turbines last fall.
Tonight the council will listen to a presentation about the Transmission Agency of Northern California - also known as TANC - and their current examination into constructing a set of arterial transmission lines that will essentially run from Santa Clara over the heart of the South County before heading all the way up to the rim of the Sacramento Valley and over to Lassen County.
A California utility said Friday that it is dropping plans to build a high-voltage transmission line across the Southwestern Arizona desert and is scaling back the project to only its California portion, at least for now.
Southern California Edison said it's halting separate efforts to win approvals from Arizona and federal regulators. The project had been approved by California regulators but rejected initially by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Nearly 350 people attended a meeting Thursday in Cottonwood regarding the Transmission Agency of Northern California's proposal to build 600 miles of power lines across the state.
Steve Kerns, a biologist who helps develop environmental impact reports for wildland resource managers, spoke to a gymnasium so full that some were forced to stand or sit on the floor.
The windturbine that started spinning wildly on May 3 disintegrated two or three days later, according to the California Highway Patrol.
All that is left now is a turbine-less twisted tower.
The CHP closed Highway 58 for hours after it was notified that the turbine was spinning out of control on Sunday. The closure snarled traffic in the area.
Shasta County residents fighting the power line plan make up just one pocket of resistance. A Yolo County environmental group and the Colusa County Board of Supervisors have expressed concerns about the planning process.
Faced with opposition and mountains of questions, the Transmission Agency of Northern California, often referred to as TANC, extended public comment for the project's environmental study until May 31. Some critics suggest a more radical route: Restart the process from scratch.
Prompted by a determined resident who erected a wind turbine in violation of city code, Rancho Palos Verdes officials are contemplating a change in their policy on "small wind" systems.
But it won't happen anytime soon.
The City Council on Tuesday decided to put off consideration of the issue until it becomes clear what will happen with related state legislation.
Local officials are expressing displeasure over a lack of public notice regarding a plan for a new 600-mile transmission line that would span Northern California, possibly passing through Colusa, Glenn and Tehama counties.
The Western Area Power Administration and the Transmission Agency of Northern California, a consortium of 15 North State public utilities, in February announced plans for the new electrical route expected to cost $1.5 billion to potentially generate up to 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy.
A faulty windmill near Tehachapi shuts down all lanes of Highway 58 between highways 202 and 14; and CHP Officers say it could be days before the roadway re-opens.
Mojave CHP got the call about the out-of-control windmill located in the Tehachapi Wind Farm a little after 1:20 Sunday afternoon.
LAKE HUGHES - Plans for the installation of 70 wind turbines on a ridge northwest of Lake Hughes and construction of power lines to connect them with an already-controversial proposed power line in Leona Valley have been submitted to Los Angeles County regional planners.
But residents of the Lakes communities aren't too happy about it.
"We as a community are not getting a lot of oversight protection on these projects," said Jim Walker, president of the Lakes Town Council.
A runaway windmill in Tehachapi closed Highway 58 -- a major east-west freeway connecting California's southern Central Valley to Las Vegas, Nevada and Arizona -- for most of the day Sunday.
As of 6:45 p.m., the highway remained closed between Tehachapi and Mojave. Officials had no estimate as to when it might reopen
It could be a major safety hazard, windmills near the 1-10 in North Palm Springs crashing down to the ground. It happened yesterday, and now there's an investigation as to why the wind turbine, nearly 200 feet fell.
"It went into overspeed, some sort of maintainence or some sort of malfunction," said Jeff Welton of the Palm Springs based Wintec Energy.
Officials got an earful when they visited Redding earlier this month. Nearly 200 Shasta and Tehama County residents packed the Red Lion Hotel ballroom asking skeptical and sometimes hostile questions about the proposed project. ...The new line would also allow TANC members access to wind, solar and geothermal energy that may one day be developed in Lassen County and other rural areas.
The intent to prevent California's utilities from using out-of-state wind and solar generation to meet the new 33% RPS requirement is not obvious from the provisions of the bills. The exclusion results from a change in the requirements concerning the "delivery" of generation to California. Under California's current RPS legislation, in order to qualify as an eligible renewable energy resource such that California's utilities can count that generation against their RPS requirements, out-of-state generators are required to deliver the electricity to California simultaneous with its generation.
Regardless, reporter Nick Green was reminded of a link sent to him months after the controversy over a planned turbine at a Torrance elementary school. (That plan was dropped after a neighborhood outcry.)
A turbine on a high school campus in Ohio fell apart with a big bang back in February, according to a local news report.
The 35-foot-tall Skystream 3.7 - a small wind turbine marketed for residential use - overlooks Palos Verdes Drive East from Ramirez's fruit tree-filled backyard. Neighbors and passers-by have been calling Rancho Palos Verdes City Hall to ask about the electricity-producing turbine since it began spinning last month.
The inquiries led to a code violation letter from municipal staff to Ramirez, who put up the turbine to power his home without seeking city permission.