Articles filed under Impact on Landscape from California
Despite some changes to the route of the proposed Sunrise Powerlink, analysts at the California Public Utilities Commission have not changed their opinion about the controversial line, according to an environmental study released yesterday. The revised environmental report includes an evaluation of wind power that San Diego Gas & Electric hopes to tap in northern Baja California as well as more than a dozen changes being considered for Sunrise, a proposed $1.5 billion, 150-mile power line that would stretch from the Imperial Valley to Rancho Peñasquitos. In the end, the analysts repeated findings from the first draft of the report, namely that there are five "environmentally superior" alternatives to the SDG&E proposal, including proposals to generate power within San Diego County or to build alternate lines that would - unlike Sunrise - avoid Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
It seems like an idea any environmentalist would embrace: Build one of the world's largest solar power operations in the Southern California desert and surround it with plants that run on wind and underground heat. Yet San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and its potential partners face fierce opposition because the plan also calls for a 150-mile, high-voltage transmission line that would cut through pristine parkland to reach the nation's eighth-largest city. The showdown over how to get renewable energy to consumers will likely play out elsewhere around the country as well, as state regulators require electric utilities to rely less on coal and natural gas to fire their plants -- the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.
A rush to build environmentally friendly renewable energy in the windy, sunny Inland region has stirred up some unlikely foes: environmentalists. They say the projects mean new transmission lines and towers across some of the very mountains and desert vistas people have fought to protect. ...It's not just environmentalists who are objecting. A Riverside County supervisor said he opposes plans to erect 400-foot-tall wind turbines for the first time on the 4,000-foot elevation of Mount San Jacinto, near Palm Springs. And a San Bernardino County supervisor has strongly urged Los Angeles to abandon plans to string new transmission lines to carry renewable energy through the Morongo Basin east of Joshua Tree National Park.
They are an environmentalist's dream but possibly a neighborhood nightmare. Clean and renewable, wind power turbines from 30 feet to 300 feet tall could pepper the Sonoma County landscape, especially at higher, visually prominent locations. ... "You're not going to ignore them," said Alexandra von Meier, associate professor of energy management and design at Sonoma State University. Von Meier said the county is speckled with prospective wind turbine sites and suggested that local governments should "make it easy" to tap the wind with whirling machines.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says it has yet to pick a preferred route for Green Path North, a proposed electrical corridor running from Desert Hot Springs to Hesperia. ...But folks from the California Desert Coalition and a local chapter of the Sierra Club say a route has been chosen, and they intend to show people where the agency intends to install the high-tension corridor. "I think it's important to educate people about what the landscape looks like and how pristine the conservation lands are," said April Sall, one of the organizers. "It's extremely sensitive habitat." ..."Green Path North, which will be our transmission corridor serving Los Angeles will transfer renewable energy from the Salton Sea," Nahai said.
From the early 1980s through the early ‘90s, California was the national leader in wind energy development and power produced by wind farms. ...Are the turbines benefiting one aspect of the environment at the expense of another? Longtime Snow Creek resident Les Starks calls the wind farms "industrial slums" - claiming the windmills have displaced wildlife and degraded the quality of life for nearby residents. "There was a canyon near Whitewater Canyon that used to have thousands of bats," says Starks, "and now you don't see any." He's also noticed a decline in turkey buzzards migrating through the pass. ...With wind energy having been harnessed in the Desert for nearly three decades, the next few years will determine its future here. Presently, it accounts for just two percent of California's portfolio. That number surely will rise along with new and bigger windmills - love them or hate them.
Thanks to Supervisor Ashley, instead of the beautiful mountain view I used to see, I now look onto huge, white windmills, that rarely turn, with bright lights that flash off and on all night. These are the same windmills his planning commission, the county planning department and the developer assured us repeatedly wouldn't even be seen from Desert Hot Springs. ...I deeply resent The Desert Sun editorializing about Ashley while failing to report how little power the windmills he keeps approving generate.
A new kind of gold rush is going on in the Mojave Desert, according to county Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. The sought-after objects are sunshine and wind. More than 100 wind farms and solar-energy installations are proposed, enough to cover 1,300 square miles. The rush has raised alarms among residents and local officials who fear the stark beauty of the desert could be destroyed. They need only look as far as Palm Springs to see what their future could look like: rugged mountains and sandy desert floor obscured by a forest of 400-foot tall turbine towers visible from a busy interstate. ...Mitzelfelt and Nassif are concerned that the desert is being asked to bear the brunt of reducing the nation's carbon footprint. ...The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society finds itself torn on the issue. It supports renewable energy, having sued the county for failing to have a plan to reduce global warming. But experience has shown that wind turbines kill bats, owls, hawks and other birds by the thousands, said President Drew Feldmann. "We don't want to destroy the environment to save it," he told the county and BLM in a letter.
From what we have been able to ascertain, many residential properties in the Victor Valley will be adversely affected by the Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project. Residents of Apple Valley, Lucerne Valley, and perhaps even some from Hesperia need to pay attention to what the Bureau of Land Management and Granite Wind LLC is building approximately six miles east of the Apple Valley town limits in our Granite Mountains (on a combination of BLM and privately owned land). ...we believe this area is asked to carry too much of the burden for the creation of alternative energy sources. We believe that the creation of this wind farm will be our "third strike" and that will cause a significant negative impact on the value of our property.
Long before windmills festooned the San Gorgonio Pass, before Interstate 10 barreled through it and before homes and strips malls sprouted, animals rambled freely between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains searching for food, mates and shelter. They still do, although they have to maneuver around some obstacles. The Pass and some of its mountain canyons are among the 15 wildlife linkages between the southern Sierra Nevada and the Mexican border that are considered key to keeping native species thriving and preventing their extinction ...
A subtle line blended into Burney’s backdrop, Hatchet Ridge could become an eye catcher if a line of 44 whirling wind turbines is put into place. To some people, however, the project could be an eyesore. “People are already talking about how ugly it is going to be,” said Sharon Elmore, cultural information officer for the Pit River Tribe. She said she’s opposed to the Hatchet Ridge Wind Project because of the effects it would have on the view from Burney and cultural sites on the ridge, as well as animals that live and pass through the regrowing forest. The power project would be built on timberland leveled in the Fountain Fire in 1992.
Hatchet Ridge Wind is both a vital clean-energy project for California and a dramatic alteration of eastern Shasta County's beautiful landscape. It is a feel-good environmental project that will help push California toward its goal of producing electricity with fewer fossil fuels. It is also a massive industrial project that will forever alter one of the prettiest landscapes in the north state. With several dozen towers and turbines reaching up to 418 feet tall, the network would dramatically change the views from the Intermountain area and Highway 299. It would also, according to the recently released environmental studies, take an unavoidable toll on migrating birds including eagles (yep, them again) and sandhill cranes.
Stanford research team has concluded that the ocean not far off the Northern California coastline is the most promising spot for an offshore wind farm to generate power. Specifically, the researchers concluded that the sea off Cape Mendocino, roughly 150 miles northwest of San Francisco, was their top pick. Wind turbines there could supply 5 percent of California's electrical power needs, they projected. ...Most of the Southern California coast isn't windy in the summer, so it, too, was scratched from the list. That left the sea off Cape Mendocino, north of San Francisco. ...No doubt that wouldn't sit well with some folks who appreciate their pristine Pacific views today, the researchers acknowledged in a statement.
"Their bird studies were like trying to determine how many kids would go to a school by driving by during Easter vacation," she said. Taaffe named the California condor, long-eared owl, horned lark, and golden eagle as species at risk. "The blades move at 200 miles per hour at the tip ... Each blade is replaced within a second. That's not terribly slow." At the DEIR hearing, Audubon California board of directors member Steve Ferry asserted that bird surveys were conducted on only five days and during the afternoon, when birds are least likely to be present. He said the draft neglected mitigation measures such as radar, which could track avian traffic and shut down turbines as needed. "We know birds will be killed," Drude acknowledged of the biological impacts.
California and the city of Los Angeles have set an ambitious goal for ‘greener' power: obtain 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2010. But to do that difficult decisions need to be made. Wind, solar, and geothermal electric power produced in the rural reaches of the state must be somehow be transported to faraway cities - meaning some transmission lines must cut through national forests, wildlife refuges, and other treasured land areas. Solar panels require the expanse and cloudless climes of desert areas, wind requires the funneling effect of mountain passes, and geothermal power is derived from hot or steamed water underground. But how does the city get the energy to where it's needed without spoiling the pristine environments that it's trying to preserve?
But as the number of turbines grew into the hundreds and then the thousands, concern arose among residents, adjacent landowners and environmental groups. Wind power can be a viable method of producing electricity, and it is widely considered a clean, safe and reliable source of energy. However, it does have adverse effects in locations such as the San Gorgonio Pass, including the loss of developable land and danger to local wildlife. Wind-energy companies claim that they only use a fraction of the land, leaving the rest as open space. But in essence, modern wind-energy projects involve massive industrialization of undeveloped land. The newer turbines that have been installed in recent years are large, typically 100 meters (330 feet) tall. Indeed, some developers of future projects are proposing turbines that are 125 meters (410 feet) tall. Local homeowners and adjacent landowners are the ones immediately affected, and they are now very active in opposing any new wind-energy projects. Other opposing parties are residential developers and the city of Desert Hot Springs. The latter sees a tangible loss of developable land south of Pierson Boulevard, an area the city is considering annexing for future growth. In addition to the impact wind-energy projects have on land, the structures cause problems in the air as well. The tips of the turbine blades reach speeds of 200 mph to 300 mph, depending on wind speed, which can harm animals. As a result of studies in other areas, such as Altamont Pass near San Francisco, we know that wind-energy systems cause deaths among many species, particularly raptors, owls and other migratory birds. A major concern for environmental groups, including The Sierra Club, is bird and bat mortality.
The McEvoy Ranch’s plans to build a 189-foot-tall windmill on its North Marin property has put some local environmentalists in the uncomfortable position of protesting a source of alternative energy. Both environmentalists and neighbors are quick to point out that they aren’t opposed to wind power - or even to the prospect of a windmill at the McEvoy Ranch, a project the Marin Board of Supervisors will consider Tuesday. “We’re for renewable energy,” said neighbor Susie Schlesinger, whose Petaluma ranch is powered in part by solar cells and a small windmill. “But the county wouldn’t let someone put up a 19-story building anywhere else without saying something about it. This could be the tallest structure between the Golden Gate Bridge and Portland, Oregon.”
It may be the time to consider how wind farms fit in with the values which the Wilderness Society represents. If the Society is prepared to go through such a prolonged and worthy fight to save the forests, with all the financial and emotional costs involved, it would be consistent to regard wind farm development with the same scepticism with which it regards the wood chip industry. Both are potent adversaries to the values which I hope we share.
ON the way there from L.A., you first pass through the wind farms in the mountain pass and the creepy rows of wind turbines that render the landscape alien and forboding. Harvesting wind energy seems a good idea, but still, the hills seems to have been colonized by some relentlessly churning alien life-form—I felt like I understood the concept of visual pollution at a visceral level. The whirring blades are mesmerizing, in a bad way. They create a delirium of planes and angles shifting and changing in a lulling rhythm, making it impossible to see anything else. It’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents on that winding downhill stretch of the freeway, where it seems like the average traveling speed is around 85 miles per hour.
The commission unanimously voted down the proposal after a five-hour hearing attended by more than 150 people at Santa Clarita City Hall. Zond Systems, the largest producer of wind energy in California, had hoped to erect more than 300 windmills--some as tall as 150 feet--on vacant, mountainous land near Gorman.