Library from California
Just days after a group of Tehachapi residents celebrated the collapse of a large windmill project, another group contacted 17 News about another wind project in the works. They say the windmills will destroy the natural beauty of their neighborhood.
Terra-Gen Power tried to get more than 7,000 acres of land re-zoned for the Pahnamid Windmill Development Project. "If this project had gone through, they would have bulldozed the Tehachapi mountains, an area larger that 640 football fields."
The question of where renewable energy plants can and should go has prompted debate across the West, in New England and in numerous other parts of the country. What makes the debate so heated is that it forces people to reconcile two imperatives: developing sources of alternative energy and supporting preservation-whether of a Civil War battlefield, an endangered species' habitat, or a sacred Native American burial site.
As their day in court approaches, Chino Hills residents are stepping up their fight against Southern California Edison's Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.
But with the potential for many more of the 200-foot-tall wind towers, some residents are none too pleased with the whole idea. "This is one of the most important habitats for birds in the county," said Emmy Cattani, an owner of the Adobe Ranch, located northwest of Benton.
Each year, about 2,000 raptors are killed in the Altamont Pass by wind turbines, according to on-site surveys conducted by field biologists. The toll, however, could be higher because bird carcasses are quickly removed by scavengers. Environmentalists have persuaded the energy industry and federal authorities - often through litigation - to modify the size, shape and placement of wind turbines.
"It would take 167 pairs of local nesting golden eagles to produce enough young to compensate for their mortality rate related to wind energy production," said field biologist Doug Bell, manager of East Bay Regional Park District's wildlife program. "We only have 60 pairs."
"It's going to change the whole landscape," said Starks, a resident of Snow Creek ..."What it really is going to change is the first impression of the desert (visitors get) when they get off the freeway because it's going to be towering over their heads. It will be like driving into an industrial slum."
While CHP was checking the truckers documents, they noticed the loads did not match the truck permits. So, instead of escorting the trucks to Woodland, CHP detained the trucks.
Attorney Kassandra McQuillen said the county's reduced setback requirement between towers and residences may constitute an unlawful taking. "It's the shortest setback in the nation," she said. "This is the only project I have serious problems with," said McQuillen, who has negotiated wind project leases for many property owners but refuses to write leases for the Pahnamid project.
Stephen Allen, 58, was killed Jan. 10 when his airplane struck an unmarked, 198-foot-tall meteorological tower while he was seeding a field on Webb Tract Island. He likely never saw the steel tower, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Wind developer Oak Creek Energy of Oakland last month pulled the plug on a five-year effort to build a wind farm in the Castle Mountain area that Feinstein wants to add to the Mojave Preserve. "The primary reason was that we found this area was heavily desired by powerful interests," executive vice president Edward Duggan said in an e-mail.
"Competitive advantage is not worth someone's life," said Yamada. "If the MET [tower] were just two feet taller, the FAA would have required orange and white stripes and lighting, and Stephen Allen would still be with us today."
Seeking to preserve 600,000 acres of pristine desert land in Southern California for public use, the Wildlands Conservancy raised $40million to buy the land and transfer it to federal stewardship. The effort, between 1999 and 2002, included a huge swath through the Ivanpah area in northeast San Bernardino County to protect it from development.
Lassen County District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick said the only reason the planning commission denied the use permit application was because the met tower was considered "the gateway" to a project.
The energy developers and their lobbyists have a headstart on the people who merely grew up in these hills and live their lives under these wide skies. But the residents are quick studies. They are coming to council meetings like this well-prepared with questions, and their love for this land is evident. ..."Utility-scale energy farms should be built on already- disturbed fallow farmland, not in existing wildlife habitat."
SDG&E originally planned to put up to $600 million of ratepayer funds into the farm, which was to be 309 megawatts. But critics complained to the California Public Utilities Commission that the financing arrangement put too much of the risk on ratepayers. They also didn't like the fact that the power would actually be sold in Canada, with SDG&E getting certificates.
Under the new rule approved 5-0, the county can allow exceptions if the variance doesn't endanger public safety, and if the exception increases power generating capacity or reduces risks that hawks and eagles would be hit by whirling turbine blades.
First Wind missed the deadline, citing its inability to secure land for the wind project. First Wind, which is not an official party in the case before the PUC, asked HECO to petition the commission for a deadline extension on its behalf. When HECO declined, First Wind appealed directly to the PUC.
The winds of change are blowing toward Contra Costa County regulation of new wind turbines, and county officials want to make sure the big energy machines don't create a safety risk to motorists driving by them on a busy commute route south of Byron.