Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from California
California desert lands are in some ways a perfect fit with the renewable energy industries necessary to combat climate change. ...But without careful planning and regulation, these "climate solutions" could irrevocably damage the planet they are intended to protect. The biologically rich but arid desert ecosystems are remarkably fragile. Once topsoil and plant life have been disrupted for the placement of solar arrays, wind farms, power plants, transmission lines and carbon dioxide scrubbers, restoration would be cost-prohibitive, if not technically impossible. And widespread desert construction - even of projects aimed at environmental mitigation - would devastate the very organisms and ecosystems best able to adjust to a warming world.
The biologically rich but arid desert ecosystems are remarkably fragile. Once topsoil and plant life have been disrupted for the placement of solar arrays, wind farms, power plants, transmission lines and CO2 scrubbers, restoration would be cost-prohibitive, if not technically impossible. And widespread desert construction -- even of projects aimed at environmental mitigation -- would devastate the very organisms and ecosystems best able to adjust to a warming world. Nevertheless, there is a public land rush underway.
The Lompoc Wind Farm was on the supervisors' plate this Tuesday after neighbors of the project site, George and Cheryl Bedford, and the California Department of Fish and Game filed appeals of its unanimous approval at the County Planning Commission last fall. The latter objected to the undeniable impact that the wind turbines, with their 135-foot blades approaching 200 miles per hour at the tip, would have on bird and bat populations. The former was more concerned about the desecration of viewsheds and noise pollution.
Santa Barbara County's first renewable wind-energy project, which proponents say could provide enough electricity to serve up to 50,000 homes, was given hands-down approval Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors. The supervisors agreed that the benefits of having a wind farm southwest of Lompoc far outweighed the unavoidable environmental impacts it will bring. ..."I look at these monsters and I don't like them, but they're part of making wind energy, and I guess they're needed," said 5th District Supervisor Joe Centeno.
The proposed wind energy project is before the board because two appeals were filed - by Lompoc area residents George and Cheryl Bedford and the California Department of Fish and Game - after it was approved by the county Planning Commission in September. As it stands, the project was given the green light for a maximum of 65 wind turbines.
Should wind turbines hundreds of feet tall -higher than the existing Kumeyaay wind farm turbines- be allowed in the rural McCain Valley/Boulevard region in East County? Does the nation's critical need for "green" energy outweigh the concerns of residents seeking to preserve the rural character of their backcountry communities? With new industrial-scale wind farms proposed across America, East County Magazine's Gayle Early set out on a quest to explore these issues in depth for our three-part series on wind energy.
In March 2007, April Sall, the conservationist overseeing the Pipes Canyon Preserve in the San Bernardino County desert, got a call from an employee at the federal Bureau of Land Management. The caller wondered if Sall knew of a plan to run 85 miles of electrical transmission lines through the Morongo Basin, on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park, and through parts of the 20,000-acre private preserve northeast of Yucca Valley.
The permitting disputes demonstrate some of the hurdles that renewable energy developers face not just in California, but nationwide, and cast a light on the difficulties policy makers face in trying to balance clean-energy development with other environmental goals. "There has to be some reconciling of two very important societal values: protection of wildlife including birds, and moving forward with some haste to get alternative energy going," said Doug Anthony, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department's Energy Division.
This afternoon, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors will have a hearing concerning the Hatchet Ridge Wind project. The board's decision will have a significant impact on birds living in and migrating through the West. The Board of Supervisors has not been given the knowledge to make a proper decision on the project. ...The wind power industry learned a lesson from the astounding number of bird kills at Altamont Pass. Instead of pursuing better wind turbine designs that would limit bird kills, it chose a path of cover-up and lies. Today many wind turbine sites have limited access and workers will lose their jobs if they disclose the truth.
"While we are gratified that the Court of Appeal reaffirmed the traditional public trust ownership of wildlife, we are disappointed that it rejected the possibility of a lawsuit directly against those who are illegally killing wildlife," said Rick Wiebe, the attorney representing the Center for Biological Diversity. "A lawsuit against those who are killing wildlife is the most direct and effective means of protecting wildlife and vindicating the public trust in wildlife."
"Our little community is under such an assault from all these wind energy corporations," Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale said. Tisdale is one of the property owners who was approached by a wind farm company called Invenergy. She says Invenergy offered her more than $20,000 per year for the rights to build wind turbines on her property - this on land that is not zoned for a wind farm.
Even though an alternative energy project near Lompoc will most likely kill an unknown number of birds or bats, the Santa Barbara County planning staff has recommended that it be approved Tuesday. ...The project, which comprises 65 wind turbines, onsite collector power lines, electrical substation operations and maintenance building and other facilities, would pose several environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated. ...Although the final environmental report concluded that a downsized project would be environmentally superior, county planning staff disagreed. "The benefits of the full, proposed project far outweigh the adverse environmental impacts associated with it," the staff report stated.
A lawsuit contending the whirling blades on the hundreds of windmills in the Altamont Pass area are killing birds has been rejected by the First District Court of Appeal. "Permitting the action to proceed as presented would require the court to make complex and delicate balancing judgments without the benefit of the expertise of the agencies responsible for protecting the trust resources and would threaten redundancy at best and inconsistency at worst," the appellate court decision says.
LADWP claims that these transmission lines are necessary to bring renewable energy into the urban city to "diversify their energy portfolio." Development of renewable energy resources including geothermal, solar and wind, should be our highest priority to replace fossil fuels. However, for LADWP to destroy pristine desert and conservation lands in the process, including condemnation of private property, is not a "green" way to go about it. I further disagree that LADWP needs to own its own transmission lines, when there are existing corridors that were established through years of focus and study and could be the shared with other utilities.
Several thousand acres of desert scrub land west of Rosamond may eventually be dotted with massive wind turbines if Kern County Supervisors support the project Tuesday afternoon. The PdV Wind Energy Project, proposed by enXco, would use 5,820 acres to generate electricity for Southern California Edison. ...Between 100 to 300 turbines would be placed, and construction would be phased.
Efforts to reduce bird kills in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area may not be working, new data released this week show. The mortality rate increased 27 percent over two years among raptors targeted in an ongoing monitoring study, according to an executive summary of the data issued by Alameda County's Scientific Review Committee. The five member panel advises the county on progress being made to mitigate bird deaths in the Altamont Pass windmill area. ...The increase in the kills of the four targeted raptors - the golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel and burrowing owl - is in comparison with a baseline study that took place between March 1998 and May 2003.
Shasta County's decisions regarding the Hatchet Ridge Wind Turbine Project will have a dramatic and permanent effect on the quality of life here in the Intermountain area. The overriding problem is the proposed location. It's hard to imagine a project site that would have greater visual impact. It is difficult to visualize how enormous these monster turbines would be. Their height of 428 feet is equivalent to a 40-story building. Think of up to 68 Transamerica Pyramids, complete with flashing red lights, sitting on Hatchet Ridge! ...
Alameda County supervisors approved on Tuesday a new three-month, bird-monitoring contract to study the impacts of the Altamont Pass wind turbines on scores of birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls and other protected species. Supervisors approved the $450,000 contract with environmental consulting firm Jones & Stokes by a 3-2 vote.
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.