Library filed under Impact on Landscape from California
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.
Comments submitted to Santa Barbara County Energy Division, California, by the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) regarding the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the Lompac Wind Energy Project.
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.
Some environmentalists oppose wind farms, such as this one in the Mojave Desert in California, because they consider the projects to be eyesores planted on near-pristine landscapes.
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.
A wind farm towers over residential properties in the desert.
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.
Norbert Woerns recently took this photo of the Mojave Wind installation as he was driving down a freeway in Southern California toward the Joshua Tree National Park.
This image was captured by the Ikonos satellite on September 14, 2003. Turbine access roads branch out from numerous “handles”. The blades of the turbines cast black shadows on the ground.
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.