Resource Documents: California (30 items)
Unless indicated otherwise, documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are shared here to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate. • The copyrights reside with the sources indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations.
Letter from City of Rio Dell to County of Humboldt Planning Commission in opposition to wind energy project
Author: City of Rio Dell, Calif.
The City of Rio Dell is writing in response to the Humboldt Wind Energy Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the proposed project. As you know the project is proposed to be located immediately south and southwest of the City and the Town of Scotia on Monument and Bear River Ridges.
As stated in our letter dated June 5, 2019, a copy attached hereto, regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), the City supports alternative renewable energy, including wind energy. However, as documented in the FEIR, the proposed location will result in a number of unavoidable and significant impacts, obviously including visual impacts. These iron giants will dominate the visual landscape of the entire region, including the communities of Rio Dell, Scotia, Fortuna, the Eel River valley and the entire north coast. Some believe these iron giants will be seen from as far away as Trinidad, Kneeland, Fickle Hill, Bridgeville and even Black Lassic in Trinity County.
Humboldt County hosts one of the most beautiful landscapes in the State, if not the entire Country. Millions of travelers from all over the world come to Humboldt County each year to enjoy its scenic qualities, redwoods, rivers and beaches. The forested ridge tops, open meadows and the Scotia‐Rio Dell bluffs surrounding Rio Dell create a visually stunning landscape. These views are represented on the Rio Dell city seal. If the Planning Commission and/or the Board of Supervisors approves this project, residents and visitors alike will ask “Why did you allow this project at this location?”
Many residents choose to live in Rio Dell and in fact Humboldt County due to its outstanding visual surroundings. The project if approved and built will have a dramatic adverse change not only to the City’s surroundings, but to the entire region. The City believes the project will impact current and potentially future residents desire to live in Rio Dell, Scotia, Fortuna, Loleta and surrounding areas, materially affecting property values in the City. It’s very likely that the increase property taxes from the Humboldt Wind project will be offset by the decreased property values in the surrounding areas.
In addition, to the visual impacts, the FEIR concludes that the project will result in significant and unavoidable impacts to:
- Air Quality
- Biological Resources, including Marbled Murrelets and Raptors
- Cultural Resources, including Tribal Cultural Resources
The City still has a number of other concerns associated with the proposed project, including timberland conversion, increased fire danger, significant amounts of grading, erosion, geologic stability and sediment discharges into the Eel River. The City’s primary water source (an infiltration gallery) is just a couple miles downstream from the project site.
The applicant is requesting and the FEIR supports earth moving activities during the winter months. The City believes this is reckless and irresponsible given the significant amount of required grading, the erosion hazard ratings of the soils and the geologic instability of the area. The sediment discharge into to the creeks and rivers will be significant even with wet‐weather Beast Management Practices (BMP’s). The City is not aware that the required Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) has been prepared pursuant to the Federal Clean Water Act and the State Water Resources Control Board, Water Quality Order No. 97‐03‐DWQ, “Waste Discharge Requirements” (WDRs).
The City continues to have concerns regarding the use of local roads to access the site. Although the FEIR states that heavy truck and equipment traffic would be restricted from using City roads, without seeing the recommended Conditions of Approval or the required Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP), it’s all but impossible for the City to understand how this will be enforced. There is no consideration of Monument Road as an alternate and emergency access should the Jordan Creek road experience closures. There is no mention of these towers attracting visitors. Traffic would have to go through the City to get to Monument Road.
In regards to the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP), the City is disappointed that it was not included in the FEIR as required by Section 15097 of the CEQA Guidelines. Without this important component of the FEIR, it is very difficult if not impossible for the City, the public and decision makers to determine how effective the proposed Mitigation Measures will be. It should be noted that the agreement between the County and Environmental Consultant AECOM, clearly states (Board Item C‐20, June 19, 2018, page 34) that the required MMRP would be included in the FEIR.
The County’s consultant (AECOM) informed the County as part of their proposal that “Because the project may result in impacts to federally and state listed‐bird species, such as the marbled murrelet, and the northern spotted owl, the project will (emphasis added) require an Endangered Species Act (ESA) incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and California Endangered Species Act, Section 2080.1 concurrence or Section 2081 permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFWS).” AECOM further states that a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would be required as well. See Board Item C‐20, June 19, 2018, page 19. To date, the City and the rest of the community is not aware of the apparently required Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that the County’s environmental consultant told them was required over a year ago.
The City still believes the project is being fast‐tracked at the community’s expense in favor of big business. A prime example is the fact that the FEIR was released on November 4th and the Planning Commission will hold its first meeting on November 7th. The FEIR contains almost 900 pages not including the almost 6,000 pages of comments and associated reference materials that were submitted in response to the DEIR. It is unfathomable that the public and the decision makers have four days to review the document before the Planning Commission meeting.
The City supports the concerns and the opposition of the project expressed by a number of State and Federal Agencies, organizations and thousands of Humboldt County residents. Below is a list of some of those agencies and organizations:
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- California State Lands Commission
- Wiyot Tribe
- Redwood Region Audubon Society
- North Coast Environmental Center
- California Native Plant Society
- Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club
- North Coast Bat Working Group
- The Lost Cost League
- Marbled Murrelet Friends
- Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
- U.S. Department of the Interior
- California Department of Conservation
- California Coastal Commission
- Yurok Tribe
- Environmental Protection Information Center
- Friends of the Eel River
- California Native Plant Society
- American Bird Conservancy
- Californians for Alternatives to Toxics
- Siskiyou Land Conservancy
- Defenders of Wildlife
- The Wildlife Society
Required CUP Findings
Pursuant to Section 312‐17 et. seq. of the Humboldt County Zoning Regulations in order to approve the project, the Planning Commission must find:
The proposed development and conditions under which it may be operated or maintained will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare or materially injurious to properties or improvements in the vicinity. [emphasis added]
Obviously, the City believes this finding cannot be made. It’s very clear to this City Council that there is no doubt that the proposed project, if approved, will be detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare and will be materially injurious to properties and improvements in the vicinity. The increased fire danger, biological impacts, sediment discharge and visual impacts are all detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare to our communities, residents and environment.
In addition, the project will affect property values, having a direct and substantial impact on the materially wellbeing of the City of Rio Dell. According to a September 2015 article, “Do Wind Turbines Lower Property Values?” in Forbes Magazine, it’s “clear that wind power DOES impact property values”. The article refers to a long list of other articles, studies and court cases documenting how wind power does affect property values. A copy was provided in the City’s June 5, 2019 comments on the DEIR.
In addition the Commission must also make the following Supplemental Findings:
Agricultural Use; §312‐18.1.1: The proposed use will not impair the continued agricultural use on the subject property or on adjacent lands or the economic viability of agricultural operations on the site.
Timber Use; § 312‐21.1.1: The proposed use will not significantly detract from, or inhibit the growing and harvesting of timber on the site or on adjacent properties.
The proposed project will in fact impair the agricultural use of the properties. Each turbine will have a graded 350’ x 350’ pad (2.8 acres). It is assumed these graded pads will be fenced‐ off for security purposes. The will result in the loss of 132+/− acres of grazing land.
The proposed project will in fact inhibit the growing and harvesting on timber. Tree removal associated with the widening of the access roads and transmission line will inhibit (eliminate) the growing and harvesting of timber.
Another supplemental finding that applies in the Coastal Zone and not the inland areas of the County should be applied County wide. See below:
Wind Electrical Generating Facilities; §312‐31.3.1: The facility will have no significant adverse impact on sensitive habitat resources.
There is no opportunity for the adoption of a “Statement of Overriding Considerations” for the required findings.
Should the project be approved, the City is concerned regarding the removal of the WTGs after the projects life (30+/− years). Apparently the removal of WTGs has been an issue in a number of communities throughout the Country and in fact the world. The City recommends, if the project or one of its alternatives is approved that a Performance Bond be required to ensure the visual blight (WTGs), the foundations, transmission facilities are removed and the natural contours restored.
For the reasons discussed herein the City of Rio Dell officially opposes the proposed Humboldt Wind Energy project and recommends the “No Project” alternative.
City of Rio Dell
November 12, 2019
County of Humboldt Planning Commission
Humboldt Wind Energy Project
Case No. PLN‐13999
Environmental Impact Report; SCH 2018072076
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
Humboldt Redwood Company
Russ Ranch and Timber Company
Download original document: “Letter from City of Rio Dell to County of Humboldt Planning Commission in opposition to wind energy project”
Author: Smallwood, Shawn
On behalf of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Wild, the Oregon Natural Desert Association, Central Oregon LandWatch, the Audubon Society of Portland, and East Cascades Audubon Society, I write to comment on the Request for Amendment 4 for the Summit Ridge Wind Farm, which requests a postponement of construction start and end dates for the project and which proposes an amended Habitat Mitigation Plan (January 2019). I primarily wish to comment on (1) the suitability of the habitat assessment underlying the amended Habitat Mitigation Plan, and (2) the need to update baseline surveys, project impact predictions, mitigation measures, and post-construction monitoring protocols. Updated surveys and analyses are needed in part because over the near-decade that has passed since the primary baseline study (Northwest Wildlife Consultants 2010), science has made vast improvements in field survey methods and in our understanding of wind turbine collision factors, displacement effects, and cumulative impacts related to wind projects. Methodology has vastly improved in preconstruction studies needed to predict project-scale and wind turbine-scale impacts, to measure post-construction impacts, and to assess whether and to what degree specific mitigation measures can be tested for efficacy. …
Skilled Dog Detections of Bat and Small Bird Carcasses in Wind Turbine Fatality Monitoring. K. Shawn Smallwood, Doug Bell, Skye Standish. 16 February 2018
Comparison of Wind Turbine Collision Hazard Model Performance Prepared for Repowering Projects in the Altamont Pass Wind Resources Area. K. Shawn Smallwood and Lee Neher. 7 January 2017 (Updated 5 April 2018)
Addendum to Comparison of Wind Turbine Collision Hazard Model Performance: One-year Post-construction Assessment of Golden Eagle Fatalities at Golden Hills. K. Shawn Smallwood. 10 April 2018
Download original document: “Smallwood – Re: Summit Ridge Wind Farm – Request for Amendment 4”
Author: Temple, James
A pair of 500-foot smokestacks rise from a natural-gas power plant on the harbor of Moss Landing, California, casting an industrial pall over the pretty seaside town.
If state regulators sign off, however, it could be the site of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery project by late 2020, helping to balance fluctuating wind and solar energy on the California grid.
The 300-megawatt facility is one of four giant lithium-ion storage projects that Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility, asked the California Public Utilities Commission to approve in late June. Collectively, they would add enough storage capacity to the grid to supply about 2,700 homes for a month (or to store about 0.0009 percent of the electricity the state uses each year).
The California projects are among a growing number of efforts around the world, including Tesla’s 100-megawatt battery array in South Australia, to build ever larger lithium-ion storage systems as prices decline and renewable generation increases. They’re fueling growing optimism that these giant batteries will allow wind and solar power to displace a growing share of fossil-fuel plants.
But there’s a problem with this rosy scenario. These batteries are far too expensive and don’t last nearly long enough, limiting the role they can play on the grid, experts say. If we plan to rely on them for massive amounts of storage as more renewables come online—rather than turning to a broader mix of low-carbon sources like nuclear and natural gas with carbon capture technology—we could be headed down a dangerously unaffordable path.
Today’s battery storage technology works best in a limited role, as a substitute for “peaking” power plants, according to a 2016 analysis by researchers at MIT and Argonne National Lab. These are smaller facilities, frequently fueled by natural gas today, that can afford to operate infrequently, firing up quickly when prices and demand are high.
Lithium-ion batteries could compete economically with these natural-gas peakers within the next five years, says Marco Ferrara, a cofounder of Form Energy, an MIT spinout developing grid storage batteries.
“The gas peaker business is pretty close to ending, and lithium-ion is a great replacement,” he says.
This peaker role is precisely the one that most of the new and forthcoming lithium-ion battery projects are designed to fill. Indeed, the California storage projects could eventually replace three natural-gas facilities in the region, two of which are peaker plants.
But much beyond this role, batteries run into real problems. The authors of the 2016 study found steeply diminishing returns when a lot of battery storage is added to the grid. They concluded that coupling battery storage with renewable plants is a “weak substitute” for large, flexible coal or natural-gas combined-cycle plants, the type that can be tapped at any time, run continuously, and vary output levels to meet shifting demand throughout the day.
Not only is lithium-ion technology too expensive for this role, but limited battery life means it’s not well suited to filling gaps during the days, weeks, and even months when wind and solar generation flags.
This problem is particularly acute in California, where both wind and solar fall off precipitously during the fall and winter months. Here’s what the seasonal pattern looks like:
This leads to a critical problem: when renewables reach high levels on the grid, you need far, far more wind and solar plants to crank out enough excess power during peak times to keep the grid operating through those long seasonal dips, says Jesse Jenkins, a coauthor of the study and an energy systems researcher. That, in turn, requires banks upon banks of batteries that can store it all away until it’s needed.
And that ends up being astronomically expensive.
There are issues California can’t afford to ignore for long. The state is already on track to get 50 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2020, and the legislature is once again considering a bill that would require it to reach 100 percent by 2045. To complicate things, regulators voted in January to close the state’s last nuclear plant, a carbon-free source that provides 24 percent of PG&E’s energy. That will leave California heavily reliant on renewable sources to meet its goals.
The Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based energy policy think tank, recently found that reaching the 80 percent mark for renewables in California would mean massive amounts of surplus generation during the summer months, requiring 9.6 million megawatt-hours of energy storage. Achieving 100 percent would require 36.3 million.
The state currently has 150,000 megawatt-hours of energy storage in total. (That’s mainly pumped hydroelectric storage, with a small share of batteries.)
Building the level of renewable generation and storage necessary to reach the state’s goals would drive up costs exponentially, from $49 per megawatt-hour of generation at 50 percent to $1,612 at 100 percent.
And that’s assuming lithium-ion batteries will cost roughly a third what they do now.
“The system becomes completely dominated by the cost of storage,” says Steve Brick, a senior advisor for the Clean Air Task Force. “You build this enormous storage machine that you fill up by midyear and then just dissipate it. It’s a massive capital investment that gets utilized very little.”
These forces would dramatically increase electricity costs for consumers.
“You have to pause and ask yourself: ‘Is there any way the public would stand for that?’” Brick says.
Similarly, a study earlier this year in Energy & Environmental Science found that meeting 80 percent of US electricity demand with wind and solar would require either a nationwide high-speed transmission system, which can balance renewable generation over hundreds of miles, or 12 hours of electricity storage for the whole system (see “Relying on renewables alone significantly inflates the cost of overhauling energy”).
At current prices, a battery storage system of that size would cost more than $2.5 trillion.
A scary price tag
Of course, cheaper and better grid storage is possible, and researchers and startups are exploring various possibilities. Form Energy, which recently secured funding from Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is trying to develop aqueous sulfur flow batteries with far longer duration, at a fifth the cost where lithium-ion batteries are likely to land.
Ferrara’s modeling has found that such a battery could make it possible for renewables to provide 90 percent of electricity needs for most grids, for just marginally higher costs than today’s.
But it’s dangerous to bank on those kinds of battery breakthroughs—and even if Form Energy or some other company does pull it off, costs would still rise exponentially beyond the 90 percent threshold, Ferrara says.
“The risk,” Jenkins says, “is we drive up the cost of deep decarbonization in the power sector to the point where the public decides it’s simply unaffordable to continue toward zero carbon.”
James Temple, Senior Editor, Energy
I am the senior editor for energy at MIT Technology Review. I’m focused on renewable energy and the use of technology to combat climate change. Previously, I was a senior director at the Verge, deputy managing editor at Recode, and columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. When I’m not writing about energy and climate change, I’m often hiking with my dog or shooting video of California landscapes.
Author: Hales, Roy
Ocotillo, in Imperial County, has been inflicted by massive dust storms ever since 112 turbines were built around it. The desert surface was scraped clean of vegetation as a preparation for the project. Now there is nothing to hold the dust down.
That’s not the only complaint. Since the project went online, less than two years ago:
- 3 turbines have had their gear boxes replaced,
- 9 turbines have had blade replacements
- a 173-foot-long-blade flew off one turbine
- Ocotillo residents have also documented oil leaks in 40% of the turbines. The Department of Toxic substance control subsequently gave the project a summary of violations.
Two Ocotillo residents, Jim Pelley and Parke Ewing, have documented this project on the web. There are hundreds of videos on Pelley’s Youtube site “Save Ocotillo” and Ewing’s Facebook page Ocotillo Wind Turbine Destruction is a visual chronicle of this project and related materials.
(October 23, 2014)
The Ocotillo wind farm went online almost five years ago. Were they not documented in such meticulous detail, some of the reports coming from the tiny desert community this project surrounds would be difficult to believe. I once received a constant stream of YouTube videos and reports from this project. It was one of the sites that shaped my perception of the energy sector. To some extent, I’ve moved on from this story since then, but I always knew I would be revisiting Ocotillo.
Parke Ewing has not been able to move on.
Last May, I asked him for an update.
Ewing replied, “It’s about 9:30 – 10:00 o’clock in the morning. Not one wind turbine is spinning. There is no wind. Their capacity factor, since they became operational, is only about 21.3%. Pattern Energy stated the wind farm would be 34% and they also said it would produce 891 gigawatts (GW) per year. So far, the most they’ve ever generated is 536 GW. So it is substantially less than what they proposed to get approval on this project …”
Update On Mechanical Failures
This is the beginning of a four minute clip, which you can listen to on the podcast. Some of the details include:
- “About 70% of the turbines leaked oil. They had a crew out here cleaning all the turbines. They did a lot of them and I am sure they fixed some of the leaks.”
- On November 21, 2016, turbine #126 crumpled and fell over. “They’re in the process of replacing the entire turbine right now. The nacelle came in today and the tower sections and they are unloading those as we speak,”
These are just the latest in a litany of problems.
Six months after the project officially went online, a 173 foot-long-blade flew off one of the turbines.
There was a turbine fire in 2015.
Since this project went online:
- 10 turbines underwent blade replacements
- 9 turbines had their gear boxes replaced
- 2 turbines were replaced
Contacting The Developers
Attempts to contact the turbine manufacturer, developer and local utility have been futile.
Ewing says, “We’ve tried to talk to Pattern Energy [the developer], of course we always get a generic reply that they’re working on this or checking on that, but we never get an answer on the noise, or the lights, or anything. They really just write us off. They don’t talk to us. We get an email reply sometimes, that’s about it.”
I phoned Jeff Grappone, of Siemens USA after the turbine caught fire in 2015. He suggested I send an email. I did this, asking:
- Do they know what caused this fire?
- How often turbine fires occur? Are they, for example, as common as traffic accidents are for automobile drivers?
- What about the oil leaks? the blade replacements? the three replaced yaw gears? Is this normal for a two year old wind farm?
- There are also some extreme conditions at Ocotillo. I have seen videos of those incredible dust storms. There are good winds at times, but they are more often 0-4 mph and there are occasionally incredible blow ups. Is this a an exceptionally difficult location?
Grappone never replied.
Maybe I asked too many questions.
I recently tried a different tactic, when asking Pattern Energy about the dust storms that have plagued Ocotillo since the site was built. I sent them the video you see below and asked for an explanation.
Matt Dallas emailed back, “Ocotillo Wind operates its equipment in accordance with our permits. The dust in the video was created by the wind, not by the turbines. You’ll see many of the turbines are not operating in the video because the wind speeds that day were so high they exceeded our maximum operating capacity.”
He was not aware that I had previously interviewed a site developer about dust storms on utility scale wind and solar sites.
According to Harvey Stephens, Vice President of Operations at World Wind & Solar, fugitive dust problems are caused by scraping large areas of the desert crust clean of vegetation. This leaves the underlaying soil exposed to the wind. There are remedies, such as planting grasses, windflowers and other materials as a protective blanket to stabilize areas disturbed by grading operations. When developers follow these procedures, the dust storms normally cease after a year or so.
Ocotillo has been inflicted by dust storms since construction began. In the video below, you can see one from August 2012.
I pointed this out to Matt Dallas, who did not reply.
Ewing and his wife suspect, but can not prove, that infrasound noise from the turbines might be the reason that are “tired all the time.”
He describes the sound made by the turbines, when they are turning, as “… the most irritating sound I have ever heard.”
(There is a recording on the podcast.)
“One of Pattern’s project managers came by and listened to the sound once and said he would take it back to whoever is in charge. We never heard another word about it,” says Ewing.
“We like to be outside. That’s why we are here in the desert. We have a fairly nice place here, with a lot of trees and stuff that we need to keep watered. It is difficult to do when they are making noise. It is kind of like a noise trespassing, that really shouldn’t be happening on your property.”
What’s The Problem?
Parke Ewing believes the problem is wind technology.
I agreed with him, until I saw some German sites in 2014. [NWW still agrees with Ewing.]
The problem at Ocotillo does not appear to be so much with the technology, as how it was used. This is not a good location for wind turbines. The site was politically expedient and there were massive tax credits in 2012, but should never have been built. Now the manufacturer and developer have made their money, and people like Parke Ewing are left with the mess.
September 3, 2017, Roy L Hales, theecoreport.com