A controversial windmill will rise over North Marin – substantially smaller than neighbors had feared.
Marin supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved construction of a nearly 150-foot windmill at the McEvoy Ranch north of Novato.
“The importance we place on fulfilling our energy needs, and the need to support the diversity of our agriculture, causes me to be supportive,” said Supervisor Steve Kinsey. “We’re fortunate to have the McEvoy Ranch as olive producers. They’ve been pioneers, and what they’re doing will help the ranching community, West Marin and Marin County in general.
“We shouldn’t punish the pioneers.”
Neighbors and some environmentalists opposed the project, saying the structure could mar views of Marin’s ridgelines, pose a threat to birds and bats and produce noise. The Planning Commission supported their views, denying the project in October on a 6-1 vote.
In response, representatives of the 552-acre ranch offered to reduce the size and change the location of the proposed windmill.
“We’ve reduced the height by 40 percent, from 246 to 148 feet,” said Tom Willard, project manager of Sustainenergy Systems in Inverness and a consultant to the McEvoy Ranch. “We’ve reduced the power it produces from 750 to 250 kilowatts. We’ve moved the location 2,900 feet to the west, at significant increase to the cost of the project. We’ve shaped this project as much as we can in order to accommodate the neighbors.”
Opponents of the project, including the Marin Conservation League and the Marin Audubon Society, said they supported the idea of wind energy. But they said the county needs new regulations for windmills to prevent commercial developments like the 5,400-windmill complex at Altamont from springing up in Marin.
“This shows the importance of having a plan in place before considering individual permits for wind energy conservation systems,” said attorney Terence Hallinan, representing neighbors Sumner and Susie Schlesinger. “Without a plan in place, you’ll have developments like Altamont killing 100 raptors a day and bankrupting the county. We don’t want a debacle like that taking place in Marin.”
But supporters, including the Sierra Club’s Marin Group and many West Marin farmers and ranchers, argued that the project was a model for using “green energy” to power agriculture.
“There’s been a charge that this would mar the ridgeline,” said Corda Winery owner Hank Corda. “Well, the majority of that ridgeline has been Corda-owned since 1884. It’s near and dear to my heart. But I understand the changes it will take to make Marin green.”
Supervisors agreed, saying the county’s existing regulations were strict enough to prevent other windmills from mushrooming across the county.
“The specter of climate change looms large in our lives,” Supervisor Charles McGlashan said. “It haunts me in my work every night. Some hassles to humans are the price we have to pay as a society.”
The McEvoy windmill is the second major power-generating windmill to be approved in Marin. A 50-kilowatt, 80-foot-tall windmill has been built at Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio.
By Rob Rogers
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