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Residents speak out on wind-power project

A proposed wind-power project would provide more energy, but also could create visual, biological and other problems in the Lompoc area, according to residents and others who spoke up last week at a hearing.

Residents, company representatives, state officials and others nearly filled the Lompoc City Council Chambers Thursday night to discuss the project’s Environment Impact Report (EIR).

About a dozen people spoke about the project, which would be the first of its kind on the Central Coast.

“Wind energy is important for our county, but it has to be done well,” said Tom Hunt, energy program director for the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara.

Hunt said later that he supports wind power but wants to minimize the biological and visual impacts for Lompoc.

The Lompoc Wind Farm Project, proposed by a subsidiary of Acciona, a Spanish conglomerate reported to be the largest producer of renewable energy in the world, is expected to produce 80 to 120 megawatts of electricity – enough to serve 60,000 homes – and cost $120 million.

Sixty to 80 wind turbine generators, ranging about 300 to 500 feet high, would be placed on Tranquillon Ridge South of Lompoc, including private agricultural properties near San Miguelito Road. Six landowners have signed leases with Acciona.

Energy Specialist Kevin Drude and Planner John Day, both from the Planning and Development Division of Santa Barbara County, listened to comments from the audience about the adequacy of the report.

Drude asked comments on the merits of the project itself to be held for when the project is brought before the county Planning Commission.

A new section will now be added to the EIR this month, in which Drude and Day will respond to comments from the meeting.

Richard Rojas, district supervisor for California State Parks, said he supports the development of wind energy in Lompoc but added that the project may impact La Purisima Mission state historical park. He said more details will be available in a letter he will send to Drude and Day.

“Once the project is in the ground, we will have to live with it forever,” Rojas said.

Longtime Lompoc resident Al Thompson expressed concern about the visual impact and noise of the turbines. He wondered how visible they would be in the night sky, and how much of a dull drone they would create.

“It’s such an assault on the human senses,” Thompson said.

Speakers from the La Purisima chapter of the Audubon Society addressed the needs for better surveys on how birds will be affected by the turbines and how it will affect their habitat. Drude has previously acknowledged that birds will be killed by the turbines if they fly into them.

Other residents were concerned about how the project will affect them as homeowners. George Bedford, who lives near San Miguelito Canyon Road, said he too was worried about the visual impact and the noise. “I’m hoping somebody can be able to tell me I’ll be able to sleep at night!” Bedford said.

Other speakers commented on the need to rely more on sources of energy like wind power and less on fossil fuels.

Future dates on public decision maker hearings for the project will follow after comments from the hearing are reviewed by Drude and Day.

By Ryan McMaster

The Lompoc Record

2 September 2007