Officials at Travis Air Force Base have withdrawn their objections to a proposal to install up to 88 additional wind turbines in the Montezuma Hills – turbines, that some believe may affect radar systems at the base.
A letter to Solano County, written Monday by Travis Wing Commander Col. Steven Arquiette, states that Travis no longer would stand in the way of the project after being informed by superiors that there were no “reasonable expectations” of problems with a new radar system currently being installed at the base.
There are currently more than 700 wind turbines in the Montezuma Hills. Travis officials have said the newest batch potentially would cause a problem since the blades of the turbines may make it seem like smaller planes drop off the radar screens while images of others appear when they aren’t actually there.
The latest project, titled Shiloh II Wind Project, proposes to build up to 88 turbines, but has been delayed for more than a year after Arquiette informed the county that the base was concerned about the project. The issue now will head to the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission on March 13 and to the Solano County Planning Commission on March 20.
Another letter, written by Gen. Arthur J. Lichte – Commander of the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois – was sent to the turbine’s producers, enXco last month.
It stated that the Air Force Flight Standards Agency had concluded the proposed turbines would not be an issue with Travis’ new radar system. The letter also informed enXco that Travis would be telling the county of this revelation.
“Although the wind turbines currently operating in the wind resource area do adversely impact our radar coverage, we believe opportunities will soon arise both to improve overall radar performance and to work with enXco to mitigate that impact,” the Lichte letter read.
Neither the Air Force nor enXco could say whether that mitigation effort will include a gift to Travis of up to $1 million that was offered by enXco at a Feb. 21 Solano County Planning Commission meeting. That money was offered to improve the radar system anyway Travis chose.
Sgt. Matt McGovern, with Travis public affairs, said Monday that the base had no comment on the money offer. Gregory Blue, regional manager of external affairs for enXco, said he was aware the situation had been resolved, but didn’t know if the gift would be accepted.
Blue did say that the two sides are setting up a joint committee to study any possible effects and come up with a way to solve those issues.
“We were trying to help them enhance their radar and we’re doing it in the form of a gift,” Blue said from his San Ramon office. “It’s all about enhancing the radar so we can co-exist. We are continuing to work together as good neighbors.”
Blue said that if the project gains approval by the county’s planning commission, his company likely would apply for permits the next day and hopefully be done with construction by the end of the year.
By Danny Bernardini
4 March 2008
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