Why not develop wind energy in San Diego’s backcountry? Because all the renewable energy we need is available in the city with rooftop solar panels with none of industrial wind’s huge impacts on nature and rural communities.
There is no need to give away public land for pennies on the dollar or millions in taxpayer subsidies to foreign wind developers, as is the case in some proposals. There is no need for increased SDG&E bills to build new transmission lines from remote wind sites, for ruining rural property values and forcing residents and Native Americans to suffer ill health.
The solar potential on rooftops and parking lots in San Diego County is vast and can provide most renewable energy needed to eliminate our fossil-fuel dependence. Rooftop solar was once too expensive, and SDG&E and parent Sempra Energy still fights it to protect their centralized, fossil-fueled business model. But rooftop solar can now compete effectively in price with any form of renewable energy, including wind. Solar panel prices have dropped by half over the last three years and keep dropping. Low-interest government loans would pay installation costs and save the owner money compared to buying from SDG&E.
Wind energy has a number of disadvantages. It kills golden eagles and thousands of migratory birds. East County’s high desert McCain Valley should be a national park, but instead it’s a target of wind projects and the Sunrise Powerlink. These projects and others would wipe out habitat for bighorn sheep and ruin the wilderness experience as well as views from a huge area of Anza-Borrego State Park and the Cleveland National Forest. Government agencies are shortsighted in refusing to truly consider the cumulative impacts of multiple large energy projects.
SDG&E already has more contracts than it needs to meet state renewable energy requirements. The utility is seriously pursuing wind projects only in Montana and distant California sites such as near Bakersfield. Why? Because contracts for distant projects allow SDG&E to meet state renewables requirements while marketing the power elsewhere. That electricity need not tie up power lines used by Sempra Energy to deliver profitable fossil-fuel energy. Tribes and rural communities should pursue profitable (and much less harmful) solar projects that SDG&E is required to buy locally. Tribes seeking sound business opportunities would benefit by rejecting harmful and speculative wind projects in favor of solar panels on parking lots or rooftops like those now installed at other tribal nations.
Wind projects harm health and property values. One medical journal article concluded that symptoms from nearby wind development include “sleep disturbance, headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability and fatigue, [and ear] symptoms including dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus and the sensation of aural pain or pressure.” Real estate experts have shown that home values decline 20 percent to 40 percent near wind projects. Residents also face increased costs of health care, retrofitting homes to block noise and strobe-light effects from turbine shadows, and total losses when forced to move.
We need renewable energy. But all we need is right in the city. That’s why it’s a tragedy to destroy our natural public lands, cultural resources and rural communities to build expensive, harmful and unnecessary wind projects.
Hogan is a San Diego environmentalist. Tisdale is chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, co-founder and president of Backcountry Against Dumps, and secretary of The Protect Our Communities Foundation.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding