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Antioch Council: Windmill sounds good, looks bad  

Credit:  by Justin Lafferty, www.thepress.net 3 March 2011 ~~

The Delta Diablo Sanitation District recently proposed a 327-foot tall wind turbine to be built near the border of Antioch and Pittsburg, but Antioch City Council members expressed concern over the aesthetics of the project.

The proposed 1-megawatt turbine, which district associate engineer Irene O’Sullivan said is still in the infancy of its planning stage, would not require any money from Antioch and would save the district roughly $94,000 a year in the operating costs of its recycled water system. Right now, the district spends about $330,000 annually in energy costs on the system, which provides water for Antioch parks and golf courses.

“The district is very interested in green energy projects, and we have been very proactive in studying a wide variety of projects,” O’Sullivan said. “We feel we have identified the most optimum project for the recycled water facility.”

The turbine would be built at the north end of the district’s wastewater treatment plant at 2500 Pittsburg-Antioch Highway.

According to O’Sullivan, while the district would manage the land the turbine stands on, the San Francisco-based alternative energy company Foundation Windpower will own the turbine and foot the bill for development, construction and operation. Foundation Windpower will also take the lead in satisfying the California Environmental Quality Act’s requirements.

O’Sullivan said the district can save at least $1.5 million in operating costs of the recycled water system over the proposed 20-year contract with Foundation Windpower.

As the turbine is subject to Antioch’s building ordinances, O’Sullivan and other members of the district pitched the project to the Antioch City Council at its last meeting. O’Sullivan plans to present the proposal to Pittsburg at a meeting on Monday.

District General Manager Gary Darling’s goal was to give all the information possible to City Council and the public, offering “no surprises.” “Having gone through quite a few project alternatives, we do think that this bears consideration,” Darling said. “It’s a pretty deliberate and slow process, but we’re interested in receiving any input or questions that you might have.”

While City Council members were pleased with the progressive nature of the proposed wind turbine, they were unhappy with its extreme visibility. Councilman Gary Agopian, though he enjoyed the fact that more green energy would be used in Antioch, said the wind turbine would be an eyesore as viewed from Antioch and Pittsburg. He asked Darling why the district didn’t use solar panels, which have a much lower profile than a large wind turbine. Darling replied that placing solar panels requires more real estate than a wind turbine and is not as cost-efficient.

“It doesn’t look that large from that far away, but here in Antioch, I’m looking at a wind turbine right in the middle of all of our views,” Agopian said. “So I’m a little bit concerned about the location – not the technology, not the savings and not the ‘greenness’ of what you’re trying to do, but the location – looking at a windmill right there in Antioch. I’m not real hot about it.”

Councilwoman Mary Helen Rocha echoed Agopian’s thoughts: “It is an object that seems very obtrusive.”

District spokeswoman Angela Lowrey pointed to wind as a clean source of energy. In an e-mail, Lowrey noted that wind energy does not create pollution or greenhouse gases.

Members of the district also responded to concerns about noise and the danger to wildlife. Darling told the council that the proposed turbine creates minimal noise. The turbine the district plans to put in – a Mitsubishi MWT-1000 – kills an average of only two birds per year, unlike the ones on the Altamont Pass, on which birds have tended to nest.

Darling also pointed to the prospect that the turbine would create more local jobs.

O’Sullivan said she would probably come back to Antioch’s council in April, after meeting with the Pittsburg City Council this month. Delta Diablo Sanitation District members said they were serious about soliciting as much feedback from residents as possible.

“Over the next year,” Lowrey wrote in an e-mail, “this project will undergo a range of formal approval processes and receive input from the public.”

Source:  by Justin Lafferty, www.thepress.net 3 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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