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Commission OKs wind-power project

FAIRFIELD – The Solano County planning commission Thursday gave final approval to a wind-power project in a rural part of the county.

NextEra Energy, of Juno Beach, Fla., can now erect 34 turbines on 2,539 acres in the Montezuma Hills area.

Each turbine will generate 2.3 megawatts of electricity for an electrical generation capacity of 78.2 megawatts. The power will be sold to PG&E.

The area is located about four miles south of Highway 12, southeast of Birds Landing Road, north of Talbert Lane and partially bisected by Montezuma Hills Road. There are seven other turbine projects nearby.

The area is used for dry farming, grazing, rural residences and wind energy generation. Existing wind turbines have been taken down to make way for the new ones. The old ones were 90 to 100 feet in height; the news ones will be as tall as 428 feet.

Bird advocates have expressed concern over the project. County planners have estimated the wind turbines could kill between 199 and 544 birds and bats a year. There is also a possibility that one golden eagle could be killed every 1.3 to 3.4 years, according to county planners.

Roberto Valdez of Vacaville objected to the fact that 68 acres of wildlife habitat will be lost with the project.

“Species need that open space to migrate,” Valdez said. “You don’t control them. They do what they want, bottom line.”

Ken Miller, of the Ironworkers Union Local 378, said he loves wildlife too, but there’s one thing he loves more.

“My members being able to have a local job with a living wage,” Miller said. “That should take precedent.”

County planners, in the environmental review, found that the benefits, including greenhouse gas reduction, outweighed the impacts.

The turbines will be visible from Collinsville but will not greatly disturb views from Birds Landing, the Western Railway Museum and highways 12 and 113, according to planners. The nearest turbine to Rio Vista would be more than five miles away.

The wind turbines potentially could affect radar systems at Travis Air Force Base but not at a level that would exceed standards established in a prior joint agreement, according to planners. The permit is valid for 30 years.

The commission voted 3-0, with Rod Boschee and Dan Mahoney absent. The decision is final unless it is appealed to the Board of Supervisors. The appeal window ends 10 calendar days after approval.