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Wind farm evaluation blows into Lompoc  

Credit:  Santa Maria Times, www.msnbc.msn.com ~~

A few members of the public, along with the county’s Central Board of Architectural Review, were given a first-hand look at the future Lompoc Wind Energy Project on Friday.

The board held an on-site public hearing on the project, to evaluate the developer’s plans to build an operations and maintenance facility at the corner of Sudden Road and San Miguelito Road.

Specially measured “story poles” helped show the outline and height of the proposed 5,000-square-foot building, while white poles placed along surrounding hillsides and ridges indicated the future locations for some of the wind farm’s planned 65 wind turbines, which will be owned and operated by the company Acciona Energy.

John Day, Santa Barbara County planner for the project, said the story poles for the operations and maintenance building would remain in place until Monday or Tuesday. He said the white turbine poles would remain up for the foreseeable future.

Phase one of the Lompoc Wind Energy Project includes construction of the operations and maintenance facility, a power substation, and the first 37 of the eventual 65 wind turbines, which will reach 397 feet high.

Those turbines will be placed primarily on rural agricultural land, along the coastal ridges south of Lompoc. When complete, the wind farm will generate an estimated 285 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year, equivalent to the electrical usage of 40,000 to 50,000 households, which will be used by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

After the site visit, the CBAR hearing moved down to Lompoc City Hall building, where the group was tasked with evaluating the visual aspects of the project, particularly the operations and maintenance building.

“Much of the rest of the project is constrained by technical factors,” said Day, referring specifically to the height, size and shape of the wind turbines.

Board member Fred Donovan asked if the wind turbines could be painted gray instead of white, to better blend in with the foggy Lompoc skyline. Representatives for Acciona Energy said that a different color than the industry standard white could be used, but would require “24-hour strobe lighting to meet FAA requirements.”

There was one public speaker at the hearing, Lompoc businessman George Bedford, whose property is adjacent to the new wind turbines.

“When you’re putting 65 400-foot tall wind turbines up there, nobody gives a flying fudge about that little building,” said Bedford.

Years earlier, Bedford said, the county BAR had forced him to lower the height of his house’s roof, due to strict ridgeline planning rules.

“So I guess those rules don’t apply to big companies though,” Bedford said.

Day responded that the ridgeline rules applied to all applicants, but that the county Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and even the county courts had ruled to allow the wind farm an exemption.

Bedford said he had filed an appeal of those decisions on Thursday with the Ventura County courts.

The CBAR hearing ended with all five members of the board making their final suggestions on landscaping, and building colors involved with the operations and maintenance building. The CBAR is expected to meet on Aug. 12 in Solvang, for possible final architectural approval.

Source:  Santa Maria Times, www.msnbc.msn.com

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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