Tehachapi, CA – The growing prominence of wind power projects in eastern Kern County, touted by its advocates as a job creator, has brought an unintended consequence: increased vandalism against wind power equipment.
Since November of 2010, eight wind measuring towers have been damaged or destroyed, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD). The vandalism has affected wind projects from Rosamond to Tehachapi. The victim companies include Helo Energy, LLC, AES Wind Generation, Inc., Enexo Energy, and Western Wind Energy Corporation. Although no loss figures have been confirmed, based upon reports from the victim companies, on and off record, total damages may well be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The incidents come at a time when Kern County is elbowing into prominence as a laboratory for alternative energy projects, and when residents near planned projects are pushing back against some of the proposals. That opposition included the launch of a blogsite, by a Tehachapi attorney, devoted to examining one of the more controversial projects. In late June New York-based Terra-Gen Power, parent to the so-called “Pahnamid Project,” which would have erected 137 turbines across 7,100 acres in the Tehachapi Mountains area, withdrew its request for rezoning.
“The half a dozen vandalisms represent only the incidents which have been reported to us,” said KCSD Public Information Officer Raymond Pruitt. “Of course, not every incident of vandalism gets reported, so this is what we can confirm on the record.” Both Pruitt and Sgt. Richard Wood, of the KCSD Tehachapi Substation, indicated that no suspects have been identified in any of the vandalisms and that investigations are ongoing.
KCSD has logged the following acts of vandalism:
November 6, 2010 to November 20, 2010 – Vandals cut supportive wires (guy wires) on three wind collection towers, owned by AES Wind Generation, Inc., toppling and destroying all three.
· November 17, 2010 – November 30, 2010 – Unknown suspects cut through a lock and fencing at an Enexo property, cut through two support wires and felled a wind monitoring tower.
· December 3, 2010 – Enexo found itself a victim a second time, when someone cut the same lock and fencing, cut two guy wires, and again brought down a monitoring tower.
· December 14, 2010 – Western Wind Energy Corporation reported that one of its wind data collection towers was destroyed.
· April 18, 2011 – Vandals cut support cables to a 180-foot weather tower, causing its collapse and destruction.
· June 3, 2011 – Enexo, for the third reported time, sustained the loss of a wind measuring tower south of Backus Road on 70th Street.
Richard Redoglia, a principal with Helo Energy, LLC, confirmed the vandalism at its property, estimated total losses of $45,000 to $50,000, but declined to speculate on the motives of vandals. After the tower was brought down, he said, the company hired 24-hour security at each of its sites.
Tom Dugan, a technician and spokesperson with Western Wind Energy, said that the loss of its wind tower cost the company over $20 thousand. Dugan also declined to speculate regarding the motives of the vandals, and added that he had not confirmed reports from several colleagues in the wind energy business that move than a dozen cases of vandalism had occurred during the past twelve months.
Several of the wind energy companies with ongoing projects in Kern County declined to comment for this story on acts of vandalism sustained during the past year. “We are well aware that there are controversial issues involved in these projects,” Rodeglio said, “but we believe that the expansion of wind power is a necessary component in any future alternative energy mix. We’re going to be working hard during the next few months to see our project through the eyes of residents who have expressed concerns about wind turbines.”
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