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Ocotillo residents sound off on wind energy project

OCOTILLO – More than 40 residents met Saturday morning with Imperial County Supervisor Jack Terrazas to voice their concerns over the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project.

The proposed project by Pattern Energy is a 465-megawatt wind farm that would include 155 wind turbines on nearly 12,500 acres mostly owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Residents opposing the project say that not only would the wind turbines not be able to produce nearly as much power as the company anticipates, but fear that the project will adversely affect their quality of life, health, area ecology and culture.

Pattern representatives were not present at the meeting.

Ocotillo resident and aerospace engineer Jim Pelley gave a presentation regarding his review of the project and its projected energy output.

He said that the wind turbines would need 27 mph constant wind in order to produce that much energy. Based on his review of information from a local Mesowest data station between September 2010 and August 2011, the average wind speed for the area is 8.9 mph.

Ocotillo simply doesn’t have suitable wind for the project and isn’t a “wind hot spot,” he summarized to a roomful of applause Saturday morning.

Several residents including Pelley are concerned about dust and flooding issues that would arise from the project.

Many cited problems they’ve faced from Sunrise Powerlink’s area construction as an indicator of how they feel projects like these are managed.

Representatives with local Native American groups said they would be in favor of collaboration with Ocotillo residents against the project.

The portion of closing comments for the project’s environmental impact report draft is coming to an end on Oct. 6.

“Many people don’t want this project here,” resident Donna Tisdale said. “They love the desert and come here to enjoy the night sky.”

Terrazas encouraged people to meet with county supervisors and planning commissioners soon to voice their concerns.

“It’s a standalone project with a major impact on all of us,” he said.