Kern County supervisors approved two large wind energy projects by massive developer Terra-Gen Power Tuesday.
The larger of the two, the massive 530 megawatt Alta Wind Energy Infill project stretching across 5,185 acres just west of the small desert community of Mojave, got heated opposition from area residents.
According to county staff reports, the project would place 205 towering 3 megawatt wind turbines in a miles-long arch running south from Highway 58 north of town to well south of Mojave.
Mojave residents complained that the project would convert “pristine desert landscapes” to an industrial “wasteland.”
“The town of Mojave is not very big,” said Mike Fortuna of Mojave. “This project is an extension of an earlier project that extends almost to (Highway) 14. This severely limits the growth of the town of Mojave.”
Tim Kuster said the environmental review of the project was flawed and that supervisors cannot, without guilt or shame, approve the project – or expect to be re-elected if they do.
“I’m a huge supporter of responsible alternative energy,” he said. “This is not responsible.”
Terra-Gen officials touted the company’s commitment to Kern County where its many projects generate about $30 million in tax revenues and hundreds of jobs.
Terra-Gen workers talked about their commitment to flow revenues from the projects into the Mojave economy.
After listening to extensive comments from the community, supervisors took very little time to approve the project with a unanimous vote.
Supervisor Zack Scrivner said he believes that all the issues raised by opponents – such as animal habitats and fire dangers – are being raised by people who just don’t like the idea of losing their views to the turbines.
He said the economic benefits to the county outweigh the impacts to the community.
Supervisors also approved the Morgan Hills Wind Energy project, a 230- megawatt project powered by 76 wind turbines spread over 2,160 acres in the mountains seven miles southeast of Tehachapi along Oak Creek Road.
The location is much more remote than that of the larger Terra-Gen project but brought equally passionate opposition from people who live or have family homes in the mountain valleys and meadows.
Speakers talked about the serenity of the land and the beauty that captivated the parents and grandparents of speakers when they bought the land.
Supervisors empathized with the feelings of individuals.
But Scrivner took the same stance on the Morgan Hills project that he had with the Mojave project.
“I believe that the overall benefits to our community from this renewable project cannot be overridden,” Scrivner said, by the impact to the speaker’s property.
The vote to approve the project was unanimous.
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