Opponents of a wind turbine taller than the Statue of Liberty near Madison set to power gravel extraction on Cache Creek may be blowing in the wind, following approval of the project by the Yolo County Planning Commission.
The 335-foot-tall turbine, from base to blade tip, will provide one megawatt of electricity to CEMEX gravel mining operations in the area, just east of Interstate 505 and north of Highway 16. The project is planned to be at least one mile from public roads.
Zamora resident David Long sent a letter to local newspapers calling the project “monstrous.”
“At 335 feet, it will be higher than the Statue of Liberty,” he wrote. “… As a result, the wind turbine has the potential to substantially degrade the existing visual character and quality of … Cache Creek.”
A report by principal planner Eric Parfey states the turbine “will appear as a very faint white image on the horizon,” as photo simulations suggest.
“The turbine is located in a very rural area heavily disturbed by mining excavation activities,” Parfey stated.
Long said the county indicated no sensitive groups live near the proposed turbine. However, he wrote “the Madison migrant center is 1.5 miles away with a well-attended preschool and school.”
“Wind turbines are well known to create excessive noise that affects people’s health with children especially sensitive,” he wrote.
Planning Commissioner Keith Williams, who is from Dunnigan and represents rural areas of the
county, also had his own questions about the turbine’s size and noise it would emit that were not answered. He attended the Madison Advisory Committee, which met to address this issue, as the CEMEX project is just east of town.
“They had a lot of unanswered questions,” Williams said. “… There was no solid opinion as to whether to have it go forward or not.”
While Williams voted against the project’s use permit, the Planning Commission approved a use permit for the project 5-2 at its meeting Oct. 27. An appeal could bring the project to the Board of Supervisors, which must be made within 15 days of the project’s approval.
Commissioner Mary Kimball, of Woodland, was the other vote against the project.
She was concerned since CEMEX’s project is the first large wind turbine project to come to the commission. Kimball said she didn’t “quite feel ready” for this one.
But she liked many things regarding the wind turbine project, including the site, which is industrial.
The wind turbine could also power 80 percent of CEMEX’s facility.
“I’m very interested in wind energy where it’s beneficial in our county,” Kimball said.
She was also concerned about environmental impacts resulting from the wind turbine.
According to a biological report, the project may affect bank swallows and Swainson’s hawks.
“While there are no reported Swainson’s hawk nests in the quarry or in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project, there are at least 20 reported nests within five miles of the project site,” the report states.
The Swainson’s hawk is an endangered species. CEMEX had to consult with the state Department of Fish and Game to see whether a permit was necessary.
Kimball said the Fish and Game report had not come back about a permit.
In addition, Kimball said its location, north of Highway 16, is a riparian corridor or “the most important ecological areas for all kinds of wildlife,” especially birds.
“The turbine could have a detrimental effect on bird species; we just really don’t have that information as of yet,” she said. “My concern is placing a potentially detrimental turbine in the exact same place as there are the most species of birds.”
In the staff report, Planning and Public Works recommended the approval of the project as it is consistent with the Yolo County’s 2030 General Plan and Climate Action Plan, which encourage “reliance on renewable energy resources in order to promote greenhouse gas emission reductions.”
The turbine can operate whenever sufficient wind is present and can be functional for up to 30 years.