I remember when windmills in Tehachapi were used to keep stock tanks filled in areas where there was no electricity – and, of course, seeing the picturesque relics of old wooden windmills here and there, marking the site of an old homestead.
About the time that I moved away from Tehachapi in mid-1981, there was talk of wind development and there may have been some turbines put up.
I recall the conversation around town – the big advantage seemed to be subsidy, and I wondered what would happen when the subsidy ended.
Through the years, visiting and driving through Tehachapi, I watched the windfarms grow.
Now the county is planning for even more windmills (and solar farms, but that’s a topic for another day), and I have to wonder about the impact on Tehachapi.
If, as we’ve been told by the county, the big push is to get these projects in while there are tax advantages, what is the long-term story?
“Green energy,” we’re told, is the wave of the future. The government wants it and is willing to help pay for it. That’s us, of course, we taxpayers, and as far as I can figure out, the government is “paying” for it with money we don’t have.
Our grandchildren (and maybe beyond) will be paying for the subsidy that is helping fill up Tehachapi hotel rooms.
Will their electric bills be lower to make up for this, I wonder.
Of course, there have been huge investments – and if they were being made because the investors believe there will be a return (without subsidy), then I would be impressed. As it is, I’m afraid it might be a bit of a shell game.
As the wind industry has grown in the Tehachapi area, so has concern of residents who wonder how much is too much. I would imagine that developers might be concerned about how future projects might fare given concerns of the citizenry.
The county has a plan to establish a wind zone and held a meeting last week to share its plan with locals. We’re told that the Board of Supervisors will be asked to adopt a wind zone later this month.
Given all of the questions related to development of wind power in the Tehachapi mountains – not the least being the concern about whether a fatal collision with a California Condor might strike a death flow to the industry, as reported in a recent edition of Forbes magazine – I have to think the county is moving too fast.
Yes, those tax credits might expire before we get every hillside committed to windmills.
Tehachapi and Kern County, like the rest of the country, are suffering from an economic recession, some would say depression. Most of us value jobs and economic development and a case could be made that our situation here might be worse if we did not have the wind development going on.
If we think of wind power the same way we might think of mining or drilling, then we would realize that the value of the end product must be higher than the cost to produce it or the industry won’t last.
With oil and minerals, we’ve all seen times when the cost to produce became higher than the value. We go from boom to bust in those times.
Without tax credits, would this wind development be taking place?
Of course, if I had property that might be able to generate income for my family or company if wind could be developed on it, I am sure I would be all for it.
The job of the county is to do its best to balance all of these interests – our need for economic development, the desires of government, industry and property owners, and the general interests of the community.
I don’t see the point of the wind zone as it is currently proposed.
Without an Environmental Impact Report it probably doesn’t offer the industry any real assurance of where projects might be located.
The CEQA process, while not perfect, already allows public input – and at least two projects (Pahnamid and the Helo Sand Canyon proposal) have been withdrawn following public outcry last year.
If wind projects are viable and can be good neighbors, I’m all for them. But I don’t think the county should let the tax credit deadline force it into moving too fast.
CLAUDIA ELLIOTT is editor of the Tehachapi News.
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