HOLTVILLE – As attendees drove to the fifth annual Imperial Valley Renewable Energy Summit on Wednesday morning, a group of about 25 residents stood next to the main road to the venue, holding signs that called for a stop to wind energy projects in Ocotillo, and for solar projects to be “on rooftops, not in our yard.”
“They have no shame,” said one of the protesters, El Centro resident Anita Nicklen referring to wind farm developers.
A proposed wind farm in Ocotillo is being placed on public land with the use of subsidies, according to Nicklen. This for her is unacceptable.
“We want those subsidies for (our) rooftop solar projects,” she said, adding that she supports solar development, “but solar development done right.”
The main message of this “community-based demonstration” was to push for a change in policy incentives, said San Diego resident Terry Weiner.
If “renewable energy is placed on rooftops, we wouldn’t have to destroy our deserts with wind turbines,” Weiner said.
By 9 a.m. – roughly one hour into the demonstration – the number of cars driving into the summit being held at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort peaked with dozens of cars passing every few minutes.
“This conference has nothing about rooftop solar,” said Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley.
Pelley is against wind farm development in Ocotillo because “Indian culture will be destroyed forever and there is no easy fix to that.”
“I’m really upset about this whole project,” said Holtville resident Susan Massey, another organizer who is against the proposed wind farm.
For years she’s taken her family to Ocotillo to see spring flowers, Massey said, adding, if the project comes to fruition this experience will change dramatically.
“The best flowers are exactly where they are placing the project,” she said.
Other demonstrators, like Brawley resident Julie Reeves, were concerned about placing renewable energy development on farm ground.
There are other ways, she said, and echoed the idea that county rooftops could be covered by solar panels.
Solar developer Tom Buttgenbach said during a presentation he made, protesters “don’t understand our side of the business.”
Not many understand the difference between the more expensive rooftop solar installations and large-scale utility installations that developers use, he said.
“We need to get away from one versus the other (mentality),” he said, and renewable energy developers need to better educate the public on the pros and cons of the technology.
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