August 9, 2012

Supervisors approve East County wind turbines

City News Service | 8 August 2012

Two major energy projects slated for eastern San Diego County were approved Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The board granted permits to the Tule Wind Power Project, which consists of up to 128 wind turbines on 725 acres in McCain Valley, and transmission lines that would carry power generated by wind turbines in Baja California to a San Diego Gas & Electric substation near Jacumba.

Both were approved despite strong opposition from Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

“They are two particularly small pieces of a bigger puzzle, a much bigger picture,” Jacob said. “It’s that bigger picture I’m very, very concerned about because I believe this is the beginning of the industrialization of our backcountry.”

The Tule Wind Power Project encompasses land under jurisdiction of the county, federal Bureau of Land Management, Ewiiaapaayp Indian Reservation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and California State Lands Commission. The BLM has already granted approval for 62 turbines but declined 34 others.

The portion considered by the supervisors consists of five turbines and various associated facilities, including a substation, transmission lines and towers, a 5,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building, and improvements to nearby roadways.

The county Planning Commission recommended that permits for the turbines be denied but that approval be given to the other facilities. A motion by Supervisor Bill Horn to include the five turbines passed 3-2, with Supervisor Pam Slater-Price joining Jacob in dissent.

The project by Iberdrola Renewables Inc. of Portland, Ore., is expected to provide enough power for 60,000 homes in San Diego County and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the other project, transmission lines will carry energy produced by wind turbines at the Energia Sierra Juarez plant in Baja California to San Diego County. The proposed lines would run less than one mile from the Mexican border to the SDG&E substation.

Whether the project is actually built remains uncertain because the wind farm has not received final approval from Mexican authorities.

Both projects faced opposition for their environmental impacts and worries from residents over fire danger. County staff told the supervisors that fire mitigation measures to be imposed on the two facilities address the fire risk.

The transmission lines were approved by a 4-1 margin, with Jacob dissenting.

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