The application for a commercial-scale wind farm project proposed for two scenic mesas northwest of Joshua Tree National Park has been withdrawn, Bureau of Land Management officials said Friday, Jan. 11.
Desert Mesa Power, a subsidiary of Element Power, began testing wind conditions on Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa in Pipes Canyon, northwest of Yucca Valley, in 2011. But public opposition began shortly after the Portland, Ore., company erected two 197-foot meteorological towers on the site.
Critics said 400-foot turbines would ruin the unique, flat-top mesas that rise from a boulder-strewn valley. They also complained that construction of the wind farm would damage rare plants and the habitat of endangered animals and destroy Native American cultural sites that include nearly 1,000 petroglyphs.
“We don’t want to see it industrially developed. That changes the whole character,” said Frazier Haney of Save Our Desert, a citizen group. The California Desert Coalition, which successfully fought a major transmission line project through the same area a few years earlier, also worked to protect the volcanic mesas.
The groups want to have the mesas declared “areas of critical environmental concern,” which can restrict certain uses of the land.
Element Power notified the BLM on Jan. 10 that it was terminating its right-of-way grant for the wind testing. The company “does not believe that the wind resource at the site is conducive for further consideration for utility scale wind energy generation,” the letter said.
A telephone message and email to Element Power on Friday were not returned.
Greg Miller, renewable energy program manager for the BLM’s California Desert District, said the withdrawal would not preclude other wind energy companies from pursuing projects on the mesas. But Miller said it would be made clear to developers that any projects for that area would face the added hurdle of public opposition.
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