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Forgive Judy Bundorf if she feels a little like the underdog in the fight to prevent the Searchlight Wind Energy Project from going forward.
Not only is the 200-megawatt facility plotted on thousands of acres of desert outside Searchlight being developed by a wholly owned subsidiary of power giant Duke Energy Services, but it also has the politically powerful endorsement of native son and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid’s son, attorney Rory Reid, has been retained to represent the energy company.
Not only that, but federal authorities appear on board with the project, the licensing process of which continues to march forward over the concerns by its relatively small band of critics. An Environmental Impact Statement can take years to complete, but the document for the Searchlight wind development has preceded apace despite questions about the protection of sacred sites, the possible damage to the birds and other wildlife in the area, and the aesthetic intrusion on the largely tranquil space.
Some of those doing the questioning include Native Americans from the seven tribes associated with the region. They see the project having a negative impact on Spirit Mountain, a place they hold dear.
In an attempt to raise awareness of the potential problems with the project, Bundorf and her group held a rally last Saturday in Searchlight. Like most rallies against powerful corporate giants, its energy couldn’t match the infinitely greater energy of those bent on seeing the development become a reality.
As for the challenge, “It’s been my life for four years now,” Bundorf says. She’s a 51-year Southern Nevada resident who formerly worked for an engineering firm. She and her husband keep a weekend place outside Searchlight.
Lest you think she’s hard-core anti-green, she reminds you that their place is off the grid. She admits she doesn’t think much of Sen. Reid and his politics, but that fact doesn’t leave her without plenty of friends in rural Nevada.
After speaking with her, I came away with the belief that she’s really against the project because it doesn’t pencil out from a cost-effective energy generator (without a generous government subsidy, that is), job creator or environmental savior.
Beyond that, the thought of having an army of gigantic windmills turning day and night – with red warning lights flashing against the starry sky outside Searchlight – makes her heartsick. But it’s little secret that Searchlight is gradually becoming something of a hub for green energy: a sea of solar panels in the El Dorado Valley and a forest of wind turbines from the outskirts of town to just outside Cottonwood Cove.
She points to another wind project in Ocotillo, Calif., that has promised far more than it’s delivering and has stirred environmental concerns.
She also wonders aloud whether the Searchlight project’s touted 200-megawatt capability can possibly deliver the juice. She cites studies that show other wind energy projects producing about 25 percent of their supposed capacity.
“Without all the government prop-up, it just doesn’t pay,” Bundorf says.
Meanwhile, the project’s EIS was completed in December. The Nevada branch of the Sierra Club likes the idea (although some of the environmental group’s members in California have raised questions about the potential damage caused by similar energy developments.)
In short, her questions seem to be blowing against a powerful political wind.
You can find Bundorf at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her friend and associate Kevin Emmerich at email@example.com. They’d probably like to hear from you. I expect they’re beginning to feel a little lonely these days.
Give her your opinion, hiss that she’s trying to stand in the way of progress – even join her underdog band of protesters.
Or at least acknowledge that the fight they’ve taken on is a monumental mismatch.
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