APPLE VALLEY • The Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project, with its 27 wind turbines generating enough energy to provide up to 81 megawatts of electricity each year for the residential needs of 70,000 people, is still on the drawing board.
The 2.3-megawatt turbines, which could tower 415 feet in the air, are planned for roughly 72 acres about 1.94 miles northeast of the intersection of Cahuilla and Chicago roads in the Granite Mountain range. The towers would be visible from parts of both Apple Valley and Lucerne Valley.
The town of Apple Valley, which vehemently opposed the construction of the giant wind turbines five years ago, is still holding its ground on Granite Wind.
Councilwoman Barb Stanton said she would like to see a workshop or presentation shown to town residents.
“We need to move slowly and carefully on this project,” Stanton said. “We’ve heard about the benefits, but we also need to see the dangers of this new industry.”
Residents have voiced concerns regarding wind power, especially after seeing “They’re Not Green,” a documentary that was shown at screenings across the High Desert regarding the potential dangers of wind towers.
The film shows interviews of people living near wind farms who are concerned about the dangers of the turbines, including death to wildlife and the chance of fire, which may emit dangerous contaminants.
“First of all, these solar farms and now these giant windmills,” said Frank Martin, who lives near the airport in Apple Valley. “I might as well move back to Los Angeles.”
Martin said he moved to town in the 1980s because of the desert’s beauty, which he believes is “deteriorating acre by acre.”
With a productive life of 20 to 30 years, 19 of the turbines would be on federally-administered land and eight more would be on private property. After a six- to seven-month $130 million construction phase, the facility would be operated and maintained by eight people, with vehicles and tools stored on site.
Granite Wind has been in the works for years, but the environmental review process stalled as the Department of the Interior needed time to investigate the harm animals – especially birds and bats – may face because of the turbines.
Many opponents of the project have said the turbines will destroy the desert scenery and become a death trap to various winged creatures in the area, including golden eagles.
“This wind project is undesirable in so many ways and a great way to destroy our beautiful desert,” said Betty Munson, a retiree who moved to Johnson Valley, east of Lucerne Valley, in 2000. “We’re trying to get State Route 247 designated as a scenic highway, but those turbines will run parallel to the road and that will ruin the scenery for sure.”
Dennis Morrison, 47, who lives at the base of the Granite range in Lucerne Valley, said he was devastated when he first learned about Granite Wind nearly five years ago.
“My worst fear is that those windmills will go in because nobody knows about it,” said Morrison, who added that he has taken several photos of the range and uploaded them to www.basinandrangewatch.org. “Most people that I talk to don’t have a clue.”
Morrison and other opponents of the project may have scored a quiet victory recently.
The project developer, Colorado-based RES Americas, would need a buyer for the power Granite Wind would generate, via a power purchase agreement – and the company says it no longer has one.
“Granite Wind LLC has terminated its power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison Co.,” said RES Vice President of Corporate Affairs Anna Giovinetto in a recent email to the Press Dispatch. “I don’t have any further information at this time.”
However, SCE spokesperson Vanessa McGrady said in an email Friday that SCE could “not confirm the termination of Granite Wind at this time.”
The project may move forward in the future. Philip Southard of O’Reilly Public Relations – which has represented RES – sent a letter to Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association Chairman Chuck Bell stating that the project’s timetable had been moved back and that more information will be made available in the fall.
“We (Lucerne Valley residents) don’t like it at all,” Bell said. “I know it’s being held up by the eagles, but the project is also going to cut a road through tortoise habitat and undisturbed wilderness.”
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