After a lengthy discussion, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the construction of a wind turbine at the Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, denying the appeal filed against the project.
The turbine would be located adjacent to the wastewater ponds used by the winery facility, within a fenced 2,500-square-foot graveled area, and would generate 1.6 megawatts of electricity for the business.
Bogle Vineyards would use the power generated by the turbine primarily to offset the power demands of its production facility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Any excess power would be transmitted to the PG&E grid. This project would implement one of the conditions of approval for establishment of the winery facility, which requires the applicant to install energy efficient machinery and alternative energy features.
The main tower of the turbine would be approximately 263 feet in height, with the rotor blade extending to a height of 398 feet in the twelve o’clock position.
The Bogle family addressed the board on Tuesday. Warren Bogle said that they have considered options for renewable energy and decided on a wind turbine to reduce the company’s carbon foot print.
“This will be the first large turbine to provide power to a winery in California,” he said.
Bogle continued to state that their production facility is important to the local economy, providing more than 60 jobs to the area, and that the project is “an extension of agriculture.”
“We’re not asking for county funding, we’re doing it on our own,” he said. “But we do need your approval.”
An appeal against the project was filed by members of the Sierra Club Yolano Group, Yolo Audubon Society, and several individuals.
Alan Pryor of the Sierra Club spoke on behalf of those opposed to the project. He said that the “biological assessment is clearly inadequate,” and that the Bogle family “withdrew their verbal contract” to install solar panels for their energy needs.
The most pressing concern with building a wind turbine is the effect it will have on the surrounding environment.
Jim Estep, a biologist with expertise in raptors and wind energy projects throughout Yolo County, studied the Clarksburg area and submitted his findings to the supervisors. The analysis included survey data from two existing wind turbines, one in Madison along Cache Creek and one in Dixon. The Bogle project will be similar to these two turbines construction.
Estep concluded that the proposed turbine would likely result only in very limited mortality of birds and bats, and that the project would not have a significant effect on biological resources, including special-status bird and bat species.
He said that there is always a potential for bird fatalities when a turbine is installed. “Again the risk isn’t eliminated, but in my opinion the risk is low.”
To reduce this risk even further, Estep included some mitigation measures for the applicant to follow that included shutting down the turbine “whenever the adjoining 115-acre parcel is being harvested or flood irrigation, and restart operations only after a biological monitor verifies that foraging raptors have moved on.” Alfalfa fields are adjacent to the turbine location, which attack birds when irrigated or harvested.
Supervisor Duane Chamberlain wanted to know about the lighting on the tower. A blinking red beacon light that meets FAA standards would be installed at the top of the tower, but not on the blade that reached 398 feet.
“If a crop duster is working in that area in the evening,” he said. “It is a potential problem.”
Estep assured Chamberlain that they were following the FAA guidelines, which do not specify a light on the rotating blades.
The presence of the single turbine raised concerns among Clarksburg citizens who voiced their opinions during the meeting.
A couple who grow alfalfa not far from the turbine location were worried about the sound of the turbine, comparing it to the hum of a refrigerator. They said that they moved to the country to escape noises like that. This couple also flood irrigates, and were concerned that the birds they attracted by that would be in danger.
Dozens of other county citizens voiced their support of the project and of the Bogle family.
Tom Slater of Clarksburg said that “county staff have been extremely diligent.”
Christopher Chan, a young farmer, commented on the declining resources in the area and the challenges growers face. “To try and help the environment is one thing,” he said. “To do it voluntarily is something special.”
After hearing from about 25 individuals during public comment, the supervisors voted unanimously to approve the project.
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