Anticipated by some but opposed by others, the Tule Wind Project has received the go-ahead from the State Lands Commission to build a second phase of a venture that will dot the landscape in San Diego’s East County with wind turbines.
In a unanimous decision, members of the commission on Oct. 13 approved a 40-year lease on 640 acres for what is being called “Tule II.”
“We’re very excited this is going to happen,” said Harley McDonald, senior business developer for Avangrid Renewables, the company in charge of the program. “It will help California meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard goal and the City of San Diego’s 100 percent renewable goal.”
The first phase of the Tule Wind Project is about to break ground in the wind-swept McCain Valley. Some 52 General Electric turbines with towers 262 high and 351 feet in diameter are expected to start spinning by September 2017.
“Tule I,” as it is called, is estimated to have capacity for 132 megawatts of electricity with expected annual generation to be purchased from the facility of 381 gigawatt-hours.
Southern California Edison has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement for the project and the turbines will be connected to a substation operated by San Diego Gas & Electric.
Tule II will not be built until the first phase of the project is completed and will be much smaller, with permits for as many as 24 turbines. The project’s second phase is sized at 69 megawatts.
Seven of the turbines will be constructed on state land and as many as 17 turbines will be built on land belonging to the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians, who have also agreed to the plan.
The turbines on Tule II will be located on a ridgeline about 1,500 to 2,000 feet higher than those at Tule I.
The revenue the state lands commission earns from Tule II, McDonald said, will go to the California teacher’s pension fund.
But ever since the project was first proposed in 2004, some have tried to stop it.
The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC) argued against the Tule II addition at the State Lands hearing in October. POC members say the entire project will harm birds, including golden eagles who nest in the McCain Valley.
“We agree with multiple state and federal agencies that this project will result in ‘take’ – just a euphemism for hurt and kill – of golden eagles and many other special and protected bat and avian species, and will destroy wildlife habitat and long, stunning vistas of wild, open lands,” said POC executive director April Rose Sommer in an email to the Union-Tribune.
POC has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to try to stop the project. A representative of the Audubon Society also spoke against the project at the Oct. 13 state lands hearing.
Avangrid officials say the project is safe.
“We have done years of studies on avian and bat (impacts) and we don’t believe we’re going to have a significant impact,” McDonald said. “We have mitigation measures in place to help protect all of the resources.”
Based in Oregon, Avangrid Renewables is part of the Iberdrola Group, a renewable energy multinational with headquarters in Spain.
Under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, California’s publicly owned utilities must procure 50 percent of their electricity from eligible renewable energy resources by 2030.
The City of San Diego Climate Action Plan requires annual emissions be cut in half during the next two decades.
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