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Ocotillo residents share grave concerns on wind turbines

EL CENTRO – Concerned Ocotillo residents approached the Imperial County Board of Supervisors during the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting seeking assistance with numerous issues concerning the Pattern Energy wind farms in Ocotillo.

The most significant, and what prompted the concerns, was a 500-foot-tall wind turbine at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility collapsing on November 21, spewing debris and three blades across the desert floor.

Jim Pelley, a retired aerospace engineer and Ocotillo resident, said public safety was at stake since the installation of the wind turbines in 2013.

“Since this project went in three years ago, we have had three major failures with the project,” said Pelley. “The first issue was a when an 11-ton blade was thrown off one of the wind turbines and landed on a public road, after just a few months of these wind turbines being installed. In less than two years of service a wind turbine caught on fire and just last month a complete tower collapsed.”

Pelley said he was concerned not only for himself and his family but for all those people who off-road in the Ocotillo area.

“These things are massive machines, over 200 tons and 250 feet high,” said Pelley. “When this project was going through the approval process we were told they (Pattern Energy) were going to use the 101 blades but it appears they have switched and placed 108 blades, which are bigger, and lighter, made for areas of low wind speed.”

Pelley said the blades were failing because there was an engineering defect and said they all needed to be replaced and or the project shut down.

“These blades need to be replaced or the project shut down before someone gets killed,” said Pelley. “We have witnessed ongoing gear-box failures and oil leaks all over. They call this green energy, we have an oil leak right now as we speak and nothing is being done about it. I am asking for your help.”

William Pate, another Ocotillo resident cautioned the board saying if they didn’t take action in the matter the situation would soon turn into an environmental mess.

He also urged the board to look into the financial status of Pattern Energy as well as the pending law suits against them, claiming they are about to go out of business.

“Pattern Energy is about to go out of business and you should read what is written in the lawsuit,” said Pate. “The reason why I am here today, as a long-upstanding citizen who’s put its heart and soul into this county for decades, is we’re asking for your help before it’s too late. Before the county is just left with an environmental mess when Pattern goes out of business. What is going to be done with 112 towers? You are going to have to deal with them, one of which just folded in half.”

District-5 Supervisor John Renison and Chairman Jack Terrazas directed county council to research the financial status of Pattern Energy. Terrazas also pointed out Senator Ben Hueso was aware of the situation and had already requested information from Pattern Energy.