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Lompoc Valley wind-energy project gets a second wind

A wind energy project proposed for the Lompoc Valley has come back to life with a new name, a new applicant and a new look, but at the same site off San Miguelito Road.

It’s now called the Strauss Wind Energy Project, and the environmental review process is starting with a scoping meeting planned for 6 p.m Thursday at the Lompoc City Council Chambers, 100 Civic Center Plaza.

The Santa Barbara Planning & Development Energy Division staff has started a 30-day process to gather public comment about what should be included in the environmental review of the project.

While an environmental report was prepared for the original project, county staff said a supplemental analysis will look at environmental concerns related to the revised proposal.

Strauss wants to develop, construct, and operate a utility-scale wind energy project that would produce up to 102 megawatts of power on approximately 3,000 acres of rural, agriculturally zoned land southwest of Lompoc.

“The Strauss Wind Energy Project (Project) is broadly similar to the Lompoc Wind Energy Project (LWEP), which was proposed at the same site and approved by the county in 2009,” county staff said in a written notice. “However, the LWEP was never built and subsequently sold to the applicant.”

Strauss Wind LLC is part of San Diego-based BayWa which belongs to a German agriculture and energy firm, BayWa AG.

Power generated by the commercial wind energy farm, the first in Santa Barbara County, would be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The project off San Miguelito Road calls for 30 wind turbine generators (WTGs), including 24 WTGs at 492 feet tall from foundation to blade tip, and six WTGs at 427 feet tall from foundation to blade tip. It also includes 14.3 miles of new access roads and widening of 16.1 miles of existing non-county roads.

Key differences from the previous planned wind farm and the Strauss project include the size, number and locations of the WTGs, with the new applicants seeking to install wind turbines that are “substantially larger and more powerful than those proposed in LWEP, but fewer in number,” county staff said.

By comparison, the previous proposal called for 65 wind turbines, standing 389 or 397 feet tall.

The proposed site is bordered on the south and west by Vandenberg Air Force Base, and private property on the east and north.

The proposal also calls for substantial modifications – widening certain sections of San Miguelito Road – to accommodate transportation of 213-foot long WTG blades.

Other project features include onsite electrical collection lines; an onsite substation; an onsite operations and maintenance building; a 8.6-mile, 115-kilovolt (kV) transmission line from an onsite substation to the PG&E substation in Lompoc, and upgrades to the PG&E substation for interconnection.

Construction could start by early 2019 and take approximately 10 months, with the wind farm expected to start operating in late 2019, according to a project description.

At the peak of construction, the applicant expects up to 100 workers could be required, with approximately five to seven staff members employed onsite once the wind farm is operational..

The previous proposal came from Acciona Energy North America, which backed out of the project in 2013.

The Strauss project would require a number of approvals, including a conditional-use permit from the county Planning Commission and a coastal development permit from the state and county.

All comments on what should be included in the supplemental environmental review must be submitted by Aug. 1.

For those unable to attend the Thursday scoping meeting, comments may be submitted to Kathy Pfeifer, Santa Barbara County Planning & Development, 123 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, or via e-mail by clicking here.