Wind energy project near Scotia would impact birds and the view, report finds; Public scrutiny invited
Last fall, San Diego-based renewable energy company Terra-Gen announced plans for a wind energy project that would include the construction of up to 60 large-scale turbines atop Monument Ridge and Bear River Ridge, just south of the Eel River Valley. Once installed these turbines would generate up to 155 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power nearly 40,000 homes, according to Nathan Vajdos, Terra-Gen’s senior director of wind development.
As we noted at the time, the project is moving forward on an aggressive schedule, with plans to be up and running before the end of next year.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), which is often the largest hurdle for this type of project, has just been released and is now available for public review.
The report itself is massive. (The executive summary alone clocks in at more than 90 pages.) And as you would expect for any project of this size, there are quite a few environmental impacts enumerated. Most of them, we note in our cursory browse of the executive summary, could be mitigated enough that they’d be considered “less than significant” per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
But a few of the impacts would be significant and unavoidable, the report finds. For one thing, the big turbines would be visible from quite a distance on clear days. Some people like the way those big windmills look, and Terra-Gen did a lot of work to create the visual simulation at the top of this post, which is supposed to closely mimic what the human eye would see from Scotia. (They did one for Rio Dell, too, which you can see in our post from October.)
Whether you like the look or not, the draft report finds that, “The introduction of these
tall vertical structures would degrade visual quality.” They would also cause some light or glare.
Arguably more significant are the effects on birds whose migratory routes take them past the big turbines. Bird deaths have long been one of the most significant and controversial impacts of wind energy, and the DEIR for this project finds operations could injure and kill marbled murrelets and raptors as a result of collisions with the turbines and the electrical transmission lines.
It could also impact condors if they’re released in the region as planned thanks to a collaboration between the Yurok Tribe and federal agencies.
The DEIR notes:
If condors are released in the Bald Hills in Redwood National
Park or another location with a range overlapping the project’s
WTGs [wind turbine generators], the project applicant shall implement a detection system
using the transponders attached to the condors, and shall curtail
operations when condors are close to the WTGs so that the
condors are not at risk of encountering operating WTGs.
There will also be environmental benefits, of course. As we reported last fall, Terra-Gen estimates that the project will prevent the emission of 372,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 80,000 cars off the road.
Humboldt County First District Supervisor Rex Bohn has touted the financial benefits to the county, as well. Officials with the company say the project would provide up to 300 jobs during construction and 15 permanent jobs while generating millions of dollars in tax revenue, including $76 million in property taxes and nearly $8 million in sales taxes over the life of the project.
Back in October, Third District Humboldt County Supervisor Mike Wilson said he expected there would be some unavoidable environmental impacts from a project of this magnitude, though he put those impacts in the context of climate change, which, let’s face it, threatens to wreak un-mitigable havoc on the entire ecosystem, causing countless species to go extinct.
“I know this project isn’t the solution” to such a widespread problem, Wilson said at a board meeting last fall, “but it will take all of us to adjust the way we view how we address these issues.”
Below is a press release from the County of Humboldt, including links to the DEIR:
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Humboldt Wind Energy Project is now available for review.
Humboldt Wind, LLC submitted an application to Humboldt County for a conditional use permit to construct and operate the proposed project, a wind energy generation facility. Public comment on this document is invited for a 45-day period extending from April 15- June 5. More information on the project is provided below.
Project location: The project site is approximately 20 miles south of Eureka, roughly 12 miles southeast of the city of Fortuna and 22 miles north of the community of Garberville and is bisected by U.S. Highway 101. The town of Scotia is adjacent to the northern edge of the project site.
Project description: The proposed project consists of a maximum of 60 wind turbine generators (WTGs) and associated infrastructure with a nameplate generating capacity (theoretical maximum energy generation) of up to 155 MW. This project has the potential to power 60,000 homes simultaneously.
The project site is approximately 2,218-acres and would contain all of the turbines, as well as associated infrastructure. The project boundaries have been defined based on a 1,000-foot-wide corridor centered on the representative locations of WTGs; a 200-foot-wide corridor centered on project roadways, the electrical collection line, and the generation transmission line (gen-tie); and a 500-foot-wide buffer around proposed staging areas, temporary impact areas, and the project substation. The exact footprint of individual WTGs within the project site would be determined during final engineering design but would generally be placed along Monument and Bear River ridges. Turbine heights could reach up to 600 feet tall, with a rotor diameter of 492 feet. The environmental impact analysis in this DEIR is based on a maximum number of WTGs that may be placed within the boundaries of the project site. The assumptions developed for this analysis support a conservative approach to project planning and environmental review, as they represent a maximum level of potential development.
In addition to the wind turbines and transformers, the project includes ancillary facilities such as temporary staging areas, access roads, 34.5-kilovolt (kV) collection lines (referred to in this EIR as the “collection system”), operations and maintenance (O&M) facility, a substation, a modified utility switchyard, and a 115 kV gen-tie along Shively Ridge.
A portion of the gen-tie would cross the Eel River; this portion would be constructed underground. The project’s point of interconnection with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) transmission grid would be PG&E’s Bridgeville Substation. PG&E is a public utility that sells energy in the California utility market, which is operated by the California Independent System Operator.
The project would include the following components, which are discussed in detail in “Project Description”:
- up to 60 turbines (capable of generating 2–5 MW of electricity each) erected on tubular steel towers set on concrete foundations, as well as the associated turbine pads, temporary staging areas, and transformers;
construction of access roads;
- an up to 25-mile, 115 kV gen-tie, including an underground crossing of the Eel River, following Shively Ridge and ultimately connecting to the existing PG&E transmission system;
- a project substation located on-site;
- an underground electrical collection system linking turbines to each other and to the project substation;
- an underground communication system (fiber optic cable) adjacent to the collection system;
- a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system between each turbine and the substation and between the project substation and the Bridgeville Substation to monitor and control project output and the transmission of energy into the system;
- an up to 5-acre O&M [operation and maintenance] facility, including an operations building, a parking area, and an outdoor storage area with perimeter fencing;
- a 10-acre temporary staging area and a construction trailer and parking area located within the O&M facility;
a component offloading location at Fields Landing;
- two temporary bypasses off U.S. 101 (Hookton Overpass and 12th Street Bypass) for transporting oversize loads;
- up to six permanent meteorological towers;
- three 5-acre, temporary staging areas distributed throughout the project site, one of which would include one temporary cement batch plant on Monument Ridge; and
- up to 17 miles of new 24-foot access roads.
List of Significant Environmental Effects: The Draft EIR identifies significant impacts in the following California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental issue areas: aesthetics and visual resources, air quality; biological resources; cultural resources; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology and water quality, noise and vibration; and transportation and circulation, tribal cultural resources and wildfire.
As described in the EIR many of these impacts can be fully mitigated but some cannot, and they would remain significant and unavoidable. Address where copy of Draft EIR is available:
The Draft EIR and other project materials are now available for public review and download on the County of Humboldt’s website at https://humboldtgov.org/2408/Humboldt-Wind-Energy-Project
Printed copies of the document are available for public review at the following locations during normal business hours:
Humboldt County Public Library – Rio Dell Branch
715 Wildwood Avenue
Rio Dell, CA 95562
Humboldt County Public Library – Ferndale
807 Main Street
Ferndale, CA 95536
Humboldt County Library – Eureka
1313 3rd Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Scotia Community Services District
400 Church Street
Scotia, CA 95565
The Multi- Generational Center
2280 Newburg Road
Fortuna, CA 95540
County of Humboldt Planning and Building Department
3015 H Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Should a member of the public require a printed copy of the document one may be purchased at the individual’s expense, at Scrapper’s Edge, 728 4th Street, Eureka, CA 95501.
Public review period for the Draft EIR: April 15, 2019 to June 5, 2019
All comments on the Draft EIR must be received by the County no later than 5:00pm on June 5, 2019 to be considered. Pursuant to Section 15088a of the CEQA Guidelines, late comments will be considered only at the County’s discretion.
Comments must be directed to:
Humboldt Wind Energy Project Planner
County of Humboldt Planning Department
3015 H Street
Eureka, CA 95501
View the July 31, 2018 Notice of Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report and August 2nd, 2018 Press Release at: https://humboldtgov.org/2408/Humboldt-Wind-Energy-Project
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