More than 100 residents filled the Old Steeple in Ferndale tonight for a public meeting with Terra-Gen, the company proposing to build a wind farm on Bear and Monument ridges in the Scotia area.
The meeting gave residents an opportunity to speak with company officials about the project that is expected to provide up to 36% of Humboldt County’s energy needs, according to Natalynne DeLapp, a spokesperson for Terra-Gen.
“It is through our public engagement that our projects are made better,” she told those in attendance.
She gave a presentation outlining the project, its potential benefits as well as the impacts.
The project involves building up to 60 turbines on the Scotia area ridges, which will generate up to 155 megawatts of energy. That wind energy will flow down transmission lines to a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation in Bridgeville. The transmission of the energy will reduce the output to 135 megawatts, the maximum capacity the substation can receive.
DeLapp explained the limitations on the substation mean Terra-Gen does not have future plans to expand the wind farm.
“The substation cannot take any more energy,” she said.
She said the company looked at more than 100 locations across California as a potential site.
“Why Humboldt?” DeLapp rhetorically asked. “Well, it’s windy. … Humboldt County has better wind resources (than other sites).”
She said Bear Ridge and Monument Ridge are the selected spots because they are “the most capable for wind projects” and “there’s also willing landowners.”
Yasmine Akky, a biologist working on the project, talked about some of the environmental impacts, which she said are outlined in the environmental impact report on file with the county.
One of the bigger concerns is with marbled murrelet, which Akky said could result in up to 20 deaths of the birds in the 30-year life of the project.
“Twenty is really the maximum number of murrelets taken by the project, she said. We think it’s going to be more like 10.”
She noted that because of the endangered species status they would be “permitted takes.”
She said that there are mitigation plans and benefits for the marbled murrelets.
“Climate change is a huge problem for murrelets,” Akky said. “… A project looking to combat climate change is an overall benefit.”
Terra-Gen’s Kevin Martin said the plan is for the project to be on a 14-month timeline.
“If it was easy, anybody would do it,” he said after a few attendees expressed shock.
While organizers of the public meeting collected index cards with questions the panel would address, other attendees shouted questions toward the stage.
One woman in the back asked about how they are addressing environmental impacts for each species.
“If I took 20 murrelets, I would go to jail,” the woman, who did not identify herself, noted.
Akky said the take permits allow for the project’s impacts.
Another woman asked, “Are you going to publish how many birds and bats we lose every year?” to which Martin responded, “Yes, ma’am.”
“There is no magic thermometer we can stick in the ground and know the environmental impacts,” he told the crowd.
One man asked about the potential for turbine fires.
“All the hundreds we operate, we’ve never had a fire,” Martin said, noting there are hundreds of turbines at the state’s largest wind farm in Kern County, which is operated by Terra-Gen.
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