It’s time we take a hard look at the proposed so-called Wind Farm that would place 60 large wind turbines atop Monument and Bear River Ridges. What will it do for us, what will it do to us and is this what we want?
This project is being rushed through at a rate that has allowed few to have a solid grasp of the pros and cons. Natalynn DeLapp, who is mentioned in media as being the one-time director of EPIC, but who is now the paid “project consultant” of the builders of the turbines, Terra-Gen, is touting the project as being a necessary step in cleaning up our act when it comes to carbon emissions, even though a decade ago she spoke against using wind turbines. She justifies this by saying well we haven’t done anything in the last decade so we better do this.
Before I even lay out what is involved in this project I’ll share the spoiler: this will cost more in carbon emissions than will be saved and the electricity produced will come at a higher price. Kind of a lose-lose.
The ridges are a giant coastal prairie and forest land. They are a sacred place to the Wiyot and the folks on the Bear River Rancheria and the only place that overlooks their ancestral territory. Most of the homes on the Table Bluff Rancheria have solar panels.
The construction will use 15,000 gallons of water a day, Paved road, 17 miles long, 200 feet wide and a 100 foot wide, 25 mile long clear cut transmission corridor that will need herbicide application regularly will be built. There will be 1,000 truck trips, some weighing 110 tons and 90 feet long plus two bypasses on 101. Over 11,000 yards of concrete from one to two dirty cement plants fueled by generators. Three million cubic feet of soil will be displaced that now store carbon better than trees. There will be 900 acres of logging with concurrent erosion into the Eel River tributaries and the Jordan Creek watershed. There will also be 25 acres of permanent and temporary staging and operations facilities. The turbines use 24,000 gallons of oil a year. Terra-Gen makes no mention of the greenhouse gas costs of 900 acres of logging.
The bottom line of the construction process in terms of carbon gains is it’s a loser since the large carbon costs of the construction exceed any gains from eventual operation and it’s electricity is for Mendocino County.
The turbines will be 600 foot tall vibrating machines; the blades are 250 feet wide and turn at 200 mph at their tip. Each has a base 65 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep in the ground. They will never be able to be removed. California is strewn with defunct wind farms since they have a limited life.
Terra-Gen projects 300 jobs to do the construction and 15 full time jobs for the life of the project. They don’t say how many of the jobs will be local. I would think it likely the 15 permanent jobs will be filled by people they have trained or are experienced so they will be imported. Solar panels will produce many ongoing jobs. Terra-Gen also is offering $2 million in taxes. I am not an economist but I have heard it said that savings from going solar on government buildings would go a long way toward that sum as well as taxes generated by good-paying solid jobs in solar.
If our Board of Supervisors would do what it should have done long ago, which is to start seriously addressing catastrophic climate change, and set the example by topping off the courthouse and jail with solar panels, that would be a good start and would set a good example. If the supervisors then start a campaign of solar panels on every building in Humboldt County and a program of energy conservation education we could be on a roll that would benefit all. This should be the most important job our supervisors do, it’s time past that they start.
The wind farm will be in the laps of the planning commissioners in July. How about a lot of Humboldt citizens being there for that item on their agenda? This is a very important issue and could be a start to a badly needed dialogue on our environmental health and prosperity. It could also be what we need to get our elected officials to start taking positive action.
Sylvia De Rooy resides in Indianola.
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