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Lompoc residents blown away by recycled green energy proposal

A local businessman and his wife bought a ranch in Miguelito Canyon several years ago so they could enjoy a rural lifestyle, and now they may be getting a bothersome neighbor.

Lifetime ranchers in the area will also be pestered by a “green-energy” project proposed for the ridgelines.

Since they bought the ranch, Congress and the state of California have been laying out huge sums of cash for “green projects,” and entrepreneurs have rushed in to claim their share of your tax money; one has decided to try to resurrect a wind-farm project along Miguelito Canyon Road a couple of miles south of Lompoc.

Forbes Magazine reported that “Between 2010 and 2016, subsidies for wind were between 1.3¢ and 5.7¢ per kilowatt hours (kHh).”

The proposed project will have the capacity of 300 gigawatts annually, or 300,000,000 kHh. This would qualify the project for up to $17 million in subsidies each year, assuming the windmills can generate that much power.

No wonder there is a renewed interest in this project.

The original project approved more than 10 years ago consisted of 65 wind towers up to 400 feet tall.

The recycled project will consist of half that many (30) much taller wind turbine generators up to 492 feet tall; a new 7.3-mile, 115-kilovolt (kV) transmission line to interconnect with the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) electric grid; and, widening of existing onsite roads and construction of new roads on both sides of Miguelito Canyon Road just southwest of the Emery’s mine entrance road, stretching west to the borderline with Vandenberg AFB.

To put the scale of these towers in context, consider that the average distance between floors in buildings is about 10 feet. Therefore, these towers are equivalent in height to a 50-story building; the missile support tower at Space Launch Complex 3 on south Vandenberg is less than half the height, and it can be easily seen from many miles away.

Our businessman isn’t being just a NIMBY (not in my back yard), because when he and his wife wanted to build their single-story ranch house, which can’t be seen from anywhere, the county Architectural Review Board demanded he reengineer the roof and lower the crest 18 inches to avoid obstructing the view.

No wonder they are upset. Suddenly their low-profile ranch will be surrounded with a forest of wind turbines. According to the certified 2009 Environmental Impact Report for a previous project, these towers, unlike his house, will be easily visible all over the Lompoc Valley and from as far away as Highway 166, 25 miles away.

Wind farms rely on sustained winds above 20 mph and less than 60 mph in order to function; wind is unreliable at best.

Our businessman says these conditions rarely exist for extended periods and mostly occur during the winter months, which means these huge towers could be idle, or at least of limited power-generating value for long periods.

The 45-day comment period for the current project opened on May 30; the review process could take months and maybe years because as the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report says, if the “proposed Project would lead to one or more significant environmental effects that cannot be mitigated to a level of insignificance, the Lead Agency must make specific findings regarding its approval of the Project (State CEQA Guidelines §15091).

“These findings must either state that alterations have been made to the project to avoid or substantially reduce each significant impact, or that specific economic, legal, social, technological, or other considerations make mitigation of a significant impact infeasible.”

And, what about the county Architectural Review Board demanded that projects avoid obstructing the view? We’ll see how they answer that one.

The wind farm project is in Joan Hartmann’s supervisory district and in Salud Carbajal’s congressional district. They are probably supportive because the current strategy of the Democratic Party is to improve the job market through “green jobs.”

Ironically, the Environmental Defense Center, Sierra Club and Audubon Society all spoke against this project, and raised numerous concerns about the impact to the environment.

The city of Lompoc was also concerned about the impact to the city-operated power grid and local roads.

Of the blades for this project, 18 are 160 feet long and 72 are 225 feet long. How a 225-foot-long truck will negotiate the turn radius on city streets leading into Miguelito Canyon while delivering these blades will be a serious challenge.

This project is a long way from approval; there are many challenges ahead for county planners and the project proponent before we see the first truck come through the city.

By the way, none of that power will benefit Lompoc because we get our power from thermal wells operated by the Northern California Power Agency.