A proposed commercial wind-energy project near Lompoc will go before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, with a hearing set for Wednesday.
Strauss Wind LLC, an affiliate of German firm BayWa LLC, applied in late 2016 to install wind turbines on 2,971 acres four miles south of Lompoc, 3.5 miles north of Jalama Beach County Park, and adjacent to Vandenberg Air Force Base land.
Carlsbad-based Strauss revived the stalled Lompoc Wind Energy Project, which was approved for the site by the county in 2009 but never built.
But the two projects have some key differences, prompting preparation of a supplemental environmental impact report.
Strauss sought to install larger and fewer wind tower generators, up to 30 in total some standing 427 feet tall and most at 492 feet. The prior project called for 65 wind tower generators each 400 feet tall.
However, a modified version of the Strauss Wind Energy Project (SWEP) suggested decreasing the number of towers to 29, eliminating some access roads while relocating others, and reducing the number of oak trees to be removed from 607 to 225.
“Overall, this alternative reduces 18 impacts compared to the 2018 SWEP, including impacts associated with aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, land use, and vegetative waste disposal,” staff wrote. “In addition, this alternative would avoid a potential inconsistency with county plans, policies, and development standards regarding tree protection.”
The supplemental environmental impact report suggested that combining this alternative and another tweaking the transportation route as the most effective option to reduce adverse impacts, adding that the applicant agreed.
Switching the transportation route would further reduce the significant but mitigable impacts associated with traffic disruptions and temporary infrastructure dismantling in Lompoc.
The route would reduce the length of transport within Lompoc city limits from approximately 2.67 miles to 1.9 miles, although the overall length of the transport route would increase slightly.
In other transportation matters, some tree removal would occur along San Miguelito Road to accommodate widening of the roadway for delivering wind tower generator blades, which measure approximately 160 feet for the smaller version and 225 feet for the larger structures, to the site.
The environmental document considered alternatives for transporting the blades, including the possible use of two-piece WTG blades, use of heavy-lift helicopters or airships to transport blades to the SWEP site, and via the rail spur.
“However, all three of these options were found to be infeasible,” the staff report said.
Staff also noted that the wind farm would have beneficial impacts by generating up to 98.14 megawatts – enough power to to supply about 43,000 homes with electricity annually.
The project would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 40,000 metric tons annually, staff said.
“The proposed project would also contribute to achieving local renewable energy goals, and address local public concerns related to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, energy security, and fossil-fuel dependence,” staff said.
Several members of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society raised multiple concerns during the supplemental environmental review process, and the project calls for mitigation measures to avoid or minimize the impacts to birds and bats.
These include locating turbines so each tower sits at least 500 feet from active raptor nesting sites. Another condition requires design elements such as active control technology that identify larger birds and automatically stops wind tower generators from operating if birds are detected approaching or entering the project site.
Another condition calls for Strauss to prepare and implement a monitoring and adaptive management plan for bird and bat conservation, and to collect data for bird usage and behaviors at the site.
Other steps call for conducting a bird and mortality study and removing carrion, or dead wildlife eaten by raptors, from within 500 feet of each wind turbine generator to remove a source of attraction for vultures, hawks, eagles and condors.
The project also includes building a 5,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building near the center of the site, installing a power substation on one acre with a 450-square-foot building, creating a 7.3 mile transmission line, modifying approximately 12 miles of existing roads, and building eight miles of new roads.
The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Santa Barbara Engineering Building, Room 17, 127 E. Anapamu St., in Santa Barbara, and will continue Friday, if needed.
Remote video testimony will be offered at the Betteravia Government Center, Board of Supervisors Conference Room, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway, Santa Maria.
The proposed final supplemental EIR and related documents can be reviewed at the Planning & Development Department, Energy Division, 123 E. Anapamu St, Santa Barbara, at Lompoc’s public library, 501 E. North Ave., or by visiting countyofsb.org.