Sunday, November 15, 2009

Business as Usual - NIMBY

Wind farm plan irks activists

As usual everyone wants safe, clean, alternative energy - they just don't want it in their own back yard. NIMBY is just another way to kick the can down the road. Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

A remote corner of East County is shaping up as a battleground between companies pushing wind farms as clean and cheap power generators and activists who view them as a blight on the landscape. It has put environmentalists in the position of opposing renewable energy because, they say, it's in the wrong place.

Drawing the most attention is a plan by the Spanish conglomerate Iberdrola to build about 100 skyscraper-sized towers in and near the McCain Valley, a federal conservation area abutting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The project, called Tule Wind, would produce about 200 megawatts when the wind is blowing favorably. To put that in perspective, San Diego County uses about 2,000 megawatts on a typical day and 4,500 megawatts when it gets really hot.

Tule Wind would stretch for miles from a spot about a mile north of Interstate 8, across land controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management and into the Ewiiaapaayp Indian Reservation.

Iberdrola wants to start construction late next year if it gets past the federal and state approval process. It says the project will bring clean energy to a region that needs it. Environmentalists and residents vow to vigorously fight the plan they say will forever change the area. “There is no worse place for wind development than McCain Valley,” said environmental advocate David Hogan. He and others tie the project to other planned developments nearby, including the Sunrise Powerlink.

The Campo Indian band has made a deal with San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Invenergy, a wind developer, for a 160-megawatt project to add to its 25-turbine, 50-megawatt wind farm visible from Interstate 8.

Just south of the border in Mexico, hundreds of wind turbines are being proposed by San Diego County companies looking to sell the generated power in the United States.

These wind proposals are in addition to two projects SDG&E says are needed to bring that power to market: the $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink and a $270 million substation it calls ECO for East County.

The companies are hoping to capitalize on California's requirement that utilities provide 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by next year and 33 percent by 2020. They also stand to benefit from state and federal subsidies.

SignOn, San Diego, By Onell R. Soto

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