Iberdrola

IBERDROLA RENEWABLES AND SHELL ENERGY CHEATED CALIFORNIA OUT OF MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS, FEDERAL JUDGE RULES

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: McCain Valley in San Diego’s East County, site of Iberdrola’s planned Tule Wind energy project

April 14, 2016 (Sacramento) – California’s Public Utilities Commission announced yesterday that an administrative law judge for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ruled that Iberdrola Renewables LLC and Shell Energy North America defrauded California state officials out of $1.1 billion on the heels of the Enron energy scandal. 

Iberdrola, a Spanish energy corporation, recently won approval from the federal government to build the controversial Tule Wind project in McCain Valley in a federal recreation area.

A WIN FOR EAGLES: COURT VOIDS 30-YEAR TAKE PERMITS

 

 

Decision could impact Tule Wind in San Diego’s East County

By Miriam Raftery

August 27, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)—A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it extended eagle take permits from 5 years to 30 years  for wind energy developers.  The rule had allowed the incidental killing of bald and golden eagles for up to three decades with no accountability, even though killing federally protected and endangered eagles is a felony subject to criminal prosecution under other circumstances.

EDISON SIGNS POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT FOR TULE WIND, CPUC APPROVAL STILL NEEDED

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: McCain Valley, site of planned 14,000 acre wind project

Photo, right: Blades being hoisted onto wind turbine in Ocotillo

Updated July 31, 2015 10 p.m. to include comments from SDG&E and from Howard Cook, former Jacumba Sponsor Group Chair.

July 30, 2015 (McCain Valley)—Southern California Edison has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement with Iberdrola Renewables to buy electricity from the Tule Wind project planned in McCain Valley near Boulevard.

“We are still actively opposing Tule Wind and hope it never gets built,” Donna Tisdale told East County Magazine. Tisdale and the citizens’ group Backcountry Against Dumps have two legal challenges pending. Tisdale also chairs the Boulevard Community Planning Group, which voted against the project but was overruled by the San Diego County Supervisors, with Supervisor Dianne Jacob voting no and four other Supervisors voting for the project.

The agreement covers the first phase of the 14,000-acre project, which includes 67 turbines on federal Bureau of Land Management property at the gateway to the McCain Valley federal recreation area, as well as on privately-owned Rough Acres Ranch.

KELLY FULLER, PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES, SPEAKS OUT ON LAWSUIT TO PROTECT EAGLES IN EAST COUNTY

 

 

 

 

Listen online now to hear the interview:  http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/8l8mqgxkpz/KelllyFuller-GreenSceneInterview.mp3

October 9, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- On our "Green Scene" report aired originally on our East County Magazine Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM radio, we interviewed Kelly Fuller with Protect Our Communities about the local nonprofit's lawsuit filed against federal agencies over the Tule Wind project planned in McCain Valley. The suit alleges that the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs ignored advice from wildlife officials at state and federal wildlife agencies, who warned that the wind turbines pose threats to eagles.

For details, click "read more" and scroll down.

AN ECOLOGICAL DISASTER IN THE MAKING?

 

An analysis on the impacts of energy policies and projects on the future of East County

By Jessica Richmond and Miriam Raftery

May 29, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – A growing number of East County residents, fire chiefs, environmentalists and elected officials are voicing alarm over the proposed large-scale destruction of natural and scenic resources for numerous industrial-scale “renewable” wind and solar energy projects and related powerlines, substations and more.  A map reveals that East County is targeted for a disproportionate share of these projects, pushed forward by energy companies and politicians who contend such development is needed to disrupt disastrous effects of global warming and fill the regional energy gap left by closing San Onofre nuclear generation stations.

But opponents say these projects are not green or sustainable, instead setting up our region for an ecological disaster in the making. They raise some crucial questions:

How did San Diego’s East County come to be targeted for fast-tracking by federal, state and county governments to facilitate construction of so many massive-scale solar and wind projects and related transmission lines in rural, mountain and desert areas instead of urban locations where demand for power is highest? 

Why isn’t preference given to incentivize less destructive renewable options, such as rooftop and parking lot solar or small-scale wind turbines for use by residents, schools, municipal governments and businesses?

COURT RULES AGAINST EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS ON TULE WIND CASE

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) – U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino has issued a ruling denying summary judgment sought by the Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps and Boulevard resident Donna Tisdale. The plaintiffs had sought to block construction of Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in McCain Valley, a ruggedly beautiful federal recreation preserve in San Diego's East County.  The court also granted Tule Wind and the federal government’s cross motions for summary judgment.

“Our attorney is recommending an appeal of what I describe as Judge Sammartino’s basic rubber stamping of the Bureau of Land Management’s biased and weak support for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project,” Tisdale told ECM.  She added that she, too, is recommending an appeal, though that decision will be up to the boards of directors of the two nonprofits.

IBERDROLA VIOLATING FIRE CODES, LIED TO OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, SAYS NH FIRE MARSHALL

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) –Last week, we reported  on the latest in a string of fires at Iberdrola wind facilities, last time at a Pennsylvania site. Some involved turbines made by Gamesa, in which Iberdrola owns a controlling interest.  Fires have occurred with other Gamesa turbines at additional sites.

Meanwhile in  New Hampshire, ECM has learned that State Fire Marshal Rob Anstey has accused Iberdrola of violating fire safety codes and lying to an oversight committee about the Fire Marshal’s requirements at its Groton Wind facility. The Fire Marshall has announced that he may issue a stop work order to shut down the facility.

That should spark concern here in San Diego, where Supervisors and the federal government recently approved Tule Wind, an Iberdrola wind project slated to go into a region prone to cstastrophic wildfires including the 2007 Harris Fire, which was fueled by 100 mph hurricane-force winds. Campgrounds are located in McCain Valley, where Iberdrola aims to line the only road in and out with wind turbines, each filled with hundreds of gallons of flammable lubricating oil.  Former Cal Fire Batallion Chief Mark Ostrander has warned that firefighters can't fight fires under a flaming turbine whirling off debris, and aerial drops won't work at heights above 300 feet. The turbines are 500 feet, so firefighters would have to wait for the fire to burn outside of the wind facility, which could result in a firestorm that could burn into urban San Diego areas, he has warned.

WIND TURBINE AT IBERDROLA WIND FARM CATCHES FIRE

 

Part III in our "Wind Fire" series

Will Iberdrola use fire-prone Gamesa turbines in East County?

By Miriam Raftery

March 20, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Iberdrola wants to build Tule Wind, an industrial wind facility in McCain Valley. The company has claimed that the odds of one of its turbine catching fire are infinitesimal.  But on March 15, a wind turbine at Iberdrola’s Locust Ridge wind facility in Mahonay City, Pennsylvania caught fire, sending flames arcing out until ultimately the fire burned itself out, as shown on video. This is the latest in a long string of fires involving Gamesa turbines including some at Iberdrola facilities.

What would happen if this occurred in McCain Valley, amid fire-prone brush in a hard-to-access area where campgrounds are located at the end of a canyon with only one access road, set to be lined by wind turbines?  And why aren't Supervisors taking steps to protect public safety by barring fire-prone wind turbine products in our region?

TWO LAWSUITS OVER LOCAL WIND ENERGY ISSUES HEAD TO COURT

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

February 28, 2014 (San Diego) – Opponents of  the Tule Wind project in McCain Valley will have their day in court on Monday, March 3 in San Diego’s U.S. District Court.  Then on April 25, a separate suit against the County over its wind energy ordinance and general plan amendment will also be heard.

The suits were filed by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Donna Tisdale. Tisdale informed ECM that it's important to have many East County residents attend these trials.

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS ENDS EIR ON SHU’LUUK WIND, BUT APPROVES EWIIAAPAAYP TRIBE'S LEASE FOR TULE WIND

 

By Miriam Raftery

February 24, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- It’s official:  The Bureau of Indian Affairs has formally terminated the final Environmental Impact Statement for Shu’luuk Wind on the Campo Indian reservation in East County. The move comes after the Campo tribe’s General Council down the project and cancelled the tribe’s contract with Invenergy.

The BIA alo approved the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indian’s plan to lease Cuyapaipe Reservation lands  for a portion of Iberdrola’s massive Tule Wind project.  The Bureau of Land Management and County of San Diego previously approved portions of the project on federal and county lands.

STATE REPORT: ONLY A HANDFUL OF GOLDEN EAGLE NEST SITES REMAIN IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY

 

 

Disturbing data suggests Golden Eagles appear on verge of extinction in our region

By Miriam Raftery

February 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) –A state inventory of California’ rarest animals, birds and plants reveals that Golden Eagle populations have suffered a precipitous decline statewide, including here in San Diego County.  Statewide, only 141 element occurrences (eagle nests and foraging habitat) are listed in all of California. Locally, the inventory lists just 14 “occurrences” countywide—with only one nest remaining in East County.

“So much for Bittner’s estimates,” wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand with Save the Eagles International told ECM.  David Bittner is the so-called eagle expert hired by major energy companies to justify wind projects locally. Bittner was convicted in federal court and sentenced in August to charges of failing to file data reports with the federal government and illegal taking of an eagle.

Wiegand has previously estimated local nesting sites at 10--a fraction of Bittner's recent estimates.

ENDANGERED BIGHORN SPOTTED IN MCCAIN VALLEY

 

January 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) -- While hiking in McCain Valley north of Sacatone Road on New Year's Day, Laurie Baker and her husband encountered these two Peninsular Bighorn rams.

"What a pleasant surprise!" Baker exclaimed of her New Year's discovery -- an important sighting, since the draft environmental impact statement for Iberdrola Renewables' planned Tule Wind project in McCain Valley concludes that wind turbines aren "located outside of critical habitat areas and will not have any detrimental impacts on sheep."

Finding proof of the endangered animals doesn't assure their protection, however.  When Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility was approved, the project's environmental report similarly concluded that the site was not bighorn habitat.  When photos of a herd of bighorn on the project site were sent to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, he issued take permits allowing up to 10 bighorn ewes and lambs to be killed, allowing the project to proceed at the expense of this critically endangered species which is at risk of extinction, according to the Bighorn Institute.

HAWK WATCH PROGRAM CANCELLED IN RAMONA FOR 2014

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 30, 2013 (Ramona)--After 20 years, Hawk Watch, a popular wildlife educational program in Ramona featuring  hawks, owls and eagles, has been cancelled for 2014 .  Visitors can still go birdwatching on their own at the Ramona Grasslands  Preserve, but there will be no organized presentations or up-close looks at captive birds of prey.

 Wildlife Research Institute, which ran the program, announced the cancellation on its website with no explanation.  But the decision likely stems from trouble raising funds for the nonprofit after news broke that its founder, David Bittner, was sentenced in federal court  in August after pleading guilty to unlawful taking  a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded.

WIND FIRE: NEW QUESTIONS RAISED OVER WIND TURBINE BLAZE IN CAMPO

 

Part II in our "Wind Fire" series

By Miriam Raftery

December 17, 2013 (Campo) – Yesterday’s explosion and brush fire sparked by a Gamesa wind turbine owned by Infigen at the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo, California has ignited new questions about the safety of wind turbines in this fire-prone region, where several of the worst wildfires in California history have previously scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

In June, Infigen settled a lawsuit with Gamesa stemming from an earlier catastrophe at the same wind facility in 2009, when an explosive blast resulted in replacement of all 75 wind turbines, as ECM reported in an exclusive report.  But now Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale reveals, “The 75 turbine blades from the 2009 catastrophic failure that you covered are still laying on the ground at the wind farm and are highly flammable.”

USFW SAYS RAPTOR KILLED BY TRUCK IN BOULEVARD WAS HAWK, NOT EAGLE

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 4, 2013 (Boulevard) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its examination of a raptor euthanized after it was struck by a semi- truck in Boulevard on November 27. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed the species of bird  as a red-tailed hawk, said Jane Hendron, Public Affairs Division Chief with the USFWS in Carlsbad.

EAGLE EXPERT HIRED BY WIND INDUSTRY LOCALLY PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL GOLDEN EAGLE TAKE AND FAILING TO FILE REPORTS ON BIRDS HE TRACKED

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 19, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) –  David Bittner, eagle expert with Wildlife Research Institute, pled guilty to federal charges of unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded. 

Bittner conducted studies on Golden Eagles for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in East County, which was approved by the federal government on public lands as well as by the county on private properties. Portions of the project on state and tribal lands, where several Golden Eagle nests were reported, are pending approvals by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and State Lands Commission.

“Can those agencies rely on Bittner’s Golden Eagle work for Tule wind that was apparently unpermitted and unlawful?” asks Donna Tisdale, chair of Boulevard Planning Group and a founder of two citizens groups, Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps, that has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the project.  “What other breaches of law or professional ethics might be involved?”

LAWSUIT SEEKS INJUNCTION TO HALT TULE WIND PROJECT IN MCCAIN VALLEY

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 13, 2013 (Boulevard) – Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project has been slapped with a federal complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The lawsuit was filed by two nonprofits in San Diego’s Rural East County, the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps.

If built, Tule Wind’s phase I would include 67 turbines on federal land, each nearly 500 feet tall in rugged McCain Valley, a federal wildlife management and popular  recreation area. Additional turbines are planned on adjoining state, tribal and private property. Turbines would be close to campgrounds and homes in rural Boulevard, a predominantly low income community in East County where numerous other massive-scale energy projects have already been proposed. (See map showing cumulative impacts.)

 “Eastern San Diego County is targeted as a rural sacrifice industrial energy and transmission zone without benefit of equal protection under the law,” said Donna Tisdale, also a plaintiff in the suit.

FINANCIALLY TROUBLED IBERDROLA SELLS OFF SOME ASSETS, BUT RETAINS TULE WIND PROJECT

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Spanish utility giant Iberdrola Renewables still plans on “going ahead with Tule Wind” in McCain Valley near Boulevard despite a string of financial setbacks, Paul Copleman, media relations spokesman at Iberdrola USA, told ECM. 

Iberdrola, the world’s largest operator of wind farms, sold off $1.1 billion in assets in 2012 to reduce its staggering 32 million euros of debt as the company's Standard and Poors Rating teetered just above junk bond status.  Assets sold included 32 wind farms in France to GE. 

 Iberdrola also divested itself of some natural gas assets and  in the U .S., Energy Network, Energetix and NYSEG Solutions. In addition, the company has has quietly abandoned efforts to pursue at least one U.S. wind project and potentially more. 

ECM EDITOR INTERVIEWED BY KPBS ON COUNTY WIND ISSUES

August 13, 2012 (San Diego) - East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery was interviewed last week by KPBS radio regarding the County Supervisors' impending vote on Tule Wind and related issues. 

Listen to that interview here: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/aug/08/tule-wind-project-key-vote/.  Hear a followup story on the vote approving the controversial project here: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/aug/09/tule-wind-project-gets-green-light/.

SUPERVISORS IGNORE HEALTH AND FIRE SAFETY CONCERNS, APPROVE TULE WIND

Energia Sierra Juarez Substation and Cross-Border Transmission Lines Also Approved in East County

By Miriam Raftery

“This will impede firefighting efforts to a frightening degree…a wind-drive fire is not going to stay in the backcountry. We must not roll the dice…There are other, safer alternatives….I also have serious problems about an energy policy that depends on the stability of Mexico.” –Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who voted against both projects

“I’m opposed to green energy…I don’t think the Department of Energy should be putting subsidies in this….but the state has mandated renewable and we have to comply.” – Supevisor Bill Horn, who voted for both projects

August 9, 2012 (San Diego) – The irony was enormous. San Diego’s Board of Supervisors yesterday spent much of the morning debating whether cell phone towers five feet taller than current ones would mar community character on Mount Helix.  In the afternoon,  three of the five Supervisors then threw county height limits to the winds—voting to approve 500-foot-tall industrial wind turbines in scenic McCain Valley over the objections of numerous backcountry residents.

By a 4-0 vote, Supervisors also approved a power substation and cross-border transmission lines designed to bring power up from the massive Energia Sierra Juarez wind project proposed in Mexico.

WILL IBERDROLA USE GAMESA TURBINES OR BLADES AT TULE WIND?

Company ties, history of fires and failures, raises troubling questions

By Miriam Raftery

August 6, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – After researching problems with Gamesa wind turbines and blades, ECM asked Iberdrola PR representative Michelle Sinning whether Iberdrola plans to use Gamesa products at the Tule Wind site in McCain Valley. 

“I haven’t  heard anything about Gamesa,” Sinning said.  She indicated she would obtain a statement and get back to us by tonight's deadline (she didn't), but added that Iberdrola will not make a decision on which suppliers to use until after contracts are signed  in order to have flexibility to take advantage of the best “pricing and innovations” on the market.

Perhaps Ms. Sinning should do her homework.

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: ON THE ROCKS

 

July 23, 2012 (McCain Valley) - ECM reader Tom Lemon sent in these spectacular photos of McCain Valley, site of the proposed Tule Wind facility in San Diego's East County.

"I first visited McCain Valley around 1995 after reading Jerry Shaad's book Afoot and Afield in San Diego County. I began camping and hiking in the Valley and explored the trails and side roads to vista points where you can see the abandoned San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad tracks, the Salton Sea, and Castle Butte in Arizona. Yes, you can see all the way to Arizona," he wrote.

"My friend Brian getting into the spirit of McCain. Yeah, it does make you feel like that."

IBERDROLA’S ANSWER TO WIND TURBINE NOISE? GIVE RESIDENTS NOISE GENERATING MACHINES

By Miriam Raftery

July 20, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Iberdrola Renewables wants to build an industrial wind turbine facility on 15,000 acres in East County’s McCain Valley. 

What happens if neighbors complain of noise?

In Fairfield, New York, weary residents asked town officials to measure noise levels at Iberdrola’s Hardscrabble wind facility. The results found levels above the legal limit of 50 decibels. But instead of reducing the noise, Iberdrola gave noise generating machines to residents in hopes of drowning out the whooshing and whirling turbine sounds. Note: The machine is set at the lowest setting in this audio link.

BLM RESPONDS TO ECM INQUIRY ON NATIVE AMERICAN REMAINS AT WIND SITES

By Miriam Raftery

July 19, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – After forensic dog teams identified dozens of potential ancient human remain sites at energy projects on Bureau of Land Management property in Ocotillo and McCain Valley, as ECM reported this week, ECM asked the BLM what steps it intends to take to assure that any Native American remains are protected.

Two officials from the BLM have responded to our inquiry.

DOG TEAMS SEARCH FOR NATIVE AMERICAN REMAINS IN MCCAIN VALLEY , OCOTILLO AND JACUMBA

 

Canines identify dozens of sites in path of wind and power line projects

 

Wind developers “cooperate” with tribes on searches-- but SDG&E refuses to allow dogs on its ECO-Substation site

 

 

Story by Miriam Raftery

Photos by Tom and Nadin Abbott, Miriam Raftery, and Jim Pelley

July 18, 2012 (McCain Valley) – Weaving across cactus-studded terrain in McCain Valley, Piper, a border collie trained to find ancient human remains, pauses to sniff the ground.  Ears erect, he sits, alerting handler Lynne Engelbert, who records the GPS coordinates. (Click video to view.) Minutes later, Piper’s find is independently confirmed by a second search dog.

COUNTY PLANNERS VOTE TO DENY TULE WIND INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ON PRIVATE LANDS

By Miriam Raftery

June 9, 2012 (San Diego) – By a unanimous vote, San Diego's Planning Commission voted Friday to deny Iberdrola Renewables’ application for five 492-foot-tall wind turbines on private land under county jurisdiction.

USING RADAR TO CONTROL WIND TURBINES AND REDUCE BIRD KILLS: DOES IT WORK?



By Serena Scaglione and Miriam Raftery

April 22, 2012 (Ocotillo)-One of the major criticisms of wind energy facilities is the deadly impact of the fast-whirling blades on birds.  Most notoriously, thousands of golden eagles have been killed at the Altamont wind farm; however significant numbers of bird deaths have occurred at many other wind facilities.

Now, wind farm developers are touting radar systems similar to those used by the U.S. Air Force and NASA.  In aviation, the technology detects large flocks of incoming birds and is sold to avoid bird collisions with aircraft.  At wind facilities, avian radar in theory offers the potential reduce bird kills by shutting off turbines before birds reach the blades. 

Just how effective these systems are at wind facilities, however, remains debatable.