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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?

SAN DIEGO CIVIC CRISIS: WHERE DOES THE GREEN SECTOR GO FROM HERE? SEPT. 26

August 28, 2013 (San Diego) – Green Experts Academy is holding a forum to discuss what will become of the Green Vision for the City of San Diego and the region as the city transitions to another Mayoral election and administration. It will be held on September 26 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Cricket Communications Inc. Headquarters 5887 Copley Dr., San Diego.

REACTIONS AND CONCERNS VOICED OVER SAN ONOFRE SHUTDOWN

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – As ECM reported on June 7, the San  Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations  (SONGS) will be shut down permanently.  Reactions locally range from celebration among activists pushing for the closure to concerns over stored nuclear fuel, job losses, and a new bill that could ramp up pressure for approval of other energy projects including large-scale wind and solar projects in East County.

BLADELESS TURBINE MAKERS CLAIM TURBINES COULD PRODUCE MORE POWER WITH LESS PROBLEMS

 

By Sierra Robinson

May 16, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A new generation of bladeless wind turbines now in testing offers promise for designs that could reduce risk to birds, reduce noise, require smaller footprints and lower heights, thus less view disturbance.

For example, the slogan on the SheerWind website is “Changing the Course of Power Generation” and with the company’s new wind turbine design, it just might. Sheerwind began creation of a new energy technology three years ago, when founded by Dr. Daryoush Allaei. Since then, SheerWind has created a bladeless, funnel-shaped wind turbine that  it claims is a ‘revolution.’

NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION DECLARES OCOTILLO WIND A SACRED SITE, ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL TO WEIGH LEGAL ACTION

 

“I really want to say `Dismantle it and give the land back to the tribes…I’d like to ask the Attorney General to…give this commission more teeth so we could say `Tear that wall down.”  -- Commissioner Marshall McKay

View video highlights by Paul Kruze: http://youtu.be/nS93BfT6juI

  (For full unedited videos, scroll to bottom of this story)

By Miriam Raftery

April 26, 2013 (San Diego) – At a hearing in San Diego on Monday, members of the state Native American Heritage Commission heard several hours of emotional testimony from Native Americans who contend that the  U.S. Bureau of Land Management ignored their  concerns and its duty to protect a clearly documented sacred site and cemetery in the fast-tracked approval process for the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.

By a 4-0 vote, with the remaining commissioners absent, the NAHC voted to grant requests by Viejas and Quechan tribes to declare the 12,400 acre Ocotillo wind project site a sanctified Native American  sacred site.  Further, the commissioners voted unanimously to ask California Attorney General Kamala Harris to research if legal action can be taken.

INDUSTRIAL SCALE WIND & SOLAR PROJECTS: WHAT WORKS? AND WHAT DOESN'T?

 

By Roy L Hales  sandiegolovesgreen.com

February 8, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--As problems with the large wind and solar projects in East County continue to surface, I suspect there will be a tendency to say Big = Bad. I’ve been doing that myself the last few weeks. I think we need to isolate the problems and deal with them one at a time.

The wind farm at Ocotillo appears to lack the necessary wind, but am also aware that one of the problems with wind farms in East Germany has been too much wind. The Czech and Polish governments are said to have flipped the switches, to cut off the flow of surplus energy into their countries.  The alleged lack of wind at Ocotillo could be an insurmountable problem, which raises serious questions about how the facility came to be built in the first place. The alleged surplus in East Germany will cease to be a problem once we develop a method of storing the excess energy for months rather than minutes.

CA NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION ISSUES REPORT BACKING VIEJAS AND QUECHAN CLAIMS OF OCOTOILLO WIND SITE HARM TO SACRED SITES

 

Commission urges CA Attorney General to file suit if mitigation requests not met

Update February 12, 2013: A hearing set for February 15 in San Diego has been postponed.

By Miriam Raftery

January 22, 2013 (Ocotillo ) – The California Native American Heritage Commission (CNAH) has issued a report in support of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and the Quechan Indian Nation claims that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources including human remains and sacred sites at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.  The draf staff report details a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.

The tribes petitioned the NAHC to investigate and conduct a public hearing to consider tribal requests to declare the entire 12,500 acre site a ‘sanctified cemetery’.  Tribes also seek to have the project halted to assess damage and want agencies to consult with tribes to agree on mitigation measures to prevent further harm to a broader region. The case has broad national significance, with hundreds of millions of acres of public lands slated for renewable energy projects.

The NAHC has cancelled a Public Hearing that had been scheduled at the State of California Building on Front Street in Downtown San Diego for February 15, offering no explanation for the indefinite postponement.

PATTERN ENERGY SECURES FUNDING FOR COMPLETION OF OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND PROJECT

By Miriam Raftery

November 10, 2012 (Ocotillo) – North American Development Bank has announced that it has approved a 20-year, $110 million construction loan for completion of Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express wind energy facility.  The bank, which is capitalized by both  the U.S. and Mexican governments, funds projects within 62 miles of the international border. 

SDG&E has signed a 20-year purchase agreement for power from the project, which is on track to become the first renewable energy project to tie into the Sunrise Powerlink, bringing electricity from Imperial Valley to San Diego.

EPA MAPS THOUSANDS OF SITES IN CALIFORNIA FOR "REPOWERING" AMERICA

September 21, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)—The goal of renewable energy is positive. But putting industrial-scale wind and massive solar projects on protected public lands has attracted opposition from environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts.  Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mapped out 11,000 sites where renewable energy projects could be located on California land that is already impaired, such as sites formerly contaminated with toxins.  This includes 75 high-priority California sites—43 targeted for utility-scale PV solar, 21 for geothermal, and 1 wind site.

OCOTILLO GETS FIRST DAY IN COURT ON WIND TURBINE CHALLENGE

By Nadin Abbott

September 8, 2012 (San Diego)—There was tension in the air as the two legal teams got ready to present their case before District Judge William Q. Hayes.

Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship (CARES) lawyer, William Pate, observed, “This case is not about energy policies or government programs, it’s about the rule of law.” Pate argued that the government has to be ruled by laws, and that “it is no more complicated than that.” He also argued that government agencies, in this case the Bureau of Land Management, are run by people and that people make mistakes.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: EARTH TO JERRY BROWN: SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

August 11, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when Governor Jerry Brown appeared at the opening of the opening of the Suncrest Powerstation near Alpine July 27 and said “you have to crush the opposition” to giant wind and solar development projects. After all, a year and two days before that the Sacramento Bee reported that Brown had addressed a “renewable energy conference” in Los Angeles and used almost similar language to express his determination to get these mega-projects through no matter what the people who live nearby think of them. “In Oakland, I learned that some kind of opposition you just have to crush,” Brown said in July 2011. “Talk a little bit, but at the end of the day you have to move forward, and California needs to move forward with our renewable energy.”

 

SMITHSON TAPPED AS PRESIDENT, WARING RESUMES CHAIRMANSHIP OF CLEANTECH SAN DIEGO

 
July 27, 2012 (San Diego) -- The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of CleanTECH San Diego is pleased to announce the appointment of Holly Smithson as president and chief operating officer for the organization. Her appointment was approved by a unanimous vote. 
 
Smithson replaced Jim Waring who will be resuming his role as executive chairman of the board of directors of CleanTECH San Diego. Waring previously served as chairman of the non-profit trade organization from its founding in 2007 until 2011, when he assumed the interim role of president and CEO.

EUROPEAN UNION’S PUSH FOR WIND ENERGY WITHOUT PUBLIC INPUT VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL LAW, UNITED NATIONS FINDS

 
May 20, 2012 (Switzerland) –As in the United States, wind energy projects have been fast-tracked through much of Europe, including sites within protected preserves. Now the United Nations Economic Commission’s compliance committee has found the European Commission in violation of international rules under the Aarhus Convention by failing to allow citizens’ adequate participation in decision-making processes regarding siting of renewable energy projects.

 

WIND ORDINANCE HITS TURBULENCE: PLANNING COMMISSION POSTPONES ACTION AMID CONCERNS FROM ALL SIDES

By Miriam Raftery

 
April 15, 2012 (San Diego)—The San Diego County Planning Commission  voted Friday to postpone action on a proposed wind ordinance after hearing several hours of testimony.  The vote was unanimous, with the exception of Commissioner Peder Norby, who abstained due to a conflict of interest.

SOLAR DONE RIGHT SUPPORTS LOCAL ALTERNATIVES TO REMOTE MASSIVE ENERGY PROJECTS

Coalition seeks to protect public lands, launches “Energy Democracy” sign-up
 
It is currently cheaper, on a per-watt basis, to install a small rooftop system in Germany than it is to install a giant desert installation in the US.
 
By Ariele Johannson
 
April 9, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--Driving through the southwestern deserts, I’ve long been impressed by the ocotillo, a cactus-like tree with straight branches angling upwards to the sun, ablaze with red blooms. This thorny desert tree is an apt metaphor for the ways different people view energy issues-- especially proposed industrial solar and wind power projects in remote wilderness areas. Like the ocotillo, these programs and policies have a wide array of angles from which to be viewed.

WIND STORM : TRIBES IMPLORE PRESIDENT OBAMA TO STOP OCOTILLO EXPRESS WIND PROJECT, SAVE CULTURAL RESOURCE SITES

 

“We believe that DOI [Department of the Interior] is poised to violate the law and our rights to religious freedom and our cultural identities guaranteed by DOI’s own policies, the United States Constitution, and international declarations. We need your help.” --Chairman Anthony Pico, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, in a letter to President Barack Obama

Part I in an ECM special report series on potential impacts of the Ocotilllo Wind Express project

By Miriam Raftery

March 23, 2012 (Ocotillo) – For months, Ocotillo residents and conservationists have been waging a David and Goliath battle seeking to stop Pattern Energy’s proposed Ocotillo Wind Express project. Now Kumeyaay, Cocopah,Quechan and other Native American tribes have banded together to oppose the massive project-- joining residents, desert conservation groups and outdoor enthusiasts who seek to protect resources from destruction—including hundreds of cultural and archaeological sites. 

On March 28, the Imperial Valley Planning Commission will rule on whether to approve the controversial project, which would generate power for San Diego County.  At the federal level, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior  is expected to issue a final decision  by May 1.  A petition seeking to stop the project has been launched by Ocotillo residents:  http://www.change.org/petitions/say-no- ... y-project#.  

ADVOCATES OF ROOFTOP SOLAR RAISE VOICES IN PROTEST OVER INDUSTRIAL-SCALE DESERT SOLAR AND WIND PROJECTS

  

Story by Terry Weiner and Miriam Raftery

Videos by Jim Pelley

March 15, 2012 (Holtville)--Early Wednesday, rooftop solar activists and desert conservationists from Imperial Valley and San Diego County  convened outside the Barbara Worth Resort—site of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation's three-day Renewable Energy Summit and Expo.

Protesters oppose tax credits going to giant energy companies and called for similar incentives to help property owners put solar on their roofs. They also objected to their viewpoint being excluded by conference coordinators. Participants voiced concerns over negative impacts of industrial-scale wind and solar projects. In some cases, wind turbines have been abandoned, left as rusting blights on the landscape. Other concerns include destruction of habitat for wildlife, noise, health impacts, loss of agricultural lands, and destruction of recreational areas on public lands.

THIS LAND WAS YOUR LAND: EAST COUNTY SUFFERS LOSS OF OUR PUBLIC PROPERTIES

 

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 1, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – What are the cumulative impacts on our region from the loss of federal, state and county public lands?  In the span of just  a few short years, we’ve lost vast tracts of our most beautiful properties once set aside by the federal, state and county governments as preserves for future generations. Wildfires, budget cuts, and now, massive energy projects are destroying our region's scenic wonders. 

 East County Magazine has sent our photographers into the wilds of San Diego’s East County, as well as just over the border into neighboring Imperial County, to document the destruction of our inland treasures. 

SEMPRA GENERATION PLANT NAMED “SOLAR PROJECT OF THE YEAR” BY RENEWABLE ENERGY WORLD

March 9, 2011 (San Diego) – San Diego-based Sempra Generation’s Copper Mountain Solar project, currently the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the U.S., has been awarded “Solar Project of the Year” by Renewable Energy World as part of the 2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards.

FILNER COSPONSORS COMMUNITY COLLEGE ENERGY TRAINING ACT

 

March 6, 2010 (San Diego) -- Congressman Bob Filner is among 111 cosponsors of the Community College Energy Training Act (H.R. 3731), legislation that will support community colleges as they train a new generation of technicians and other workers in America’s renewable energy industry.

SUPERVISORS VOTE TO ALLOW HOMEOWNERS TO SELL SURPLUS SOLAR POWER BACK TO UTILITY COMPANIES

By Miriam Raftery

December 7, 2008 (San Diego) — A unanimous vote by the San Diego Board of Supervisors in November requires the County's Chief Administrative Officer to provide county-sponsored legislation making it easier for residential power customers the ability to sell surplus solar energy back to utility companies.

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