By Supervisor Dave Roberts
June 13, 2013 (San Diego)--On May 15th, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that establishes a rigorous process to install wind turbines. By a 4-1 vote, Supervisors agreed to strict guidelines. Our action did not approve a single, specific project.
My vote to adopt the ordinance came after much careful consideration.
As Dr. Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League said during his testimony, "wind energy presents a conundrum."
On one hand, I am very supportive of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gasses. On the other, I am concerned about the significant, unmitigable impacts of large wind turbines.
I understand the concerns of residents in Boulevard. Sadly, Boulevard residents are going to be surrounded by large wind turbines on federal, Imperial County, and tribal lands. The County Board of Supervisors has no control over the approval of those turbines. In all likelihood, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider only two or three applications for wind turbines near Boulevard.
And when those applications come forward, we will have a solid process in place to evaluate them.
The board's action this week approved an Environmental Impact Report that examines all renewable energy projects, including solar. The purpose of an EIR is to document impacts of development and propose whether or not the impacts can be mitigated. The document lists 24 unmitigable impacts, a daunting problem to overcome for any proponent of these projects.
The second action taken by the Board was approved by a 5-0 vote to implement a new ordinance that allows persons to put small wind turbines on their property for personal use by only requiring an Administrative Permit.
The third and final action taken by the Board was approved by a 4-1 vote concerned large wind turbines. These projects would be forced to go through a Major Use Permit process.
We did this because our ordinance was outdated and had to be updated to establish strict requirements. This process requires notification of surrounding property owners and a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. The new Wind Ordinance included a map of wind resources to indicate where large turbines might be placed. Locations within the County of San Diego are very limited. Now all residents know exactly where wind turbines are permitted and where they are not. This ordinance also set strict standards for noise control which provide setbacks far greater than the requirements of the existing noise ordinance.
No new projects were approved by the Board. However, our action did establish a strict review process which will limit the ability to build future industrial-size wind turbines.
Faulty turbines can cause electric fires. So during my public remarks, I also asked that future applicants provide special training and equipment to our fire protection services.
The prior approved Tule Wind Project includes 5 turbines on County of San Diego jurisdictional lands in Boulevard. At this time, there are no other large wind turbine projects proposed on land within County jurisdiction in Boulevard. By way of reminder, consideration of a new ordinance grew out of concern for the Tule Wind Project which was approved before I was elected to the Board. Residents complained that this project was not carefully vetted. Hence, county staff drafted an ordinance for Board consideration.
This was appropriate because the county has been operating with an outdated wind ordinance. With the adoption of a map designating where the turbines may be built it is seen by some as a de facto restriction to limited areas.
My votes demonstrate my commitment to environmental sustainability while standing up for residents in the locally impacted communities.
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact email@example.com.