READER’S EDITORIAL: OCOTILLO WIND ENERGY FACILITY-- I AM A RESIDENT

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By Parke Ewing

“Our desert home is not really a home any longer, it is just a place to fight wind turbine syndrome, since the turbines crank out profits for huge investment companies and CEO's get big bonuses while the uninformed public is forced to subsidize and allow production tax credits for a wind industry that could care less about renewable energy.  Profit is the name of the game here.”—Parke Ewing

October 17, 2013 (Ocotillo) --I am a resident, another citizen forced to live adjacent to an Industrial Wind Turbine Facility.  The Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility consists of 112 Siemens 2.3-108 wind turbines, the nacelles are 262.5 feet high, the very tip of a turbine blade at 12 o'clock measures 438' above the desert floor.  This hideous project was approved and constructed by Pattern Energy surrounding the community of Ocotillo, California, which according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is designated as a "Marginal Wind Resource" area.

 This area is the desert, but this desert area isn't the barren desert with mounds of dry sand and miles of nothing interesting but the destination ahead of you.  We actually had an ecosystem made up of varied wildlife and vegetation.  Sure there were a few off-road trials, in fact travel in this desert was restricted to BLM designated trails.  That is what made this area unique.  Citizens could actually drive through this desert and see all of the desert creatures and beautiful wildflowers, the golden eagle on a special day, a red tailed hawk a little ways down the trail, a tarantula over the next rise, and maybe a Big Horn Sheep in the next valley.

I moved to this desert that I loved more than 20 years ago, built my home, planned my retirement around the things I so care about here in the desert.  We heard several years ago that a company wanted to place windmills here, we all laughed at that idea.  I even got a phone call from some guy asking me how I felt about the windmills, I think, the phone was slammed down immediately after hearing those words.  The County of Imperial, the Bureau of Land Management certainly would never allow windmills to be constructed in this beautiful area that was located in a "Limited Use" area.  But, they did...

Our time of the past two years has been spent fighting the approval and destruction of our desert.  I say "our" because this special place belongs to all of us.  We took care of it, we didn't own it, but it was all of ours to enjoy.  No more, the wind turbines are here, they are loud on windy days.  They are a distraction on non-windy days. 

When night time grinds around to darkness, the FAA required, bright red blinking lights destroy our once peaceful evenings.  There is nowhere to hide but behind our now closed window blinds.  During some days, when the wind manages to blow more than marginal speeds, the turbine facility sounds like jet engines, but it doesn't sound like an airport, it sounds more like a huge jet engine testing facility.  Close the doors, lock the windows, shut those blinds that have never been shut, turn up the TV or the computer speakers, drown out those jet engine sounds, for the air noise is loud, irritating, creating anxiety that I never felt, even in Viet Nam while I was doing my duty in the Army.

Our desert home is not really a home any longer, it is just a place to fight wind turbine syndrome, since the turbines crank out profits for huge investment companies and CEO's get big bonuses while the uninformed public is forced to subsidize and allow production tax credits for a wind industry that could care less about renewable energy.  Profit is the name of the game here.

The desert crust was destroyed when grading for access roads, turbine pads, operation and maintenance buildings, substations and  underground electrical collection lines.  Within the 12,500 acres of the project boundary are now graded, barren land that hold sandy silt until the wind blows.  Now the silt has been spread all over the once pristine desert, into my house through window cracks and doors, into my swimming pool and into my lungs.  Never before seen dust like this is now common.  It is in our ears our cloths.  Ring around the collar isn't just a childhood memory.  Will we be affected by valley fever spores?  Probably!

Our home is no home, retirement is spent in meetings and on the computer learning ways to fight the turbines.  Ask me a question about wind turbines, even though I don't want to know anything about these things, I know much too much... 

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 ediotrial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

Comments

I just mined the Ocotillo

I just mined the Ocotillo project's Environmental Impact Statement issued before the project was approved. The document's job is to predict the project's impacts.

On noise: “Under this worst-case scenario the wind farm would be considered an acceptable land use and …  would meet the Imperial County daytime and nighttime noise limits. (p. 4.9-7).

On air pollution: “Fugitive dust emissions during operation would be generated mostly from employee and maintenance vehicle trips and road grading activities.” (p.4.2.3). And a few pages later: “project operation would not have any adverse impacts” and ‘…impacts would not be substantial during operation.”  The EIS conveniently ignored wind generated air pollution.

On light pollution: The EIS obviously was not written with the red lights in mind. From the EIS: “…is not expected to create a new source of substantial light…”, and, ‘…significant night lighting impacts are not expected.” (p.4.18-8). Then for mitigation: “all permanent exterior lighting … lamps and reflectors are not visible from beyond the project site…” (VR-2 on p. 4.18-18)

 On Environmental Justice (defined as fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens), the EIS concludes ‘… no analysis is required for Ocotillo…”. (p.4.5-2). And, this blatant statement: “Given the absence of environmental justice impacts, no mitigation measures are proposed.” The conclusions are patently false, since Ocotillo gets no environmental benefits, only environmental burdens.

When the EIS was released I described it as twenty-five pounds of tortured justification (See photo of EIS). It has turned out to be fraudulent, in addition. I am looking forward to learning of the power produced after a year or so of operation, hoping it shows at least some of the environmental and human cost has been worthwhile.

At my home in Los Angeles I don’t feel the effects. I only feel for the residents of Ocotillo.

... Tom Budlong

Profit and political agendas

Profit and political agendas are the names of the games being played here. In fact, of the two, the political element is more significant. Remember, both the Federal and State governments are pushing and, in some cases (like California's) mandating renewable power goals; and these, in turn, open up big money possibilities for conscienceless "renewable power" industries like Pattern and Iberdrola to exploit. Few people know more about this than activist Donna Tisdale who once told me that it was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar who'd swept aside all of the EIR requirements for the Ocotillo and pending Boulevard wind farms--requirements which, if they'd been observed, would've prevented these hideous monstrosities from ever being built.

Excellent story on this national disgrace

Excellent story. Please check into the current market value your desert home and tell readers what you believe you have lost financially from this turbine blight.

wind turbines

I can only imagine your anguish.  Beautiful, pristine and ...quiet.  Now nothing more then a sell off to the biggest bidder who will most likely abandon this project as soon as they can.  Our county supervisors should all be fired.  They couldn't take the time to listen to residents.  Ron Roberts hardly looked up from his sheets of paper in front of him before his gavel smacked down and said, "Done"!  This is a giant scam, and we've only just seen the beginning.  Until every home is equipped with solar, don't touch OUR pristine lands.  If only our politicians worked for the people, instead of the corporations.