By Miriam Raftery
Photo: McCain Valley, site of the Tule Wind project slated to break ground soon
November 2, 2016 (Boulevard) – The State Lands Commission has approved a second phase of the controversial Tule Wind Project in McCain Valley. Tule II will allow up to 24 wind turbines to be built after completion of Tule I, which will have 52 turbines, each hundreds of feet high. Phase I is slated to break ground soon, with expected completion in September 2017.
The two projects will have a combined estimated capacity of 202 megawatts. Additional turbines are set to be installed on adjacent federal and tribal lands belonging to the Ewiiaapaayp band of Kumeyaay Indians.
Revenues from the portion on state land will help fund pensions for California teachers, Harley McDonald, spokesperson for Avangrid Renewables, a division of Iberdrola, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. The project will also help California and San Diego County attain renewable energy production goals. She contends the project’s negative impacts will be largely mitigated.
But the project has been vigorously opposed by environmentalists and many rural residents.
The Protect Our Communities Foundation has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to halt the project, contending it will kill protected golden eagles, bats and other wildlife as well as spectacular views on public lands. The Audobon Society and Backcountry Against Dumps (BAD) have also opposed the project.
Donna Tisdale, founder of BAD and chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, says Tule Wind will have “serious impacts to residents and a wide variety of resources that cannot honestly be mitigated.” She notes that thus far power purchase agreements are with Southern California Edison, meaning power will flow to Los Angeles, thus won’t help the city or county of San Diego attain its green power goals.
“Despite our best efforts, San Diego County gave Tule Wind turbines a waiver of the new low frequency restrictions that we managed to get included in the Wind Energy Ordinance, that were designed to help protect at risk and predominantly low-income residents in our area, including tribal members and others who are already adversely impacted by the existing Kumeyaay Wind turbines that have generated complaints of stress induced health and quality of life impacts,” Tisdale states. “Wind turbines and their electrical infrastructure also represent new sources of wildfire ignition in our drought stressed backcountry. Tule Wind's inadequate fire related funding is a pittance. “
Opponents say they support renewable energy, but want to see it generated with solar on rooftops and parking lots, not in or near scenic public lands such as the previously protected McCain Valley National Cooperative Land and Wildlife Management Area and Recreation Area, also the gateway to federal wilderness regions.