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Local News

Wind Farm Project Generates Planning Commission Support

Environmentalists say the farm, southwest of Lompoc, would be a major step toward reducing Santa Barbara cCounty’s dependence on fossil fuels.

In a move praised by local environmentalists, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to build a wind farm in the Lompoc area.

Just southwest of Lompoc, between Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, the farm would include 65 turbines that stand about 400 feet high, with slowly rotating fiberglass blades that span about 130 feet.

The farm will be built by Spanish-based Acciona Energy, which has built wind farms in 12 countries, according to its Web site. Construction will begin in 2009, and the farm is expected to begin powering homes by late 2010.

Local environmentalists hailed the decision as a major step forward in the way of reducing the county’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“Thanks to Acciona, and the local business groups, environmental organizations and residents who all came together, we can now look forward to 285 million kilowatt-hours of clean power as the project comes online — 10 percent of our countywide demand,” Dave Davis, executive director of the Community Environmental Council, said in a statement.

Initially, areas to reap the direct power benefits will be in the North County — Santa Maria, Ocutt and the Vandenberg Air Force Base — because those agencies are on the PGE grid, said CEC program director Tam Hunt. Interestingly, the city of Lompoc will not, because it purchases its power from the Northern California Power Authority, he said.

Cities on the South Coast will not benefit initially, because they are on Edison’s grid. But there is a project under way to build a connector between the PGE and Edison grids, Hunt said.

CEC officials said the farm eventually will provide enough energy for about 10 percent of Santa Barbara County’s total electricity demand.

In a jointly written op-ed piece for Noozhawk, Hunt and CEC senior energy program associate Megan Birney said the farm also would bring 50 to 100 construction jobs to the county, as well as 10 permanent jobs.

They acknowledged that the farm would block views seen from Jalama Beach and San Miguelito Road and potentially kill some birds and bats. At comparable wind farms, he said, the blades on average kill one or two birds per turbine per year.

“While any wildlife deaths or injuries are tragic, we believe the potential impacts from climate change and air pollution mentioned above outweigh these local impacts,” they wrote. “This project is far better than building new natural gas, coal or nuclear plants.”

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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