Strauss Wind Energy is constructing a major wind energy project south of Lompoc. The project consists of 29 towers that are equivalent in height to a 50-story building. Each tower has three blades to catch the wind and turn giant turbines to generate electricity.
The project will require several thousand truckloads of concrete and other construction material deliveries before it is finished.
According to a June 15, 2021, staff report “Transportation of the (oversized) equipment will involve many periods of temporary closure of portions of streets while each truck is passing through, over an estimated hauling duration of four months, to allow an estimated 203 extremely oversized truck trips.
“Project trucks with freight are proposed to measure up to 290 feet in overall length, 15 feet in width, 16 feet in height, weigh up to 340,000 pounds.”
On Sept. 24, the first of 203 oversized loads, 87 of which are the 290-foot-long trucks carrying the turbine blades moved through downtown streets. The first stop on their journey through Lompoc was outside of town to transfer blades from over-the-road trailers to specially constructed trailers with tilt mechanisms to pass through the congested city and to the project site at the end of a narrow Miguelito Canyon Road.
The staff report explains that “The proposed 67-meter-blade trucks will rotate the blades up to 50 degrees above horizontal in order to avoid impacts as the trucks navigate turns.”
They then propelled the blade through town; a partial view of the trip can be seen in this video.
Folks who witnessed the transport were amazed at how the tilt mechanism worked. As the load approached the corner of F Street and Ocean Avenue, they stopped and tilted it upward so they could make the turn without hitting trees, buildings, parked cars, or light posts.
Although the parade was at least as spectacular as any holiday parade ever was, it wasn’t without some problems for traffic on Ocean Avenue or the side streets. It took several minutes when the blade was tipped upward and several more to carefully negotiate each turn and then put it back in travel position. Traffic was halted on both the main highway through town and several side streets.
While this was just a trial run to see if their plan would work and iron out any last-minute glitches, the end game is to move the blades through town in three-blade sets. How this will be orchestrated is yet to be seen, but if this trip was any indication, traffic will be impacted for several minutes for each trip.
I have traveled the road up through Miguelito Canyon to the job site, and even at this early stage of construction the impact of heavy trucks hauling ordinary construction equipment and materials has clearly damaged the road. Although Strauss has committed to “repairing the road,” they may have to do it sooner rather than later if winter rains begin before all the heavy loads have moved up the canyon.
The 3,500-page Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project indicated that there were numerous “considerable” impacts to vegetation, wildlife, and that the towers created visual impacts to the city and surrounding area. According to the EIR, those “visual impacts” will be seen as far away as Highway 166 north of Santa Maria.
These impacts are becoming more evident to the residents of Lompoc and the ranches in Miguelito Canyon as construction progresses.
Other wind energy projects across America and the world have experienced many issues including long periods of slack wind conditions. These operators discovered that the projects produced far less electrical generation than their original sales pitch predicted. Other “renewable energy” projects like solar farms have also failed to meet original expectations.
But green energy advocates are determined to liter the landscape with projects like the one near Mojave, California. It has been there since 2004 and is currently being renovated to accommodate 365 feet in diameter blades mounted on pedestals that are 300 feet high; these are massive structures.
Disposing of the decommissioned equipment will be a time- and energy-consuming exercise; the hazardous waste created by the blades, lubricants and other materials that can’t be recycled will be substantial. So, once again we discover that so called “green energy” projects aren’t that environmentally friendly after all.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County is determined to eliminate tax producing-oil production in the county as part of an overall Democratic green agenda, and replace them with taxpayer-subsidized projects like the wind farm. In time this strategy will fail since petroleum products are essential to the construction of all these green energy projects, and it is tax income that pays for government services, not subsidized projects.
Meanwhile, we will enjoy the parade of blades through city streets for the next couple of months.
— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.