STATUS: In progress, with opposition
OPPOSITION: Neighboring landowners; California Department of Fish and Game
BACKGROUND: Pacific Renewable Energy Generation, a unit of Spanish conglomerate Acciona S.A. (ANA.MC), wants to build an 83-megawatt wind farm on a coastal hillside in rural Lompoc, CA. The company signed a 20-year contract with PG&E Corp. (PCG) utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and won approval for the project from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. The 65-turbine project, spread out over nearly 3,000 acres of land in and around Miguelito Canyon, is expected to harness enough wind to power 50,000 homes a year.
The project was delayed, however, as the County Board of Supervisors considered an appeal by the California Fish and Game Department, which proposed that the company purchase rights to more than 1,000 acres of land that would be set aside for wildlife habitat. At current land prices, such an acquisition could cost more than $8 million. Fish and Game is concerned that the wind farm could kill and displace golden eagles and other wild birds, as well as bats. It disputed the company's assertion that the area isn't heavily used by these creatures and asked the county to require Acciona to buy the land for a conservation easement. The county resisted.
Ultimately, Fish and Game brokered a deal with Acciona and withdrew its challenge to the Planning Commission's vote before that portion of the appeal was even heard. Acciona pledged to make either a one-time payment of $450,000 to the California Wildlife Foundation for the specific purpose of helping preserve and protect threatened bird species via a land conservation easement or to donate such an easement with an endowment to keep it staffed.
On March 9, 2009 a lawsuit was filed against the County in the Superior Court of California, Santa Maria Branch (Case No. 1313465). The petitioners are George and Cheryl Bedford, who own and reside on property located adjacent to the project site. The lawsuit alleges that the EIR is inadequate under CEQA and that the project conflicts with Santa Barbara County General Plan and Land Use and Development Code. The court hearing in this case has been rescheduled several times, due to schedule conflicts and at the request of the Court. The last hearing date was scheduled for October 5, 2010.
Pacific Renewable plans to begin construction in late 2010 and begin operation in late 2011
SOURCES: Lompoc Wind Energy Project: http://www.countyofsb.org/energy/projects/LompWindEnergy.asp;
Lompoc Wind Energy Project PowerPoint: http://www.countyofsb.org/energy/documents/projects/LompWindPCPresentationApplicant.pdf;
Santa Maria Sun: http://archive.santamariasun.com/index.php?p=showarticle&id=3050
Last updated November 9, 2010