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Should A New Wind Farm Come To S.D. County?

Audio

Aired 1/27/10

A Portland, Oregon-based company wants to build a wind farm in Southeastern San Diego County. The location for the proposed farm is just north of Interstate 8 and the town of Boulevard - next to an existing wind farm in Campo. We discuss whether the Tule Wind Project and other proposed energy projects are a good fit for the community.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Alternative, renewable energy production is usually a very popular idea. There are three new energy projects being planned for southeastern San Diego County, a big wind farm, an SDG&E substation and just across the Mexican border, a Sempra power plant. Supporters say the projects will bring needed jobs to rural San Diego and needed power to local metropolitan areas. But there are some who challenge the need for these big power projects, and worry that some of the last natural landscapes in our county will be ruined in the process. I’d like to welcome my guests. KPBS environment reporter Ed Joyce and, Ed, welcome back to the show.

ED JOYCE (KPBS Environment Reporter): Good morning. Nice to be here, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Later in the show, we will hear from Ed Clark, who is involved with the wind development, Iberdrola Renewables, and Jerry Yops, a Boulevard resident who lives near the Kumeyaay Wind Farm and the proposed location of the Tule wind farm. Our listeners are welcome to join our conversation this morning. What do you think about a new wind farm in rural San Diego County? Does the need for energy outweigh other concerns? You can give us a call. The number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Ed, can you describe more fully the three proposed energy projects that I mentioned?

JOYCE: Yes, the Sempra project is called Energia Sierra Juarez. It’s just across the border from Boulevard or Jacumba, I should say. That is a wind project. It also includes a transmission line that would cross the border about a mile in southeast San Diego County in the U.S., and it would connect with an existing Southwest Powerlink transmission line and a new ECO Substation, which is proposed by San Diego Gas & Electric. The project would import renewable energy from across the border into the United States. The ECO Substation would serve as a conduit for that energy as well and for some other projects. And then we have the Iberdrola wind proposal for part of the McCain Valley, which would include a transmission line that would connect to a substation in Boulevard that SDG&E wants to, you know, modernize. It’s a 50 year old substation. And then the line would connect both the ECO Substation, if you’re still following me…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

JOYCE: …in Boulevard to the one near Jacumba near the Mexican border.

CAVANAUGH: So it’s all of these three then are connected to each other in some way.

JOYCE: The California Public Utilities Commission has said that all these projects are interconnected. One needs the other for various reasons, to kind of get the power into the system.

CAVANAUGH: And where are they in the process of being approved and developed?

JOYCE: The CPUC, the Public Utilities Commission, starts hearings process, scoping hearings, for the environmental aspects of all three projects tonight with a meeting in Jacumba at seven and tomorrow night at seven in Boulevard.

CAVANAUGH: So you brought us some clips and I believe one is from a spokesman with Sempra Energy.

JOYCE: Yes, Art Larson with Sempra Energy says the renewable energy from the wind project across the border in Baja would be transmitted via a power line that would come into the U.S. side of the border. There’s some permits pending there including one with Mexico’s Environmental Protection Agency. It requires a major use permit from the County and he says once the approvals are in hand, the company can move ahead, probably next year.

ART LARSON (Spokesman, Sempra Energy): Well, we’re hoping and estimating that we’ll have construction start sometime in 2011 with that first phase, that 100 megawatt to 125 megawatt phase online in 2012. You know, but this is a really ideal area, a terrific area for wind power generation, probably one of the best in this part of North America. We could build out that project to as much as 1,000 megawatts of clean wind energy.

JOYCE: Now…

JENNIFER BRISCOE (Spokesperson, San Diego Gas & Electric): What it’s going to do…

JOYCE: Now, when I was out there, the wind – and I was speaking with Ed Clark, when I was out there and other people, and wandering around in the McCain Valley and in that area of Jacumba and Boulevard, it was blowing. You know, it’s definitely been an area that’s ripe for harvesting the wind.

CAVANAUGH: Tell me, Ed, what does – since you’ve been out there, what does the area look like now without the wind farm there?

JOYCE: Well, you have an existing wind farm in Campo…

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

JOYCE: …on some of the ridges.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

JOYCE: It’s pretty much wide open spaces with boulders kind of stacked on boulders, kind of like building blocks, and there’s some scrub and its elevation ranges anywhere from maybe 3500 to 4500 feet, depending upon where you are and if you climb up, you know, certain areas. So it’s kind of a wide open landscape.

CAVANAUGH: So the Tule wind farm, the proposed Tule wind farm, would deliver more energy to the SDG&E substation but there is a substation that already exists there currently. Why does SDG&E want to build a new one?

JOYCE: Well, it’s a 50 year old substation. It’s not built to handle the additional capacity and the projects that are scheduled, you know, and they want to moderize it to ensure, you know, energy reliability for the power for the rural area as well. Jennifer Briscoe with San Diego Gas & Electric explains a little bit about what the ECO Substation project includes.

BRISCOE: What it’s going to do is strengthen the transmission system by building a state of the art substation, the 500 kV ECO Substation. We’re also going to rebuild and modernize the 50 year old Boulevard substation to both improve service and reliability and we’ll be building a new 138 kV line between ECO and Boulevard substations to provide a backup source of power for the communities of Boulevard, Jacumba and Manzanita.

JOYCE: And Live Oak Springs and other communities in that area. So that pretty – in a nutshell, that kind of brings you up to date on what those substations are about and what’s part of that project.

CAVANAUGH: And as if this story weren’t complicated enough for the non-energy related mind here, SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink, this very controversial line, transmission line, also falls into this discussion. How does that fall in?

JOYCE: Well, it’s been approved and it takes a path through the same region and that’s been tapped as another needed source to bring renewable energy in from other sources, whether it be the Imperial Valley or elsewhere. That’s been approved by the Public Utilities Commission, however, it does face some legal challenges so that’s still underway.

CAVANAUGH: So that’s been approved but these other projects that you were talking about still need to get approval. Is that the idea?

JOYCE: Yes, they’re just starting the process. The Energia Sierra Juarez project in Baja, the Iberdrola Wind Project as well as the ECO Substation, which includes modernizing the Boulevard substation and building a new substation, those are all just beginning the regulatory phase. David Hogan is with the Protect Our Communities Foundation and he says the region’s electricity needs can be met without a lot of large transmission projects.

DAVID HOGAN (Spokesman, Protect Our Communities Foundation): You know, it’s easy to take for granted these beautiful, wide open vistas of natural landscape in eastern San Diego County and all of a sudden you drive out one day and they’re covered with wind turbines or a new natural gas-fired power plant or some other ugly infrastructure that has totally destroyed the experience of these wild natural places. There’s so few left. They’re so precious. There’s absolutely no justification to be giving away public lands that are owned by all Americans that provide such incredible recreation and scenic values for the profit of a single company.

JOYCE: Now, that said, I did speak with a lot of people that live in that area also that are in favor of the project. Some of them sort of look at the wind farms and the turbines as an esthetic value in a sense. And one person commented, if you heard the story earlier this morning, that the region might need to bite the bullet, we need electricity. They would like to see some jobs. This would bring some construction jobs and some permanent jobs as well.

CAVANAUGH: I’m wondering why, do you know, Ed, why are these power plant projects and the wind farm, why are they all located in this area, in the same area of southeastern San Diego…

JOYCE: Well, it’s the wind…

CAVANAUGH: …County?

JOYCE: They’ve been measuring the wind for a long time now, and it’s a proven resource and it’s out there. And the wind blows and they capture that wind and turn it into energy that becomes electricity.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about three renewable energy projects, one in particular called the Tule Wind Project, that are proposed for the extreme southeastern part of our county, and I’m speaking with KPBS environment reporter Ed Joyce. I’d like to reintroduce and rewelcome two other guests to our conversation. Ed Clark is with wind development, Iberdrola Renewables. And, Ed, I’m sorry I’m not saying that as well as I could. I’m sure I will as our conversation continues. Ed, welcome to These Days. Thanks for being here.

ED CLARK (Director of Business Development, Iberdrola Renewables): Well, thank you, Maureen. Glad to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And Jerry Yops is a Boulevard resident. He lives near the Kumeyaay Wind Farm and the proposed location of the Tule Wind Farm. Jerry, welcome to These Days.

JERRY YOPS (Boulevard Resident): Yes, thank you. I’m glad to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And I want to remind our listeners we are taking your calls if you’ve got a question or a comment about these projects, 1-888-895-5727. Ed Clark, if you would, could you describe what this wind farm is going to be look – what it will look like.

CLARK: Yes. It – As you would drive up McCain Valley Road on the lower end of the road, you’d see a number of turbines off to the left and some along to the right. You know, I think there’s just a lot of reasons, Maureen, for the folks of San Diego to be excited about the project. You know, it’s a renewable resource that’ll displace 200 megawatts of fossil generation when it’s operating. And, you know, your previous show here, we were talking – or they were talking about jobs but, you know, you – to create jobs with the government, you increase a deficit. Here, you’ve got an opportunity to create jobs and yet the project will pay property taxes so it really, really helps reduce the deficit that the county faces. And so – And 200 megawatts is significant. If you put that on an annual basis, that’s enough to meet 60,000 typical homes. And, you know, 200 construction jobs, 10 permanent jobs, so, indeed, we’ve got a beautiful desert but I think we still have a beautiful desert with wind turbines there in one portion also.

CAVANAUGH: And how much actual land is this project going to take up?

CLARK: The total area that the right of way, the project has, is just over 15,000 acres but the actual footprint of the project is only about 2% of that. So each turbine will take an acre to an acre and a half. So of that 15,000 acres, about 300 acres would be used for actual facilities.

CAVANAUGH: And, Ed, one of the criticisms that I’ve heard about this project is that some of these wind – some of the wind farm will be on public land.

CLARK: Absolutely, and it is, it’s BLM land. I think that’s important to remember that the BLM has been directed by congress as a multi-use management and it’s directed to meet the future needs of the American people and one of the better ways to do that is with a sustainable energy resource that can meet energy needs now and into the future.

CAVANAUGH: Ed Joyce, if I recall, your report on this, the fact that some private – public lands would be used for private enterprise to build this wind farm is one of the reasons that this is a controversial issue.

JOYCE: That’s one of the reasons. And people – there’s a mixed approach, you know. Some people see it in a – as a positive and some people that live in the area see it as a negative and some people that live in the area are concerned that their area is going to be used, you know, as a wind farm or for these industrial projects that will change the character and the nature of that area, and they may not really reap as much of the benefit as maybe people that don’t see those projects in their backyard.

CAVANAUGH: I want to bring in Jerry Yops. He’s waiting patiently on the line. And I also want to tell everyone that we are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. There are a few people who do want to join our conversation but I want to talk to Jerry Yops for just a minute. You live next to a wind farm right now, right?

YOPS: I do. I’m due east of the Kumeyaay Wind Farm approximately two miles as the crow flies.

CAVANAUGH: And whereabouts would this proposed wind farm be in relation to where you live?

YOPS: It would be to the east of me only about a half a mile away. So I would be having a larger wind farm to the east of me with larger towers, and I already have an existing wind farm to the west of me, so I would be right in the middle.

CAVANAUGH: So – and what does that – how does that change your view of your property and what does that – how does that impact you?

YOPS: It impacts me in a huge way. My property values will go down a minimum of 20% as studied by real estate brokers that have done studies in different states and different countries. It’s a fact that your property values do go down. And in a depressed economy the way it is now, I’d be hard pressed to even put my house on the market for sale.

CAVANAUGH: So in other words, you feel as if you can’t – you don’t like it but you can’t even move.

YOPS: Exactly. I’m stuck.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about the proposed wind farm and the other energy projects coming – well, proposed for the southeastern corner of San Diego County. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call. And let’s hear from Don in Carlsbad. Good morning, Don, and welcome to These Days.

DON (Caller, Carlsbad): Good morning. Well, I am a longterm advocate of renewable energy, however, I think we ratepayers and citizens would be better served to do what we can locally on our local rooftops, our local land, including Indian reservations, and generate local jobs and business opportunities rather than buy into business as usual with massive utility-scale projects that have, in my opinion, the unfair advantage of taking ratepayer money and turning it into shareholder profit, not necessarily to the benefit of we ratepayers and residents. There’s a lot of opportunity locally. A report was done a year or so ago, San Diego Smart Energy 20/20, that outlined how it can be done. Big issue is we don’t have the – ‘we,’ those folks that want to do local distributed generation, don’t have access to the funding that multi-national corporations like Sempra Energy does to buy time and influence politicians via lobbyists.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Don, let me ask you a question, though, if I may. You know, for a long time the generation of wind power has been thought of as, you know, a wonderful, clean, renewable energy source and now – and it sounds like that basically you would back that kind of an energy source but what specifically about this is it that you don’t like now?

DON: Well, we just heard from a local landowner whose property values are going to be adversely impacted by another wind farm. Where there’s Indian reservations out there, for instance, that have built casinos and their cash flow is somewhat impacted with the economy the way it is, I’m sure some of those Indian reservations would be very keen on the idea of having wind farms on their land where they could benefit rather than shareholders of Sempra.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for your call. I really appreciate it, Don. You know, we have to take a short break but when we come back, Ed Clark, I’ll let you respond to what Don was talking about. And we will continue our discussion about these alternative renewable energy projects that are proposed for San Diego County. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re continuing our conversation about the proposed Tule Wind Farm proposed by Iberdrola Renewables, that’s a company, I believe it’s Oregon-based, and also the Sempra Energy’s project across the border, and a substation proposed by San Diego Gas & Election – Electric, that is. All three of those will be the subject of a California Public Utilities Commission hearing tonight at the Jacumba Highland Center. And we’re talking with KPBS environment reporter Ed Joyce, and on the line, Jerry Yops, a Boulevard resident who lives near the proposed wind farm, and Ed Clark is with Wind Development Iberdrola Renewables. And welcome to you all once again. I want to let everyone know we’re taking your calls, 1-888-895-5727. And Ed Clark, I wanted to give you a chance to respond to our caller who basically said, you know, why are we building this wind farm? Why don’t we all just put solar panels on our roofs?

CLARK: Yes, Maureen. You know, Don does raise an important point on the cost of electricity because, you know, as individuals, that’s important to us and to the greater San Diego area. Cost of electricity’s important to the area’s ability to compete in a international marketplace. So in – I think the reason in California that the utilities are looking at acquiring more wind as a renewable than any other renewable resource is its cost. And one thing we’ve – we’re working on out there is to keep our cost as low as we can. One thing we’ve done there, there’s a lot of economy is scale in power generation and going to Don’s comments on involving the tribes, the Ewiiaapaayp Tribe out there is participating in the project. They’ll have a substantial number of wind turbines and what that does is it just makes better use of the infrastructure that’s put in to handle the power and then just the economy of scale for us, buying turbines and installing them, it allows us to move that cost of power down, which is very important. You know, on the – both Mr. Yops and Don mentioned on the property taxes – I mean, the property values, you know, we’re committed to, you know, obtaining public input wherever we can and then develop projects providing benefit to the area. And in going to the property value issue is in areas where we developed our initial projects, six, seven years ago, those areas have welcomed us back and we’re on our third and fourth generation of projects in those same counties and jurisdictions and if there hadn’t been a net benefit in terms of, you know, everything considered to those communities, we wouldn’t have been invited back.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, sorry, Ed.

JOYCE: Yeah, this is Ed Joyce. I wanted to make a quick comment sort of related to what Don said, is that a lot of people may think that so-called green energy, or wind power in this example, is free or cheap. It may be efficient and it may be renewable, it may not be a fossil fuel-based source of energy but the projects do come with a cost. And I know recently, I think, Pacific Gas & Electric signed a contract with Iberdrola to build a wind project in Kern County, I believe, and PG&E had said in their application or in the process of this that they would be passing on a cost of about twenty-five cents to ratepayers to pay for that project. So some of the projects are renewable energy projects but there’s a perception perhaps by some ratepayers that that means that their bill will go down. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the bill will go down. It may be a cleaner form of energy, however.

CAVANAUGH: And Jerry Yops, our Boulevard resident on the line, I want to get your response to what you’ve been hearing.

YOPS: I agree pretty much with Don, the caller you had previously. With the Smart Energy 20/20 Plan, there’s a potential of about 5000 megawatts of renewable energy that can be generated from already disturbed lands, from existing commercial and residential rooftops, parking structures, residential homes. Those megawatts can be produced using solar in town where the energy is actually needed without putting up high priced power lines and destroying the back country and the rural esthetics of the area and reducing property values.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Jerry, when you talked about, you know, having a wind farm on one side of you and now a proposed wind farm on the other side, it’s the visual aspect that I think most of us think about. But is there also a noise problem?

YOPS: There is a noise problem and also there’s a – what’s called wind turbine syndrome. It’s been studied extensively and there’s a doctor in New York, Nina Pierpont, that has studied this and it actually exists as wind turbine syndrome. You can hear a noise from – I’m two to three miles away. You can hear noise 24 hours a day. It sounds like a large truck on the freeway that never goes away; it’s just constant.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about these proposed projects, 1-888-895-5727. Let’s hear from John in El Cajon. Good morning, John. Welcome to These Days.

JOHN (Caller, El Cajon): Thank you. I work for a couple of gentlemen that own 2000 acres out in there very close to where Jerry Yops lives and I’m quite aware of the positioning of where those turbines are proposed to be located. There’s none within a half mile of his house and…

YOPS: I beg to differ.

JOHN: …none within a half mile of any homes. But I’d like to comment that when you consider the BLM property is a resource owned by all the people of America. America needs to be energy independent from the mid-East and we’ve got an opportunity for 300 acres to generate 50,000-60,000 homes worth of electricity, seems like a small price to pay when 75% of east county is owned by government agencies. So this is a natural resource that’s been mandated both state and federally and there’s a very narrow group of people in the back country that are proponents of down zoning all private property which are – is proposed to be down zoned to 80 acres which creates absolutely no economic value. So I think there’s two sides to the story…

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

JOHN: …where you’ve got NIMBYs out there that they have a home on a lot and they don’t want anything ever else done out there. And…

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you, John. Let me get a response, if I may, from Jerry. Jerry, are you a NIMBY?

YOPS: I am not a NIMBY. I’m in favor of renewable energy, however, wind is not as predicable as solar. Wind energy – I mean, we’ve got a wind farm to the west of me right now with all 26 wind turbines down because of damaged blades.

CAVANAUGH: How did the blades get damaged? Do you know?

YOPS: Well, at first the – they said it was lightning. The lightning can’t strike 26 towers all at once. So we had 70 mile an hour gusty winds up here and all the blades were shredded.

CAVANAUGH: And did you oppose the installation, Jerry, of the Kumeyaay Wind Farm?

YOPS: Actually, that went in on a reservation…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

YOPS: …and we weren’t notified.

CAVANAUGH: Let me speak with you, Ed Clark. What has Iberdrola done to find out what impact the wind farms might have on the people in that area?

CLARK: Well, we’re very concerned on that because we own and operate our wind farms for the most part. Once in awhile we’ll sell one but most of our wind farms, we own and operate. So we’ve got to be very concerned about what kind of neighbors we are and the impact in the longterm, and we’re very careful in our purchasing and installation and maintenance to make sure that the towers, indeed, are not offensive. We’ve got our own corporate standards. You know, we never put a turbine closer than 1000 feet from a home. And I would encourage, you know, listeners when they’re out past that Kumeyaay farm when it’s back online to stop where it’s safe and listen and see for themselves what kind of noise they hear, if any. My experience out there is I’ve got to wait until there’s no cars in visible distance, otherwise the car noise drowns out those turbines. So, you know, these wind farms can be constructed in a manner that are very suitable and compatible with local residents.

CAVANAUGH: Ed Joyce, let me ask you a question. Isn’t this sort of energy, this alternative, renewable energy the very thing that the creators of the Sunrise Powerlink Transmission line said that the transmission line was going to be taking into San Diego County?

JOYCE: It is the type of energy, yes, including energy from planned projects in the Imperial Valley, which are linked to the Sunrise Powerlink project.

CAVANAUGH: Did you find that people who were opposed to the wind farms were sort of the same group of people that might be opposed to the Sunrise Powerlink?

JOYCE: I would say that would be the case, for the most part, for the people that I talked with. And most of the people, they expressed the same concerns, that there was opportunity to get a lot of this energy from in-basin, as it’s called, in-basin solar on parking garages and individual homes at the source where people actually live.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Gary is calling us from Rancho Bernardo. Good morning, Gary, and welcome to These Days.

GARY (Caller, Rancho Bernardo): Good morning. I had a question about the wisdom of putting whatever source – power source in a foreign country and being at their whims of whatever happens to take place in that country, and Mexico’s not really, the government, I don’t think, is one of our friends although they act like it. But I’m just wondering are we doing – putting ourselves at the whims of another foreign country no matter what the power source is.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that call, Gary. And I believe Gary’s talking about the Sierra Juarez. That’s a Sempra Energy project though, right, Ed?

JOYCE: That is, indeed, a Sempra Energy project. They have other projects in Mexico as do other sources of our energy comes from countries all over the world, including oil. So, you know, Venezuela, the Middle East, our sources of energy come from a variety of places now and, you know, they are subject to anything that geopolitical risk, anything that can happen, a pipeline goes down in northern California, gas prices go up. You know, everything is interconnected. It is a global village.

GARY: Well, I understand that earlier I heard someone saying that we’re trying to minimize our exposure to foreign sources of power, and this just seems like we’re stepping right into another one. You know, if we can eliminate them as we go along, so much the better but that…

JOYCE: Well, there’s also the difference between fossil fuels, oil generated power versus wind power, which is not, you know, is not a fossil fuel based energy source, so there’s a difference there also.

CAVANAUGH: Gary, thank you for that call. Let’s take another call. Millie is calling us from Encinitas. Good morning, Millie, and welcome to These Days.

MILLIE (Caller, Encinitas): Good morning. I had a question. I understand that Iberdrola is not an American company but is rather a European company, I believe Italian. And I’d like to know where the engineering and manufacturer of the parts of the wind farm are going to be done, particularly the towers, the blades, the motors. Supposedly this is a job-producing venture as well as an energy producing venture. Can you tell me about the nuts and bolts?

CAVANAUGH: Certainly. Thank you for the call. Ed Clark.

CLARK: Oh, well, Millie, good question because I think we’re all interested in doing what we can to help the economy in the U.S. and here specifically, San Diego as well. You know, the Iberdrola is in Spain and they’ve invested about $2 billion in the U.S. now and that has done a lot to cause job creation and, you know, really economic stimulus and more property tax base for the various governmental entities, so I think that’s a plus. With respect to the turbines themselves, even if you take a – now, we buy a lot of General Electric turbines and a lot of those components and, of course, the parent is all U.S.-based. But if I take, for example, a Gamesa and those – that’s the supplier of those machines that are out there on the Campo reservation. You know, they’re about 65% U.S. content. Some of the parts and the nacelle are manufactured in Europe and overseas but the nacelles themselves are assembled in the U.S. Blades are manufactured, for the most part, in the U.S. Towers, that’s a mix, depending where the project’s going in, sometimes overseas, sometimes not. But the particular machines that we looked at with Gamesa was about a 65% U.S. content. So in going to Gary’s comment, too, I think on the imported energy, imported power, when you build a project out of the country, the property taxes are paid to a different jurisdiction, the construction jobs, the permanent jobs, all of those pluses really don’t occur there and that’s why I think this project is a plus for San Diego County, is people will pay for the electricity but they’re going to get the benefit of the jobs and the property taxes.

CAVANAUGH: We’re going to have to leave it there. We’re kind of out of time but it sounds like tonight’s hearing is going to be very, very interesting for all involved. I want to thank you all so much. Ed Joyce, Ed Clark and Jerry Yops on the phone, thanks so much for talking with us today.

YOPS: Thank you.

JOYCE: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: The California Public Utilities Commission hearings are tonight at the Jacumba Highland Center in Jacumba and tomorrow night at the Boulevard Volunteer Fire Department in Boulevard. Both hearings start at 7:00 p.m. There are a lot of people who wanted to get in on the conversation but we couldn’t take all the calls. Please post your comments online, KPBS.org/thesedays. Stay with us for hour two of These Days coming up in just a few minutes right here on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'HollenEstelrim'

HollenEstelrim | January 27, 2010 at 11:11 a.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

As covered in today's discussion, the best argument in favor of wind appears to be economic -- it is relatively inexpensive and offers fairly rapid cost-recovery compared to other alternative energy sources. For some, this is sufficient reason to pursue wind as an option; in fact, this seems to be adequate for a large number of proponents. I myself an more interested in externalities. In the complex world in which we live, externalities determine the real, long-term viability of any solution. Saying wind turbines are a cost-effictive in terms of a simple ROI calculation is not the same as asserting they are a wise or responsible choice.

What are some of those externalities? Some positive impacts include: reducing dependence on foreign oil (though by most projections only by a few percent); lower carbon emissions and other forms of pollution; and an increase in U.S. jobs. Some negative impacts include: lower property values; harm to birds, bats and other wildlife; dedicated use of public lands (i.e. that restricts other uses); and possible human health impacts. There are probably many other facets to consider, but these represent the diversity of impacts.

How these externalities are evaluated when making a decision about wind power depends on our individual and collective values. Are jobs more important than wildlife? To some yes, to others no. Is human health more important than material profit? To some yes, to others no. Is wild landscape more aesthetically appealing than a wind farm? To some yes, to others no. And so on. I think the reason it is so difficult to make an easy, inclusive decision about such things is that people have fundamentally different values. So what can we do about this situation?

I think a fundamental shift is required in how we discuss these issues. Presenting the same polarized debate only perpetuates the rift between extremes. As part of an ongoing effort to resolve such differences and find better solutions, journalists could rise above the squabbling and dig below the surface a bit more. They could challenge unspoken assumptions and superficial sound byte responses, and help present a larger, clearer view of things. They could focus on edifying, healing and uniting voices rather than competing or dividing ones. They could help build a new vision for the future instead of regurgitating the age-old arguments. I hope that KPBS can entertain doing this in the future, as I have always thought of public radio as an ideal forum for exploring topics with more depth than traditional news orgs.

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Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | January 28, 2010 at 8:51 a.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

I've worked with wind turbines, specifically testing and modeling their system characteristics, with NREL in Colorado for a few years. While I do like the idea of using wind turbines/farms for energy I think the the community really has to cover concerns that are not presented in most wind turbine discussions, and not to let their emotions drive their decisions. As such, I believe one's need should not overwhelm the need to maintain a good environment.

I also think we can do more as one caller commented with other renewable resources such as solar. However, as KPBS recently reported, cost is through the roof now making it almost impossible to consider. Compare with other cities, our cost is one of the highest. If we are serious about implementing renewable energy more steps are needed to make it affordable for the consumer.

I am against private sectors spear heading this for the following reasons,

1. most benefits don't go to residents/consumers
2. favoritism for particular sources while others and/or mix could work
3. amount of jobs created is misleading
4. impact to environment

Private sectors implementing these farms have more to gain than residents would. It is unfortunate that many communities cannot see the long term benefits and disadvantages of such projects. This is in some form an exploit, obviously, due to the requirement or more properly termed "greed" of communities.

Job is another commonly used subject to support the need for farms. One of the caller is correct to say that we should invest in public companies for renewable. This will create and sustain more jobs than a wind farm could ever hope to produce in their lifetime. After the farm is created there is very little need to have the manpower to maintain them. Compare this to driving the public need for renewable and you will always have construction, manufacturing, development of the energy source, etc. Creating a demand/supply system in public is more effective in every aspect of any renewable technology. Privatizing implemention is for the most part only self serving.

It is unfair, in my opinion, but mostly sad that most communities do not realize some of these facts and always let their direct need fog their vision. Wind turbines is just one resource we can use. Here in San Diego with our beautiful year round sunny conditions solar implementation should be a good source of renewable energy. Private, public, state and federal just needs to get their act together and do what is best for the communities. Sadly this is not happening soon enough and many communities aren't aware enough to make a sound decision.

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