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Fairmont Town Council Presentation 2-16-12

Grassroots Citizens groups, biologists from both private and government  organizations and environmental scientists all over the world are  raising their voices to warn about the damage that industrial scale so  called green energy development, when sited in the wrong place, is doing to the very environment it claims to be saving.

This is a true tragedy, especially when some of these same technologies,  when properly used, are definitely the key to reducing carbon emissions. Fortunately, these same citizen groups, scientists and organizations  are also pointing the way to alternatives that are truly green; put  money back in the hands of consumers through energy cost savings; and  support small local businesses and their permanent local employees.

The message from these thousands of groups is very persuasive when you  consider that in most cases, these are the same people who were the  first to recognize the seriousness of the threat of climate change and  the most invested in finding green solutions.

There are literally 100s of citizen led community groups throughout the county fighting big wind developments:

Grassroot Organizations nearby include:

 The Friends of Sand Canyon

 The Friends of Mojave

 Tehachapi Communities for Responsible Energy Development

 Desert Protective Council

 Save Our Desert (Fighting Element Power near Yucca Valley)

 Friends of Piute Mountain Communities (Caliente California)

 Basin and Range Watch

 Desert Bio Diversity

You can link to these groups and see what they have to say by going to  AVOPENSPACE.ORG and clicking on the link to Town Council Presentation  2-16-12.

We have provided links there too to all of the other organizations, documents and videos that I am going to mention today..

Environmental Organization raising the alarm about poorly placed alternative energy projects include:

 Save the Eagles International

Our bird life has become defenseless in front of windfarms, which kill  about 8 million birds a year while their power lines may be killing  twice as much.

These victims are not comparable to those killed by cats and windows, for  windfarms are often built in remote places, in wilderness areas. This is where they do most damage to biodiversity, killing eagles, cranes,  storks and other birds of protected or endangered species.

Another group is

 American Bird Conservancy

In the absence of clear, legally enforceable regulations, the massive  expansion of wind power in the United States will likely result in the  deaths of more than one million birds each year by 2020.

And even mainstream Environmental Groups which initially embraced all forms of alternative energy and done a major course reversal.

Recently the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Biological Diversity

sued to overturn Kern County's approval of NextEra's North Sky Project  north of Mojave siting risks to Condors, golden eagles, and other rare  raptors. You can read about their objections fully in the article:

 Wind-energy project proposed in California threatens thousands of birds

This project is directly north of the now infamous Pine Tree Project under  Federal investigation for killing at least 6 federally protected golden  eagles. Concerning the Pine Tree Project, the US Fish and Wildlife  service stated that the project "resulted in an estimated 1,595  fatalities per year which per megawatt is among the highest fatality  rates being recorded in the nation."

Further comment  concerning Pine Tree and Golden Eagles deaths comes from the Audubon  Society, " We believe that this problem must be dealt with immediately  because Pine Tree is only one of several industrial energy developments  proposed for that area over the next five to 10 years. Combined they  have the potential to wipe this large long-lived species out of the  sky."

 Federal officials investigate eagle deaths at DWP wind farm LA Time August 2011

Particularly of concern in California is threats to condors which are making an  amazing comeback and reappearing in their historic hunting grounds.  Threats to condors from big wind comes are detailed in this article from Forbes magazine:

"Revival of Iconic California Condor threatens State's Wind Farm Boom"

which relates that if poor placement of wind energy continues, "biologists  fear it's only a matter of time before the condor begins hitting the 500 foot high machines. A single death could be catastrophic for the wind  industry..."

Is the Western Antelope Valley one of these biologically rich areas, where condors are making a return and other birds threatened by wind turbines thrive?

Absolutely

The area of the Western Antelope Valley proposed for wind projects supports a rich biological diversity that thrives due to the close proximity of  the San Andreas Fault wetlands and the Angeles Forest on the south and  open foraging habitat, including the Antelope Valley California Poppy  Reserve, on the north.

This area is also an important migratory  route for a variety of endangered birds. It provides nesting and hunting habitat for species both iconic and threatened, including Bald and  Golden Eagles, Prairie Falcons, Mountain Bluebirds, Tricolored  Blackbirds and the California Condor. Nearby Lake Elizabeth provides a  winter home for Bald Eagles, including “Merlina”, recently named by  local residents.

The importance of the Western Antelope Valley as a vital wildlife habitat is documented in numerous ways including:

1 . Biological analysis by proposed wind farm (NextEra's Blue Sky Project - Biological Constraints Analysis)

2. Los Angeles County's own SEA (Significant Ecological Area) program

3. Poppy Reserve status as a State Natural Reserve.

4. Worldwide bird surveys conducted through the Audubon Important Bird Area Program ( IBA)

5. Latest CA Fish and Game condor tracking map (included in Forbes Magazine article about condors and wind farms)

Quoting one of these sources, the biological analysis from the wind company, NextEra:

"This part of Los Angeles County is particularly interesting and unique  because of its close proximity to three distinct eco-regions: the San  Gabriel Mountains, the Tehachapi Foothills, and the western portion of  the Mojave Desert. The area was identified as important by the County,  and the SEA created because of the unique nature of the area and because the convergence of these three regions supports a biodiversity not  found in other portions of the County."

Quoting the Audubon Society concerning the Antelope Valley IBA or Important Bird Area:

The grassland bird community is most impressive in winter, when large  numbers of raptors concentrate in the area. Large flocks of Vesper  Sparrows, Horned Lark and Mountain Bluebirds also occur here, widely  decimated elsewhere in the Los Angeles area.

Winter brings Mountain Plover, whose flocks are among the last in southern  California. After wet winters, nesting grassland species like Northern  Harrier linger well into spring, and occasionally even breed. Swainson's Hawk maintains its southernmost breeding outpost in the state here. As  this IBA lies in the path of a major spring migrant route for songbirds, windbreaks can host hundreds of vireos, thrushes and warblers during  April and May.

And what do we get in real energy gains if we sacrifice these birds? Wind companies consistently misrepresent the amount of energy that  their facilities will produce. For example Element Power's local  project is portrayed as a100 megawatt solar and a 150 megawatt wind  facility. Concerning the 150 megawatt wind statistic that number is the  maximum rated capacity, in other words the maximum output when the wind  is blowing neither too little nor too much. Wind companies actually  expect to produce an average of 33% of that rated capacity, making a  so-called 150 megawatt facility really only a 50 megawatt facility. Why  not then call it a 50 megawatt facility?

And even that 33% expected average output is suspect. Scottish researchers for the John Muir Trust (jmt.org) concluded after a two-year study that actual output is closer to 24%. Quoting the report :

“It was a surprise to find out just how disappointingly wind turbines  perform in a supposedly wind-ridden country like Scotland. Based on the  data, for one third of the time wind output is less than 10% of  capacity, compared to the 30% that is commonly claimed.” Further, John  Muir Trust head of policy Helen McDade said: “This report is a real  eye-opener for anyone who has been wondering just how much power  Scotland is getting from the fleet of wind turbines that have taken over many of our most beautiful mountains and hillsides. The answer appears  to be not enough, and much less than is routinely claimed.”

More detailed analysis of this issue as well as many others can be found in the Congressional Testimony of Dr. Robert J. Michaels. Dr. Michaels, a Professor of Economics at  California State University, Fullerton testified before the natural  resources committee of the US Congress last September.

In his opening remarks he states:

"Numerous individuals and agencies have alleged that the increased investment in  “renewable” sources of power is a worthwhile national objective on two  grounds:2 [1] it will provide environmental and climate benefits that  outweigh their higher costs, and [2] these investments will favorably  impact employment, particularly in a time of recession. If these  statements were even approximately true, they could justify support and  subsidization of renewable power. Unfortunately, they are not. "

What is like to live with giant industrial wind turbines? Testimony and videos from Americans who have experienced that first  hand is all over the Internet. We have linked several on avopenspace.  They include

 What Wind Turbines Sound Like

Wecome to Mars Hill: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

These videos and many others describe both the destruction to the rural  lifestyle of individual families and the divisive consequences to their  communities. Also linked is an article quoting T. Boone Pickens. This energy developer, largely responsible for  the extensive wind farms on the Texas Panhandle, refuses to put wind  turbines on his 68,000 acre ranch. When asked about this, he stated "I'm not going to have the windmills on my ranch. They're ugly. The hub of  each turbine is up 280 feet, and then you have a 120-foot radius on the  blade. It's the size of a 40-story building."

How do Texans who are living with some of Picken's wind turbines feel? View the video from the North Texas Wind Resistance Alliance, also linked on the website.

You can also find out what other communities are going through by viewing  the documentary "Windfall" which will be shown at the BeeKay Theater in  Tehachapi on Feb 25 and 26 and 4 PM along with the documentary "They're  Not Green."

And what about Big Solar. We are all learning first hand some hard lessons about that.  Fortunately many of you are closely watching the development of our own  local giant solar plant and asking the questions that we had no idea  about when this first giant alternative energy project which has now  evidently changed hands 3 times appeared

Discussion about problems with big solar outside of our valley can be found in many places. A recent LA Times article: Problems cast shadows of doubt on solar project

discusses problems created by a large solar project called Genesis near Blythe  where according to a the Center for Biological Diversity, "The issues  facing Genesis underline the notion that if you do something quick and  dirty, you are going to wind up with big mistakes and unintended  consequences."

 "The Great Green Rush" recently shown on the SoCal Connected TV show  also discusses what happens when big solar projects are poorly planned  and rushed into construction.

 I have provided a link to that program and here is a transcript.

And of course both Big Solar and Big Wind result in the construction of  giant transmission lines which we of course are all living with already.

So What should we do instead?

Examples are readily available. All you have to do is drive around Lancaster -  look at the parking lots at schools and the small ground level solar  project across the freeway from Costco - to see the right way to deal  with climate change. Solar panels should be top of every big box store  and warehouse in LA County. Some, companies like Kohls are already doing this.

These alternatives to big wind and big solar are fully explained by the organization Solar Done Right. If you visit no other websites that I have mentioned today, please  look for this one: Solar Done Right. This is from their website:

Habitat destruction threatens the diversity of life on our planet. Renewable  energy strategies that damage habitat only make the problem worse.  Distributed generation such as rooftop solar is the faster, cheaper,  cleaner and more effective way of meeting our energy needs in the next  century.

And from the program "The Great Green Rush" concerning the BrightSource  Project in the Ivanpah Valley mentioned earlier - is this exchange  between reporter Judy Muller and wildlife biologist Michael Conner who  stated that the solution was to

Just get solar panels on everybody's roof.

Muller replied: Well, realistically, that's not going to happen. You think?

Connor: Okay, realistically, projects like BrightSource couldn't happen. The  thing that made it happen was the fact that the government chipped in  $1.6 billion in, you know, federal backing for this project. Put $1.6  billion into putting photovoltaic panels on people's roofs in Los  Angeles. I'd be happy to take one.

 

Thank you for listening - I know that if you look at all of the links I have  suggested and that are provided on avopenspace that its alot to do. But  this is all extremely important. It is important both to our valley and  to the planet.

Of all of those links the website Solar Done Right and the videos about the community of Mars Hill in Maine are probably the most valuable.

You can get these links by going to avopenspace.org and clicking on the link:

Town Council Presentation 2-16-12

 

[TC Presen.]