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SOLAR ROADWAYS MOVE CLOSER TO FEASIBILITY

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – In 2012, we reported on a potentially promising new technology to build roadways out of glass capable of producing solar power.

BUTTERFLIES AND BIRDS FALLING PREY TO SOLAR POWER TOWER AT IVANPAH

 

 

 

 

 

Photo (left): Ivanpah Solar testing; photo by  Tom Budlong

Photo (center): warbler with over 50% of its feathers burned was found alive, but died of its injuries

Monarch butterfly (photo, right) numbers are down 90% in the most recent Pacific migration

By Miriam Raftery

April 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Last month we reported that themonarch butterflies’ annual migration to Mexico is down 90%.  Various theories have been proposed.  But now a newly released study by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reveals  that “hundreds  upon hundreds of butterflies” including monarchs, along with dragonflies, were found dead at the Ivanpah solar site.

NATURE SUSTAINABLE LIVING LECTURE SERIES

 

April 14, 2014 (Mt. Helix) -- On Saturday, May 17, from 10:30 am to 11:30 am, part two of Mt. Helix Park’s Nature/Sustainable Living lecture series will be held in the ampitheater atop Mt. Helix.This free, one-hour lecture on landscaping with California native plants will feature guest  speaker, Greg Rubin, President of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc. and co-author of "The  California Native Landscape: The Homeowner's Guide to Restoring Its Beauty and Balance.”

EARTHTALK(R): EARTH DAY 2014

 

E - The Environmental Magazine

April 5, 2014 (San Diego)--Dear EarthTalk: What’s going on with Earth Day this year and how can I get involved? -- Christine B., Boston, MA

This coming April 22 will mark the 44th annual celebration of Earth Day, and the focus this year will be green cities. “As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever,” reports Earth Day Network, the Seattle-based non-profit that helps coordinate Earth Day celebrations and serves as a clearinghouse for related information and resources. The group hopes to galvanize the support of more than a billion people across 192 countries this Earth Day for increasing the sustainability and reducing the carbon footprints of urban areas everywhere.

COURT GRANTS PARTIAL VICTORY TO OPPONENTS OF SEMPRA'S CROSS-BORDER TRANSMISSION LINE PROJECT

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)  -- U.S. District Court Judge M. James Lorenz has issued a ruling in a case challenging the U.S. Department of Energy’s approval of a Presidential Permit issued for Sempra Energy's cross-border transmission line. The line would connect Sempra’s Energia Sierra Juarez Wind project in northern Baja, Mexico with SDG&E’s $435 million ECO substation now under construction.

TWO SCIENTIFIC/MEDICAL PUBLICATIONS DOCUMENT NEGATIVE HEALTH IMPACTS OF WIND TURBINES

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—Evidence of negative health impacts on people living near wind turbines is mounting. An article in Principia Scientific International concludes, “There are serious adverse health effects associated with noise pollution generated by wind turbines. It is essential that separation distances between human habitation and wind turbines are increased.” The author notes that some countries are now recommending at least 3 kilometers and suggests even this distance many not be far enough, due to newer, larger turbines.

A BETTER OPTION TO INDUSTRIAL ENERGY PROJECTS IN OUR REGION IS PROPOSED

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2014 (San Diego) –“The San Diego County Planning Commissioners and Board of Supervisors have an obligation to look out for the greater good of the people of San Diego,” Timothy D. Schoechle, PhD, an international consultant on smart grid expert technology, engineering expert, and author of the report Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid wrote in his comments to the County’s planning director opposing Soitec’s plan to industrialize rural East County with massive solar modules that other experts have said could destroy the entire ecosystem of the region.

Instead, Dr. Schoechle lays out a detailed case for a saner, safer alternative—and why current government policies are polar opposites of what’s needed to protect the public against rapacious energy corporations.

EARTH TALK(R): GREEN APPS FOR YOUR PHONE

 

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are some cool apps that work with a mobile phone that can help me get in better touch with the environment?                                                           -- Mitchell Brown, Troy, MI

Not surprisingly, there are thousands of “green” apps out there that make it easier for people to find and share information to help us all become better stewards of the natural environment.

INVENERGY ACQUIRES SOITEC'S PLANNED MASSIVE SOLAR PROJECT IN BORREGO SPRINGS

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 4, 2014 (Borrego Springs) – Invenergy Solar Development has acquired Soitec Solar’s Desert Green Solar Farm, a 7 MW solar project slated to break ground this month in Borrego Springs. The project will include over 2,800 soitec concentrator photovoltaic modules using dual-axis tracking technology.  Commercial operation is expected to begin by the end of this year.  San Diego Gas & Electric has signed a long-term purchase agreement for power from the project, which will hook up to the existing Borrego Springs substation.

COURT RULES AGAINST EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS ON TULE WIND CASE

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) – U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino has issued a ruling denying summary judgment sought by the Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps and Boulevard resident Donna Tisdale. The plaintiffs had sought to block construction of Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in McCain Valley, a ruggedly beautiful federal recreation preserve in San Diego's East County.  The court also granted Tule Wind and the federal government’s cross motions for summary judgment.

“Our attorney is recommending an appeal of what I describe as Judge Sammartino’s basic rubber stamping of the Bureau of Land Management’s biased and weak support for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project,” Tisdale told ECM.  She added that she, too, is recommending an appeal, though that decision will be up to the boards of directors of the two nonprofits.

U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE WARNS OF NEGATIVE IMPACTS ON WILDLIFE FROM SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Soitec’s four proposed solar projects on 1,490 acres in the Boulevard area of East County could negatively impact migratory birds, eagles, endangered butterflies and wildlife corridors,  Karen Goebel, assistant field supervisor with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife concludes in a comment letter sent to the County regarding the projects’ draft Enviornmental Impact Report (DEIR) on March 11, 2014. The letter also indicates studies have been inadequate and cumulative impacts of projects across a broader area need to be evaluated.

HUESO ASKS FAA TO GRANT RELIEF TO OCOTILLO RESIDENTS FROM WIND TURBINE LIGHTS, APPROVE RADAR-ACTIVATED LIGHTING

 

 

 

 

FAA may approve radar lighting systems, but won’t require Pattern to install

By Miriam Raftery

March 30, 2014 (Ocotillo) – State Senator Ben Hueso has taken heed of his constituents’ complaints about flashing red lights on wind turbines shining into people’s homes at night.  In a February 10, 2014 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Hueso wrote that flashing red lights on over 100 turbines, each taller than a 40 story building, are harmful to the health of Ocotillo residents.

“As most of them live within two miles of these turbines, the steady light transmitted from these structures is causing them to suffer from migraines, vertigo and loss of sleep,”  Hueso wrote. He added that his staff has looked into the issue and found studies indicated that “residents living in such c lose proximity to turbines often suffer from illnesses including chronic sleep deprivation, hypertension and heart attack. Ocotillo is made up largely of senior citizens, a group which has been found to be exceptionally sensitive to the effects of the turbines.”

HUGE WIN FOR SOLAR HOMES

 

A surge in solar growth is expected after today's announcement

March 27, 2014 (San Diego)-- The California Public Utilities Commission made a final decision today that has solar homeowners celebrating. The Commission unanimously voted to protect California’s solar customers’ net energy metering contracts for 20 years. Net energy metering allows the meter to spin backwards, giving customers full credit for electricity produced by solar panels that is not used in the building. The highly anticipated decision is a part of Assembly Bill 327 (AB327).

IBERDROLA VIOLATING FIRE CODES, LIED TO OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, SAYS NH FIRE MARSHALL

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) –Last week, we reported  on the latest in a string of fires at Iberdrola wind facilities, last time at a Pennsylvania site. Some involved turbines made by Gamesa, in which Iberdrola owns a controlling interest.  Fires have occurred with other Gamesa turbines at additional sites.

Meanwhile in  New Hampshire, ECM has learned that State Fire Marshal Rob Anstey has accused Iberdrola of violating fire safety codes and lying to an oversight committee about the Fire Marshal’s requirements at its Groton Wind facility. The Fire Marshall has announced that he may issue a stop work order to shut down the facility.

That should spark concern here in San Diego, where Supervisors and the federal government recently approved Tule Wind, an Iberdrola wind project slated to go into a region prone to cstastrophic wildfires including the 2007 Harris Fire, which was fueled by 100 mph hurricane-force winds. Campgrounds are located in McCain Valley, where Iberdrola aims to line the only road in and out with wind turbines, each filled with hundreds of gallons of flammable lubricating oil.  Former Cal Fire Batallion Chief Mark Ostrander has warned that firefighters can't fight fires under a flaming turbine whirling off debris, and aerial drops won't work at heights above 300 feet. The turbines are 500 feet, so firefighters would have to wait for the fire to burn outside of the wind facility, which could result in a firestorm that could burn into urban San Diego areas, he has warned.

TREASURY INSPECTION FINDS HALF OF BIG WIND AND SOLAR COMPANIES EXAMINED ARE ILLEGALLY DOUBLE-DIPPING TAXPAYER FUNDS

 

By Miriam Raftery

More troubling issues are coming to light regarding renewable energy developers and their projects. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration inspected records for 16 big renewable energy companies--and found that half had been double dipping. 

The IRS says that many more wind and solar development owners may be taking money they are not entitled to, Rewire Magazine reports.   Projects subsidized by the federal stimulus program are not eligible to also pocket wind power tax credits.  The IRS says it doesn’t have way to check – but believes that over half the stimulus grant recipients should have audits to take a closer look.

WIND TURBINE AT IBERDROLA WIND FARM CATCHES FIRE

 

Will Iberdrola use fire-prone Gamesa turbines in East County?

By Miriam Raftery

March 20, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Iberdrola wants to build an industrial wind facility in McCain Valley. The company has claimed that the odds of one of its turbine catching fire are infinitesimal.  But on March 15, a wind turbine at Iberdrola’s Locust Ridge wind facility in Mahonay City, Pennsylvania caught fire, sending flames arcing out until ultimately the fire burned itself out, as shown on video. This is the latest in a long string of fires involving Gamesa turbines including some at Iberdrola facilities.

What would happen if this occurred in McCain Valley, amid fire-prone brush in a hard-to-access area where campgrounds are located at the end of a canyon with only one access road, set to be lined by wind turbines?  And why aren't Supervisors taking steps to protect public safety by barring fire-prone wind turbine products in our region?

COUNTY OFFERS VIDEOS ON WATER CONSERVATION GARDENING

 

March 20, 2014 (San Diego)--California is in the midst of a drought emergency, and there’s no relief in sight as our unseasonably warm winter continues. Gov. Jerry Brown is asking all residents to cut water use by 20 percent — something that may be easier than you think.

EXPERTS VOICE ALARM OVER SURVIVAL OF LOCAL BIGHORN SHEEP

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 17, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Could big energy projects proposed in East County lead to the decimation of federally endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep? 

From 1972 to the present, the Carrizo Gorge band of these bighorns has plummeted from about 120 sheep to less than 40.  “Off-road vehicles, trespassing cattle, poaching in the 1960s and ‘70s, drought, disease and Mountain Lion predation have worked together to push this population o the edge. We hope we can save this group before it is too late,” Mark Jorgensen, advisor to the Bighorn Institute and former Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park wrote in the Desert News.

In his comments submitted on  four solar projects proposed by Soitec in Boulevard, Jorgensen writes that “Construction of yet another group of solar projects will further impede the free movement of wildlife by reducing habitat connectivity and ruining wildlife corridors.”  He further notes that Soitec’s sites are very near lands purchased and set aside specifically to protect species  the endangered bighorn, golden eagles and other species in peril.

CALIFORNIANS CONSUME THE LEAST ELECTRICITY NATIONWIDE

 

 

March 17, 2014 (Arlington, VA)-- Californians consume the least electricity per-person of any state in the country, according to new 2014 state energy rankings from EnergyTrends.org.

BOARD ACTS TO EXPAND OPEN SPACE, OVERHAUL PARK IN JULIAN

 

March 17, 2014 (Julian)--The County is taking steps to buy more land at Volcan Mountain near Julian for open space. The Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to hold a hearing April 16 to consider buying 114 acres of land located north of Banner Road and east of Farmer Road. The area is next to the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve.

MCCOY & BLYTHE SOLAR PROJECTS APPROVED, DESPITE SACRED SITES WITH ANCIENT GEOGLYPHS

 

By Roy L Hales

Deadline for public comments on changes March 24

March 15, 2014 (Mojave Desert)--The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved “the construction, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning of an up to 750-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar energy generation facility and related infrastructure called the McCoy Solar Energy Project.This project follows on the heels of the California Energy Commission’s approval of a similar project by NextEra Blythe Solar Energy.

HELP IMPROVE OUR WATER QUALITY: SUBMIT YOUR WATER PROJECT IDEAS BY MARCH 28

 

Public Service Announcement: San Diego County

March 13, 2014 (San Diego)--The County of San Diego needs your help in identifying potential storm water quality improvement projects.  Recently adopted regulations require that the County identify and pursue a variety of on-the-ground projects to improve regional storm water quality.  The first step in this process is to assess and locate potential projects that could be implemented.  

Project types that may be considered include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following categories:

  • Stream or riparian area rehabilitation
  • Retrofitting existing infrastructure (Green Streets, Low Impact Development, Treatment);
  • Regional BMP’s (best management practices for stormwater treatment basins);
  • Groundwater recharge projects (infiltration basins);
  • Water supply augmentation projects (large cisterns); and
  • Land purchases to preserve floodplain functions.

Project suggestions will be accepted until March 28, 2014.  Scroll down for details.

WIND TURBINES MAY HARM LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE, STUDY SUGGESTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 6, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Are wind turbines safe for wildlife, livestock and humans living nearby?  A new study published in the Journal of Veterinary Sciences has found that geese living near wind turbines suffered loss of appetite, weight loss, and measurable physical changes.

COURT RULING AWAITED ON TULE WIND PROJECT

 

Judge announces tentative ruling – before hearing arguments

By Sharon Penny

March 6, 2014 (San Diego)--On March 3, U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino heard testimony from legal representatives for both sides in a lawsuit brought by the Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC – www.protectourcommunities.org) against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over controversial approvals for Iberdrola's controversial Tule Wind project planned in Boulevard’s McCain Valley Recreation and Conservation Area in East County.

The POC originally filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in August 2013. This week marked the first hearing under the U.S. District Court. According to Plaintiff Donna Tisdale, POC’s attorney Stephan C. Volker had prepared for a one hour argument and was surprised by the Judge’s announcement that she had a tentative ruling in hand. The judge read that ruling aloud, took a 15 minute break for attorneys to prepare a response.  Each side was then allowed a half hour to argue their points and one minute for rebuttal.

ALPINE CREEK STREAM RESTORATION: DEMONSTRATION PROJECT MARCH 8

 

March 5, 2014 (Alpine)--Join Back Country Land Trust & Endangered Habitats Conservancy (EHC) along Alpine Creek for the kick-off of a new volunteer workshop series in 2014.  This first hands-on restoration event will celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week as the organizations begin a community-based stream restoration project along this section of Alpine Boulevard by removing non-native & invasive plants from the stream bank along Alpine Creek.

SAN DIEGANS TO JOIN RALLY IN STATE CAPITOL AGAINST FRACKING

 

 

Area Environmentalists Chartering Buses for Trip North on March 15

March  2, 2014 (San Diego)--A large number of local environmental groups are joining forces for a big rally on March 15 in Sacramento to urge Governor Brown for a moratorium on fracking in California.  Activists expect this event to be the largest mobilization against fracking ever seen.

Over 150 statewide environmental organizations will be represented at the rally, called "Californians Against Fracking," which is scheduled to include a march around the Capitol area and a rally with speakers on the capitol steps.  With a new Public Policy Institute survey showing that 51 percent of Californians oppose the increased use of fracking in the state, organizers are expecting several thousand people to join the rally.   

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE GRANT APPLICATION

 

March 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- Cleveland National Forest officials will submit a cooperative grant application to the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division for 2013/2014 "Green Sticker" grants.  Beginning March 4, 2014, the application can be viewed by clicking on the "Grants" tab on the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation website at www.ohv.parks.ca.gov. Comments on the application must be received by April 7, 2014.

CUYAMACA COLLEGE HOSTS SUSTAINABLE TURF AND LANDSCAPE SEMINAR MARCH 6

 

March 1, 2014 (El Cajon)--A national expert in golf course environmental stewardship is a speaker for Cuyamaca College’s 6th Annual Sustainable Turf and Landscape Seminar set for Thursday, March 6.

SOITEC FAILS TO DISCLOSE TRUTH ABOUT SOLAR PROJECT IMPACTS; HIRES FORMER SD PLANNER WHO WORKED ON SOITEC PROJECTS

 

 

Why doesn’t San Diego County end revolving door situation?

Photo: Soitec's Newberry Springs project, which promised minimal enviornmental impacts, graded all vegetation on the site.

By Miriam Raftery

Updated March 5, 2014 with clarifications from Soitec

March 1, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—Developers frequently put “spin” on project descriptions to emphasize benefits rather than negative impacts.  But certain statements by Soitec representatives regarding its proposed solar projects in Boulevard and a recent project in the desert fall into the “Pinnochio” category. In fact Soitec representatives misrepresented glare issues and the amount of land that is disturbed by their projects.

During a Soitec community meeting at the Manzanita Diner last month, ECM’s editor asked Soitec media and communications advisor Karen Hutchens specifically about a moratorium on solar projects approved by San Bernadino County Supervisors amid concerns about glare in Newberry Springs, where Soitec built a project very similar to its proposed Boulevard sites.  Hutchens responded, “That had nothing to do with our project. The moratorium was passed before our project was even built.”

But Robert Berkman, head of a citizens group in Newberry Springs called CEQA-NOW, told ECM that statement was a bald-faced lie.  “The moratorium came out because of the Soitec project—after it was built,” he said, adding that citizens invited Supervisors to visit the site.  Supervisors said, “’`Good grief, what has happened here? ‘ “ Berkman stated. “The moratorium occurred because we were able to bring them out and say `This is an example of solar done wrong.’” 

Soitec's Hutchens concedes that she erred in her statement on the timing of the moratorium, and agrees it was imposed after Soitec's project was built, but says Soitec's project was not the reason for the moratorium. ECM is seeking clarification from San Bernardino County's Land Services Department.

That's not the only disputed statement by Soitec.

TWO LAWSUITS OVER LOCAL WIND ENERGY ISSUES HEAD TO COURT

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

February 28, 2014 (San Diego) – Opponents of  the Tule Wind project in McCain Valley will have their day in court on Monday, March 3 in San Diego’s U.S. District Court.  Then on April 25, a separate suit against the County over its wind energy ordinance and general plan amendment will also be heard.

The suits were filed by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Donna Tisdale. Tisdale informed ECM that it's important to have many East County residents attend these trials.

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