By Nadin Abbott
(May 16, 2013 (Ocotillo) – “It’s scary, all the dangerous things that could happen. I don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Michaela Woolley, 13. She spoke at a press conference at the Ocotillo Community Center today, after a wind turbine at the Ocotillo Wind Express Facility dropped a blade the length of a jumbo jet plane.
Fortunately nobody was hurt by this accident, though Miachela’s younger brother, Albert added, “It’s scary, the blade of the wind turbine could have landed in a house.” The boy said he also said gets constant headaches that make it hard to do his homework since the turbines were installed.
OCOTILLO WIND TURBINE THROWS OFF MULTI-TON BLADE, PROMPTING WORLD-WIDE SHUT DOWN OF SIMILAR TURBINES AMID GROWING SAFETY CONCERNS
History of turbine/blade manufacturer Siemens is riddled with bribery, corruption, and other scandals
An East County Magazine special investigative report
By Miriam Raftery
Sierra Robinson, Sholeh Sisson and Jim Pelley also contributed to this report
May 16, 2013 (Ocotillo)—One day after San Diego Supervisors ignored residents’ safety concerns and approved a wind ordinance that would open much of East County to industrial wind turbines, a wind turbine at the Ocotillo Express Wind Energy facility hurled off an 11-ton blade. The blade, manufactured by Siemens, landed on a trail used by off-road vehicles. The accident has shut down the wind facility pending investigation into the cause.
An investigation by East County Magazine reveals a dark history of serious safety hazards involving Siemens’ wind products as well as a corporate past that includes guilty pleas to corruption on a global scale, including accusations of bribery and other serious charges in at least 20 nations.
Siemens contracted with Pattern Energy, a company with its own checkered corporate past, as ECM has previously reported, to build the controversial project on public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Ocotillo and paid for with taxpayer subsidies. Pattern's corporate predecessor also built the Kumeyaay Wind project in Campo, which blew apart in 2010, whirling blade parts over the area. All 75 blades on all 25 turbines had to be replaced; the project was off-line for months.
By Sierra Robinson and Miriam Raftery
May 16, 2013 (San Diego) – “This is the worse crime that’s ever been committed against the East County wilderness. Period,” Craig Maxwell, former La Mesa mayoral candidate and outdoor enthusiast told ECM after San Diego Supervisors voted 4-1 yestesday to approve a wind ordinance that industrial-scale wind turbine projects in rural and scenic backcountry regions.
Only Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents East County, made an impassioned plea to protect the health and safety of rural residents, who have repeatedly voiced concerns over risks from infrasound, stray voltage, noise , fire danger, turbine collapse and blades thrown off.
Emphasizing their point, less than 24 hours after the vote, a turbine in nearby Ocotillo threw off an 11-ton blade. (photo)
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE JULIAN WILD & SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL MAY 17-19: ORGANIZERS SHARE INSIGHTS, PREVIEWS
April 29, 2013 (Julian)--Following last year’s success, Julian’s 2nd Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival, benefiting Volcan Mountain Foundation, returns May 17 – 19, 2013. This year's festival features an expanded program of 44 new films, almost 12 hours of unrepeated screening time broken into 9 sessions from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
The weekend is packed full of entertainment to delight audiences of all ages, as well as other activities ranging from wine-tasting to a hike up Volcan Mountain to a party with dancing and live music for festival attendees.
By Sierra Robinson
May 16, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A new generation of bladeless wind turbines now in testing offers promise for designs that could reduce risk to birds, reduce noise, require smaller footprints and lower heights, thus less view disturbance.
For example, the slogan on the SheerWind website is “Changing the Course of Power Generation” and with the company’s new wind turbine design, it just might. Sheerwind began creation of a new energy technology three years ago, when founded by Dr. Daryoush Allaei. Since then, SheerWind has created a bladeless, funnel-shaped wind turbine that it claims is a ‘revolution.’
Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego confirms findings May 9; world’s top scientists call for action
By Miriam Raftery
May 10, 2013 (San Diego) -- Measurements around the world confirm that the rise in carbon dioxide levels have surpassed 400 parts per million –the highest in our planet’s history.
Before the industrial revolution in the 1900s, when coal and oil began to be burned on a large scale, C02 levels were never higher than 280 ppm.
But in recent years, the levels have risen 100 times faster than after the last ice age—providing clear evidence that the rise is far beyond any cyclical changes ever seen before. In fact, leading scientists around the world warn, climate change may soon be irreversible unless drastic changes are made to reduce this level to 350 ppm or lower.
“The Boulevard Marathon is like the Boston Marathon...[Residents opposed to the wind ordinance] are “like people with a pressure cooker and ball bearings with a bomb, trying to stop the projects…This is economic terrorism.” – John Gibson, Hamann Companies
“You should choose to save our communities, not destroy them—and I was not paid to come and talk today.” – Wendy Shannon, Boulevard resident and neighbor of Hamann’s proposed project
By Sierra Robinson; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
May 10, 2013 (San Diego)—After more than three hours of heated testimony on Tuesday, San Diego Supervisors opted to delay a decision on a controversial wind ordinance and changes to plans for two backcountry communities until May 15. The postponement came after a lawyer representing rural residents sent a last-minute letter claiming that approval of the project would be illegal.
County to offer discounted zero-emission lawn mowers at 14th Annual Trade-In Event
May 9, 2013 (Mission Valley) – County residents can roll their old, gas powered lawn mowers down to Qualcomm Stadium this Saturday and come away with new, zero-emission models. The price? Just $99.99 for a Black & Decker mower that typically retails for about $400, plus tax.
Available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the 14th Annual “Mowing Down Pollution” Lawn Mower Trade-In Event will be 650 new mowers, County Supervisor Ron Roberts said at a news conference on Tuesday.
By Miriam Raftery
“How do you beat the national average with below average wind speeds?” Attorney Bill Pate posed that intriguing question at a forum hosted in San Diego recently by Activist San Diego.
Good question. Pattern Energy told the California Public Utilities Commission that it would reach 34% capacity at Ocotillo Express Wind Facility, a site rated just a class 2, the second lowest federal rating for wind speeds. The first three months of data for the Ocotillo project show only about a 19% capacity reached. In the entire U.S., there is only a 22 to 23% net capacity on average.
So how did the project get approved?
EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS ASK COUNTY’S TOP HEALTH OFFICIAL TO REVISE REPORT, RECOGNIZE SERIOUS HEALTH IMPACTS FROM WIND TURBINES
By Nadin Abbott and Sierra Robinson; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
“This is an epidemic and we need help.” – Rowena Elliott, Manzanita tribal member
(photos left, David and Rowena Elliott)
May 6, 2013 (San Diego) –At a press conference outside the county administration building today, backcountry residents living near wind turbines told the media of serious health conditions they are suffering. With Wednesday’s vote on a county wind ordinance looming, residents called on the county’s top health official, Wilma Wooten, to revise her report and recognize health concerns linked to wind turbines.
According to Donna Tisdale, President of the Boulevard Planning Group and founder of two community nonprofits, the vote is critical. Supervisors will “either sell us out, remove our human and property rights, or the Board (of Supervisors) will vote to protect the community.”
If that doesn't happen, residents are prepared to file suit, they said.
VALLEY FEVER EPIDEMIC LINKED TO DESERT SOLAR CONSTRUCTION; HEIGHTENS CONCERNS OVER RISKS FROM LARGE-SCALE WIND AND SOLAR PROJECTS
By Miriam Raftery
“The threat of acquiring the respiratory illness extends to residents living near expansive construction sites. That risk is rising given the scope of the renewable energy boom centered in the state.” – Los Angeles Times
May 6, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Valley Fever has sickened 28 workers at two large-scale solar facilities under construction in San Luis Obispo County, the Los Angeles Times reported on April 30. The disease is contracted by breathing in fungal spores released when desert soils are disturbed.
The finding is the latest in a series of disturbing reports on epidemic Valley Fever conditions in California and across the Southwest. With numerous large-scale solar projects and wind projects proposed for East County that would scrape bare thousands of acres of high desert terrain, public health concerns over the prospect of exposing residents to Valley Fever are growing. Since wind-blown spores can carry 75 miles or more, residents across San Diego County could be at risk of the potentially deadly disease.
FIRE THAT DESTROYED $4 MILLION WIND TURBINE RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS OVER LACK OF REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Wind company fails to call fire department, lets blaze burn overnight
By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Tehachapi fire, 2012
April 27, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)—Why is there no federal requirement for wind farm operators to report fires?
That troubling fact came to light following a turbine malfunction that caused a fire, destroying a $4 million wind turbine at the Kibby Mountain facility in Maine. Opponents accuse Trans-Canada of a cover up, the Bangor Daily News reports. (Trans-Canada, builder of the project, is also the company seeking to construct the controversial Keystone Pipeline.)
A sensor in the turbine detected the fire. But an employee did not arrive on scene until the next morning, after the fire had burned itself out. The fire department was never notified, nor was any state agency. Had the blaze not occurred in winter with snow on the ground, the fire could have spread to the adjacent forest, a Maine forestry official has stated.
ECM has asked Cal-Fire in an e-mail whether wind facility operators are required to report fires to fire officials. No response has been received.
EDITORIAL: AN ILL WIND BLOWING-- TELL COUNTY SUPERVISORS TO JUST SAY “NO” TO INDUSTRIAL WIND AT WEDNESDAY’S WIND ORDINANCE VOTE
By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine
May 3, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) Updated May 7, 2013 – On Wednesday, May 8, San Diego County Supervisors will vote on legislation that could have devastating impacts across East County and the entire San Diego region.
At stake is a proposed wind ordinance that could open wide vast tracts of East County for industrial wind development, putting residents across our County at risk of a catastrophic wildfire or deadly Valley Fever spores that can blow 70 miles or more. There are many more reasons to oppose this ordinance, as well as the proposed gutting of Boulevard’s community plan, but these are two of the most compelling. These and other disturbing facts are detailed below.
If you share these concerns, it's important to contact all five Supervisors. It's especially important for San Diego residents to tell their Supervisors that you care about what happens to East County, since some have shown an arrogant disregard for public health and safety outside of their own districts. Of course, a wildfire that burns into San Diego or deadly Valley Fever spores that blow into urban areas should clearly be of concern to all County residents and their representatives. You can contact Supervisors here and scroll down to learn more. It's also important to show up and speak out at Wednesday morning's meeting at 9 a.m. at 1600 Pacific Coast Highway, Room 402.
Program also benefits East County students learning solar installation
By Nadin Abbott
May 2, 2013 (San Diego)—Mayor Bob Filner, Sullivan Solar owner Daniel Sullivan and Paul Cleary of GRID Alternatives hosted a press conference today at the Martin household in Broadway Heights. It’s all part of a new partnership between the city, Sullivan and Grid Alternatives to put solar on the rooftop of low-income residents.
May 2, 2013 (Alpine)-- On May 3-5, the 16th annual CHIRP Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour will take place, as well as the Sage & Songbirds Festival at the Viejas Outlet Centers in Alpine.
The garden tour will feature home gardens that are bird and butterfly friendly, as well as a bonus site: a raptor rehabilitation facility featuring eagles, hawks and more. A plant sale is also included.
The free festival at Viejas Outlet Centers features activities and events including daily butterfly releases, caterpillar races, and more. Scroll down for additional details.
Pollution of earth and water is driving indigenous peoples from their homelands
By Miriam Raftery
April 27, 2013 (San Diego)--Around the world, including here in the U.S., native people are losing lands they have occupied for countless generations. The earth and water that sustained life in their communities is being destroyed –once-mighty rivers and wetlands reduced to barren, parched or even contaminated land. The story is the same from tribes along the Colorado River to those deep in the Amazon, from the deserts of Southern California to the jungles of Mexico, from the coal fields of Appalachia to the copper mining pits of Arizona to indigenous people’s lands in Canada threatened by the Keystone Pipeline.
The culprit? Growing demand for energy and water.
Now, native people are speaking out. They hope to educate the public to conserve precious resources, sharing knowledge of the heart-breaking price being paid by people who have been given no choice—and whose very cultural identity centers around the lands and waters being lost.
NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION DECLARES OCOTILLO WIND SITE A SACRED SITE; ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL TO WEIGH LEGAL ACTION
“I really want to say `Dismantle it and give the land back to the tribes…I’d like to ask the Attorney General to…give this commission more teeth so we could say `Tear that wall down.” -- Commissioner Marshall McKay
View video highlights: http://youtu.be/nS93BfT6juI
(For full unedited videos, scroll to bottom of this story)
By Miriam Raftery
April 26, 2013 (San Diego) – At a hearing in San Diego on Monday, members of the state Native American Heritage Commission heard several hours of emotional testimony from Native Americans who contend that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ignored their concerns and its duty to protect a clearly documented sacred site and cemetery in the fast-tracked approval process for the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
By a 4-0 vote, with the remaining commissioners absent, the NAHC voted to grant requests by Viejas and Quechan tribes to declare the 12,400 acre Ocotillo wind project site a sanctified Native American sacred site. Further, the commissioners voted unanimously to ask California Attorney General Kamala Harris to research if legal action can be taken.
By Nadin Abbott
Photos by Tom Abbott
April 25, 2013 (Santee)—Three items before the Santee City Council this week reflect a growing green agenda. These included adoption of a program to help residents finance solar energy and energy efficiency improvements, declaration of May as bike to work month, and announcing April 27 as Arbor Day, when trees will be planted as part of SanTree Fest.
Council voted unanimously to join FigTree Energy Financing’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows residents to finance solar and energy-efficient projects at low finance rates with zero cost to the city. http://www.figtreecompany.com/
April 24, 2013 (San Diego) – Join San Diego’s green leaders at the Green Experts Academy on May 7 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Discover the latest initiatives as San Diego moves toward a carbon-free future. Learn cutting edge info on job creation and green policy, plus best practices form global solar leaders that could help San Diego rapidly reach 100% renewable energy utilization.
Speakers include Supervisor Dave Roberts, San Diego Unified School Board Vice President Kevin Beiser, and Peter Vogel, Executive Vice President of Wirsol Solar in Canada will be among the speakers. Event includes networking with top green leaders in San Diego, complimentary buffet, beverages, free parking and event material.
Image left: Bighorn Sheep at Ocotillo - Robert Baran photo, East County Magazine
By Roy L. Hales at San Diego Loves Green, originally posted April 21, 2013
April 23, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Association of Environmental Professionals has awarded the Ocotillo Wind project with its highest award for Outstanding Environmental Analysis and Documentation at a joint conference of AEP and the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP). The Builder, Pattern Energy, claims, “The Ocotillo Wind project will provide enough clean and renewable energy to power nearly 125,000 homes in Southern California each year.”
Speaking as a non-scientist, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name Ocotillo is a stream of videos (click on this link to go to the Save Ocotillo index page) that stretches beyond the four months this project has been online and continues to document the scarcity of wind. Though not a “scientific study,” they never-the-less constitute a visual chronology that includes a great many details that would not otherwise be available to the public. One has to merely scan the titles to realize something is very wrong:
April 21, 2013 (Santee) – What began eight years ago as Santee’s homegrown observance of Arbor Day and Earth Day has blossomed into an all-day extravaganza named SanTree Fest.
”We named it SanTree Fest because it began as a simple gathering of local families, scout troops and young people to green up our parks with trees,” said Recreation Coordinator Bree Stanley. “While the focus is still on the environment and sustainability, we’ve made it more fun for the entire family.”
This year’s daylong festival will feature more booths, more free activities for children, and more entertainment.
By Miriam Raftery
April 21, 2013 (San Diego) – “Another scourge is beginning in California,” environmental activist Peg Mitchell told audience members at a forum on environmental justice issues hosted by Activist San Diego on April 15. That “scourge” is fracking – and in California, it’s all about extracting oil, not natural gas.
To frack for oil requires millions of gallons of water –a precious commodity in Cailfornia. It also means injecting toxic chemicals that corporations are not required to disclose due to the “Halliburton Law” pushed through by former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The public doesn’t have a right to know where fracking is occurring or where its waste products will be dumped—even though fracking can cause earthquakes, disturb radioactive substances in the earth, reinject contaminated water into wells, and potentially pollute thousands of miles of coastline.
So why the push to frack for oil in California?
Annual event has become one of the largest community events in East County
April 11, 2013 (Rancho San Diego)--With farmer’s markets, community gardens and urban farming growing ever popular among the health- and conservation-minded in East County, it’s no wonder the Spring Garden Festival at Cuyamaca College has become such a major draw.
This year’s festival on Saturday, April 27, marks the 20th anniversary of the event, which began in 1993 as the Urban Forest Field Day, an outreach activity for arboriculture students to demonstrate what they’ve learned. The free festival has grown to become a showcase event for the college’s entire ornamental horticulture program, as well as the Heritage of the Americas Museum and the co-sponsoring Water Conservation Garden, both located on the Rancho San Diego campus. With the addition of local artisans, vendors, kid-friendly activities, and a variety of plant and garden societies, the festival now attracts about 7,000 visitors annually.
SIERRA CLUB WINS LAWSUIT ON COUNTY'S CLIMATE ACTION PLAN: JUDGE RULES “ENFORCEABLE MITIGATION MEASURES ARE NECESSARY NOW”
Exclusive to ECM: How decision could impact East County's transportation and energy production
By Miriam Raftery
April 20, 2013 (San Diego) – On the eve of Earth Day events, the Sierra Club has won a critical lawsuit challenging the County of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). On April 19, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor issued his final ruling agreeing with the Sierra Club that the County’s Climate Action Plan “contains no enforcement mechanism for reducing GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions.”
The ruling could have significant consequences for East County, where numerous large wind and solar projects have been pushed through under the mantra of addressing climate change.
On one hand, the decision could bolster arguments of some Supervisors who view large energy projects as the fastest or easiest way to meet goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
On the other hand, the ruling also forces the County to conduct an Environmental Impact Report - opening up the process for public comment. That could include discussion of how much fossil fuel it takes to manufacture, build and operate industrial-scale wind and solar projects--and whether there are better alternatives, such as solar on roofs and parking lots in urban areas.
By Colin Martodam, regional manager of ARS
April 20, 2013 (San Diego) – In honor of this year’s Earth Day on April 22, take action to make your home a hub of energy-efficient practices. “Going green” is no longer just the catch phrase of environmental advocates, celebrities and politicians. Now, you and your neighbors are empowered to make environmentally friendly changes to your home to address the growing concerns of a shaky economy, increasing energy costs, and our ever-dwindling natural resources.
EAGLE EXPERT HIRED BY WIND INDUSTRY LOCALLY PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL GOLDEN EAGLE TAKE AND FAILING TO FILE REPORTS ON BIRDS HE TRACKED
By Miriam Raftery
April 19, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – David Bittner, eagle expert with Wildlife Research Institute, pled guilty to federal charges of unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded.
Bittner conducted studies on Golden Eagles for Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project in East County, which was approved by the federal government on public lands as well as by the county on private properties. Portions of the project on state and tribal lands, where several Golden Eagle nests were reported, are pending approvals by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and State Lands Commission.
“Can those agencies rely on Bittner’s Golden Eagle work for Tule wind that was apparently unpermitted and unlawful?” asks Donna Tisdale, chair of Boulevard Planning Group and a founder of two citizens groups, Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps, that has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the project. “What other breaches of law or professional ethics might be involved?”
SDG&E ANNOUNCES NEW POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS, INCLUDING SOLAR PROJECTS IN POTRERO AND VALLEY CENTER
By Miriam Raftery
April 18, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) yesterday announced it has signed five new renewable power purchase agreements including two in San Diego County. But oddly, a local planner and a news editor in these rural communities have told ECM they were unaware of these projects.
SDG&E’s release did not state where in San Diego County the projects would be located. Jennifer Ramp with SDG&E has informed ECM that the two local projects are Silverado Power, LLC’s Zodiac Solar (20 Megawatts) in Potrero and Northlight Power’s C908 Solar project (7 MW) in Valley Center. Both projects are newly executed and have not yet been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, Ramp said.
California woman shocked in shower by voltage from substation wins landmark case;
Stray voltage complaints, health concerns mount in East County
By Miriam Raftery
April 16, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – A toddler living near the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo has had a tumor the size of a potato chip bag removed from her abdomen, Boulevard Planning Group Chair revealed last night at an Activist San Diego event on energy issues last night.
Other people living near wind turbines and an electric substation in the vicinity have developed brain, stomach and kidney cancers—symptoms linked to exposure to electricity and stray voltage, as ECM has reported.
April 14, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: What would you say are the most important steps we need to take as a nation to counter the impacts of climate change?
- Ned Parkinson, Chino, CA
Americans care more about the environment than ever before and the overwhelming majority of us acknowledges that climate change is real and human-induced. But still we continue to consume many more resources per capita than any other nation and refuse to take strong policy action to stave off global warming—even though we have the power to do so.