By Miriam Raftery and Nadin Abbott
Photos by Jim Pelley, Michael Kurtz, Jim Colby, J. Rummler
December 16, 2013 (Campo) – A wind turbine on a ridge overlooking the Golden Acorn Casino exploded today, sparking several spot fires in surrounding brush that collectively charred about a half an acre.
David Elliott, a Manzanita tribal member, lives about quarter of a mile from the wind facility on the neighboring Campo reservation. At first, he mistook the fire sounds for gusty wind. Then he walked outside and saw the turbine burning. “The turbine did start several spot fires,” he said. “If the wind had been coming from the northwest or west then my home, one of the closets homes to the turbines, would have definitely been in danger because we have brush on this side of the turbines and we would have had a major fire.” Hear audio of his interview with ECM: http://kiwi6.com/file/bk3qywd787
SAN DIEGO UNIFIED, COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION, AND SOLAR CONTRACTOR TEAM UP TO TRAIN "SOLAR CHAMPIONS"
December 4, 2013 (San Diego) – -Nearly 30 San Diego Unified School District teachers are becoming "Solar Champions." Earlier this week, the school district hosted a workshop for those teachers to help them incorporate the solar energy/technology they now have at their schools into their curriculum.
Main Street Power is a solar contractor that recently completed the installation of roof-top solar systems at 29 of the district's schools. As part of its contract with the district, Main Street Power is providing the teachers with training and classroom solar car kits, as well as materials on solar energy/technology that are aligned with the districts' science curriculum. The company is also giving each school a computer that will serve as an "energy portal."
By Miriam Raftery
December 4, 2013 (Boulevard) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its examination of a raptor euthanized after it was struck by a semi- truck in Boulevard on November 27.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed the species of bird as a red-tailed hawk, said Jane Hendron, Public Affairs Division Chief with the USFWS in Carlsbad.
CPUC TO HOLD HEARING IN ALPINE FEB. 5 ON NEW "STEALTH" SDG&E POWER LINE PROJECT PROPOSED IN BACKCOUNTRY
NOTE: CORRECTED DATE
View map of all energy projects in our region to see cumulative impacts and disparate impact on rural areas
Judge to Decide Whether to Have Hearings on Nearly Half Billion Dollar SDG&E Power Line Project That Opponents Say Threatens Back Country Communities
January 31, 2014 (Alpine)--The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a prehearing conference at 1:30 p.m. February 5 in the Oak Room of the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Blvd. in Alpine regarding proposed SDG&E’s Master Special Use Permit project that wouldl impact communities throughout the San Diego backcountry from Pauma Valley to Potrero (north to south) and from Ramona to Boulevard (west to east). The project is so large that SDG&E estimates construction will take about five years.
Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth will determine if there will be full evidentiary hearings for this project or if this prehearing conference will be the only time the issues are heard. "In its application, SDG&E asked the CPUC for permission to construct this $418.5 million project without any hearings at all—their usual method of operation,"Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit community organization, states in a press release.
Donna Tisdale, President of Backcountry against Dumps and Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group, voiced these concerns. “SDG&E’s project is being sold solely as fire-hardening but it appears to be an undisclosed stealth increase in carrying capacity that may directly or indirectly support numerous commercial solar projects that are already proposed along or near the route in Boulevard, Pine Valley, Descanso, Potrero, Julian, Ramona, and perhaps elsewhere that we are not yet aware of. Solar generation projects represent potential new fire ignition sources that cannot be de-energized during red flag wind events or other emergencies.”
Shocking toll from solar facility pales, however, compared to estimated 100,000 bird deaths from wind turbines in CA
By Miriam Raftery
November 25, 2013 (California) – Desert solar projects have been touted as environmentally friendly. But now disturbing evidence has emerged that these projects are incinerating birds flying overhead.Two months ago, 34 birds were found dead or injured at Ivanpah Solar (photo, left, by Tom Budlong) owned by BrightSource Energy in San Bernardino County, California. Almost half had singed feathers and some had nothing left but spines where feathers melted from reflected beams of sunlight, according to a report in The Desert Sun.
The toll was even worse in October, when 52 dead birds were found at the site, 17 with scorched feathers (see photo, below right) Ivanpah, still in testing phase, is the world's largest solar facility -- but it's not the only one frying birds. Another 19 birds were found dead at another project, Desert Sunlight, also in California. More such facilities are planned, incdluing Palen’s proposed project in the Coachella Valley that would be located near two wildlife refuges where migrating birds stop in the Pacific Flyway.
Reprinted with permission from San Diego Loves Green
By Roy L. Hales
November 27, 2013 – In the wake of a widening misinformation scandal in Arizona, the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) is calling on utility trade organization Edison Electric Institute (EEI), “… to disavow APS’ underhanded behavior and state whether or not they have also used dark money.”
By Miriam Raftery
November 24, 2013 (Ocotilo) – ECM photographer Parke Ewing photographed a troubling series of images on November 22 showing a large raptor winging its way through Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility, dangerously close to the blades.
The next day, photographer Jim Pelley found a dead raptor lying on the ground at the site, one leg sliced off, apparently a victim of the turbines. It is unclear whether it is the same raptor photographed on the wing by Ewing.
A news article just published in Rewire Magazine that the new, large wind turbines such as those at Ocotillo are likely responsible for 100,000 bird deaths a year in California. Moreover, California is the deadliest state in the nation when it comes to bird deaths from wind projects, including many that are protected under the Migratory Species Treaty or the Endangered Species Act.
By Miriam Raftery
November 22, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – For years, wind developers operated with impunity, not held responsible for harm to people, wildlife or communities. But a trio of landmark court rulings this month indicate a shift, with judges holding wind developers liable for the first time for impacts on human health, protected birds, and rural character.
In a landmark ruling today, a judge in Falmouth, Massachusetts ordered the town's three wind turbines shut off at night, on Sundays and on holidays to protect the health of residents. ‘‘This is believed to be the first time that a court in the U.S. has ruled that there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas are a health hazard to families living nearby,’’ said Virginia Irvine, president of Wind Wise Massachusetts.. The judge ruled that operation of the turbines nonstop put residents at risk of ‘‘irreparable physical and psychological harm.” Neighbors had complained of negative health impacts since the turbines were built.
Also this week, in the first-ever criminal prosecution of a wind company for illegal bird kills under the Migratory Treat Act, Duke Energy Reneawbles Inc. pled guilty and was ordered to pay a million dollars. Duke's wind projects in Wyoming slaughtered 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds. See Department of Justice release on the fine.
By Miriam Raftery
November 22, 2013 (La Mesa) – Several directors of the Helix Water Board indicated a willingness to vote to close Lake Jennings permanently or at least remove camping facilities and end fish stocking to save funds. But in the end, after public testimony and a proposal by director Joel Scalzitti, the board unanimously voted to form a committee to see if an alternative can be found.
Carlos Lugo, General Manager, led off the hearing earlier this month by stating that a September workshop on the issue did not have a high attendance. The lake has been a financial drain on the district and a consultant’s analysis predicted that even investing in major upgrades would not result in a profit.
Update: View 10 News interviews on this issue
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria ignores objections over negative impacts including fish kills, fire danger
By Miriam Raftery
November 17, 2013 (Lake Morena) – Unless the County agrees to fork over $1.7 million, San Diego’s interim Mayor Todd Gloria has announced his approval of plans for the City of San Diego to drain down Lake Morena to 2,967 feet and transfer the water to Barrett and Otay Lakes. His decision ignores warnings from Supervisor Dianne Jacob and a report by County Parks and Recreation staff, which warns that such action could have “negative impacts on public safety, the environment, recreation and the local economy.”
State orders habitat restoration; college urges bikers to organize and seek new site
November 18, 2013 (Rancho San Diego) -- Cuyamaca College has begun to enforce restrictions on use of a nature preserve at the Rancho San Diego campus that has been a popular – but illegal – spot for young bike riders.
The area off Fury Road in Rancho San Diego has long been used by bikers who created dirt mounds that enabled them to perform their daredevil tricks. The college is closing the area, part of a sensitive wildlife habitat, while it removes the bumps and replants vegetation to restore the area to its natural state.
November 18, 2013 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy.
The award, provided under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), is part of USDA's effort to develop modern solutions for climate challenges in agriculture and natural resource management. AFRI is provided under the Farm Bill, and Secretary Vilsack highlighted the need for passage of a comprehensive, long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to continue groundbreaking agricultural research across the nation.
Originally posted on San Diego Loves Green
By Roy L. Hales
November 18, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The #1 source of Greenhouse Gases is not buildings or transportation, but electricity. That’s because 42% of it is still generated from coal. There are other questions regarding natural gas, which now supplies a quarter of the nation’s power, and aging nuclear plants. Renewable energy sources – hydroelectricity, biomass, wind, and solar – supply 13%. These are supposedly all “clean,” but some have actually caused great damage to the environment.
River cleanup and monitoring events planned Nov. 17 and 18
By Jordan Schaffner
November 13, 2013 (San Diego)--Living on the San Diego River can be amazing. For a while, it seemed to change every day. It could be dark green and deep, beautiful with a flowing current. Living here gives you a sense of being on a camping vacation every day, just by looking at it. Yet we are still in central San Diego. Since it is a nature preserve, many wild creatures come and go, making the river their home. Some permanent, some temporary.
November 11, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Wind turbines killed over 600,000 bats last year in the United States. That’s according to BioScience, which made the projection based on the startling number of dead bats found at 21 facilities. The number could be even higher, nearly a million bat deaths, according to the author, Mark Hayes at the University of Colorado.
November 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Arbor Day in Mission Trails is being celebrated at the Equestrian Staging area on Saturday, December 7, 2013, 9:00 a.m. The public is invited to take part in the donation and/or planting of oak trees. Volunteers may help with the planting - or act as cheerleaders. Volunteers are also needed to pull weeds and help with general landscape maintenance of the area. Some shovels will be available, but Mission Trails says it would be helpful if you could bring your own. Gloves and comfortable shoes are recommended. To make a donation, please complete and mail the Arbor Day Donation Form.
By Roy L Hales
November 6, 2013 (San Diego) – Cruises are popular getaways, and many ships depart from Southern California. Only some cruise lines have better environmental records than others. Marcie Keever, of Friends of the Earth report, recently did an evaluation of 162 cruise ships to help people choose green and sustainable businesses.
Among cruise ships departing from San Diego, for example, ratings ranged from “A” to “F” depending on the cruise line and category.
Photo by Erik Hauenstein
November 6, 2013 (San Diego) – An “Energy Demonstration House” featured on the San Diego Sustainability Tour in September has generated 49.9% in energy savings for the homeowners. This ‘Clark Kent’ of households was transformed into an energy super-hero to showcase the simply things homeowners can do to slash energy costs and live more comfortably and sustainably – and how to use it using other people’s money.
Closure of popular recreation facility among options
By Miriam Raftery
November 3, 2013 (La Mesa) – At its meeting on Wednesday, November 6, Helix Water District will vote on whether to have staff prepared detailed reports on four options for the future of Lake Jennings. Those options include:
- close the lake to the public and decommission campgrounds and fishing facilities,
- limit public access to only hiking, picnicking and fishing- -but the lake would no longer be stocked with fish and campgrounds would be decommissioned,
- Maintain camping and fishing and invest $1,600,000 to $3,600,000 in renovations, or
- Create a master plan for renovation and expansion based on the 2007 Lake Jennings Campground Master Plan at a cost of $8 million to $15 million, with additional expenses for permitting, environmental impact and mitigation.
Could Vestas' fire-prone turbines be installed in East County?
By Miriam Raftery
October 31, 2013 (Netherlands) – Two young mechanics, ages 19 and 21, died when a fire broke out in a wind turbine where they were performing routine maintenance. The tragedy occurred at Deltawind’s Piet de Wit wind farm in the Netherlands, but highlights the hazards associated with fires caused by wind turbines.
According to the Netherlands Times, “because of the height, the fire department initially had trouble extinguishing the fire in the engine room.” The fire started in the afternoon, but it took until evening for a special team of firefighters to arrive and ascend with a large crane.
By Miriam Raftery
October 25, 2013 (Ocotillo) – Wind turbines in Ocotillo went offline on October 21 for several days due to SDG&E maintenance on Sunrise Powerlink, according to Matt Dallas with Pattern Energy . Flashing red lights on the turbines that normally warn aircraft of the 500-foot-tall structures have also been dark, raising questions of safety for pilots at the site near the Borrego airport.
October 21, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Two scoping meetings are planned this week in Julian and Alpine for the public to obtain information and voice views on a proposal by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) that includes Cleveland National Forest lands. SDG&E wants to combine over 70 existing special use permits for electric facilities in the forest into one Master Special Use Permit. In addition, SDG&E wants to replace some power lines and distribution liens both inside and outside the forest including fire hardening, relocation and undergrounding of certain facilities.
Areas impacted include the vicinity of Descanso, Campo, Pauma Valley, Santa Ysabel, and Warner Springs.
October 17, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--California State Parks (CSP) invites you to the third public meeting for the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park General Plan. The primary purpose of the meeting is to receive your thoughts, ideas and concerns about the Preferred Alternative Plan and General Plan proposals which will be presented at the meeting. View the agenda here.
The meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Marriott San Diego Mission Valley Cabrillo Room, 8757 Rio San Diego Drive, San Diego 92108.
By Paul Kruze
“The way everything has turned out, the energy hogs are being rewarded…Now, no matter how much you conserve energy, no matter how much you generate, the residential ratepayers are stuck with this.” – Pete Hasapopoulos, San Diego Sierra Club
October 11, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- Amid a chorus of cheers and jeers, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 327 reflecting the first change to electric rates and how major power utilities account for residential rooftop solar systems.
Introduced by Fresno Democrat Party Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, the legislation directs the California Public Utilities Commission to design a new net metering program that would take effect within four years. The bill also gives the CPUC authority to require utilities to source more than 33 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar. In addition, the new law will replace the electric rate restrictions adopted by California during the state’s energy deregulation crisis in 2000.
Dorcas E. Utter Butterfly Pavilion and diverse plant sale at Water Conservation Garden
October 11, 2013 (Rancho San Diego) -- Considering fall and winter as prime gardening months would be scoffed at in many parts of the United States, but not in San Diego, with its Mediterranean climate characterized by mild-to-cool wet winters, and warm-to-hot dry summers. The Fall Planstravaganza!, held at the Water Conservation Garden from 9am-4pm on Saturday, November 2, 2013, helps San Diegans make the most of the region’s fall-to-spring planting season and save water while they do it.
By Miriam Raftery
October 9, 2013 (Pine Valley) --- Planners and residents provided a frosty reception to representatives from ecoplexus tonight. Planners voted unanimously, 11-0, to find the company’s proposed solar project inconsistent with the Central Mountain Regional Plan and the County’s General Plan.
By energy industry standards, this is a small “green” project—three megawatts on two 12-acre parcels at Buckman Springs Road and Old Highway 80. But to residents in this rural area, the project seems substantial intrusion along scenic highways without tangible benefits to Pine Valley residents.
To say it was a tough crowd would be an understatement.
By Paul Kruze
October 3, 2013 (San Diego)--In an attempt to make heads or tails out of the fallout from the resignation of former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, the Green Experts Academy held a forum entitled “San Diego Civic Crisis: Where Does The Green Sector Go From Here?” at the Cricket Communications headquarters in Kearney Mesa on September 26th.
By Jim Wiegand, wildlife biologist
September 27, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- While Altamont Pass operators have been hiding most of their wind turbine mortality with search intervals of 30-90 days, the rest of North American wind farms hide mortality by using search areas that are far too small. By using only 50 meter search areas for their huge new turbines, the wind facility operators can easily hide over 90% of fatalities caused from turbine blade strikes.
“We supported the renewable energy plan but we wanted it done in the right. The stakeholders advisory group is biased and stacked. It’s all industry…” – Donna Tisdale, Chair, Boulevard Planning Group
By Alex Riggins
September 26, 2013 (San Diego) – The County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Wednesday to approve a work plan for a comprehensive renewable energy plan. The plan includes options for creating an alternative to SDG&E such as a publicly owned utility district, as well as plans for the type, scale and location of energy development. A cost analysis and comparison of various energy options was removed, however.
The work plan will analyze ways in which the county can move forward with renewable energy options. It was approved unanimously after the Board heard public comments and deliberated for nearly two hours on Wednesday morning. The plan drew support from the energy industry and concerns from rural residents.
WINE TASTING SEPT. 29 TO HELP RE-OPEN SIERRA CLUB'S FOSTER LODGE, REBUILD CABIN LOST IN CHARIOT FIRE
September 22, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Sierra Club invites the public to a benefit to raise funds for rebuilding a cabin lost in the Chariot Fire on July , and to celebrate the fact that the historic Foster Lodge survived the wildfire on Mount Laguna. While there was insurance coverage, the Chapter needs to raise funds to offset a $10,000 deductible and other costs not covered to get the lodge reopened for business.