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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 10th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 18

Acciona decides against Lompoc wind farm

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Maybe the news blew in on the wind from Spain to Santa Barbara County, but it’s not official yet.

Energy company Acciona recently sent word to local news agencies that the company has decided not to pursue a wind farm project in Lompoc, but Doug Anthony from the County Planning and Development’s energy department said he’s only heard mumblings.

“We’ve heard about it,” he said. “We haven’t met with them formally yet.”

Anthony said he wasn’t sure exactly where things stood with the Spain-based company and therefore couldn’t really speak about why the international renewable energy producer wants to pull out.

Acciona spokesperson Peter Gray told the Sun the company isn’t going to move forward in California, but rather will use its resources for other purposes.

“We’re going to focus on other projects in our pipeline,” Gray said. “So we have to decide where to divert our resources.”

Money is the reason John Stahl gives for Acciona’s decision. Stahl is the managing partner of Pacific Wind Power, LLC, and has been helping with the project for the last 12 years.

“I think Acciona just got tired of spending money,” Stahl said.

The project has weathered multiple lawsuits and two permit extensions, but nothing has made it to the ground yet.

While the county is waiting to meet with Acciona, Stahl is already in the process of moving forward with his own plans for the project. He said too many people have put too many years into the project to watch it go away.

“I’m trying to get a group of people together to pick up the pieces,” he said. “It’s a very valuable wind source right there. … It would be foolish not to do it.”

Stahl said he’s not exactly sure what it would entail to take over the project, but he’ll do what it takes to move forward. The project recently received a two-year permit extension from the county’s Planning Commission. That permit allows for 65 wind turbines to produce a maximum of 97 megawatts, or enough energy to power 40,000 households. The electricity was to be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric.

Anthony from county planning said he wasn’t sure what it would take to move the project from one set of hands to another, but he did say the location isn’t the most cost-conscious place to put a wind farm.

While the area where the turbines are to go up—about six miles south of Lompoc near Vandenberg Air Force Base—has high winds, the gales are at their strongest near ridgelines.

“Getting [turbines] up there and installing them is more expensive than if you had them on a flat plain,” Anthony said. “This project, compared to other topographical areas, is economically marginal.”