"The course of true love never did run smooth." (Shakespeare)
Turbines fan debate over wind energy; A plan to erect 50 windmills near a national monument spurs an outcry in the Palm Springs area
Janet Wilson, March 25, 2007 (LA Times)
Supporters and critics of wind energy, politicians, celebrities and locals, and Steve Christensen, owner of the mesa where the windmills would be erected.
The controversy over a proposal to build about 50 windmills: Supporters say wind provides energy without negatives such as greenhouse gases that make for global warming, while critics say it delivers only a quarter of its promised energy while lethal to wildlife and a blight on the landscape.
The San Gorgonio Pass, a blustery stretch of desert above the 10 Freeway two hours east of Los Angeles, where many of the world's first power-producing windmills were built, next to Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
- The wind energy industry, born in California, now has projects in 40 states and, in the last two years, $8 billion in investments.
- San Gorgonio Pass is one of the windiest spots in North America.
- Development on the squall-scoured mesa is reported to be impossible due to winds that would virtually destroy anything on site.
- The 3,000 existing turbines produce enough energy to power almost 25,000 homes for a year, said California Energy Commission spokeswoman Amy Morgan. But that is a fraction of their advertised capacity.
- Critics argue that wind projects subsidized with public funds ($93.8 million in subsidies from California ratepayers) deliver less power than advertised. In 2003, San Gorgonio wind farms claimed 413 megawatts of capacity but generated a quarter of that. (Advocates reference greater potential from newer machines.) Among the negatives are accidents (turbines as big as minivans have caught fire in midair and crashed 200 feet to the earth), breakdowns (broken propeller blades), harm to wildlife ( hawks, eagles and songbirds have been ground up by turbines at other sites), objectionable noise and light (a ceaseless high-pitched whine from windmills and bright, revolving night lights) and loss of recreational lands.
- Claude Kirby, a real estate agent for the Palm Springs office of the Bureau of Land Management, said he is proud of the leases he has for 1,224 turbines on 3,589 acres, netting the public annual rent of $640,610, adding, "I'd rather see wind turbines than black smoke from a coal plant."
- …rich liberals are all for alternative power providing it doesn't mar their views.
- "They're going to take a national monument … and turn it into an industrial slum," [homeowner Les] Starks shouted, his voice nearly drowned by blustery gusts as he eyed the stark mountain front soaring above Palm Springs…"They want to bulldoze that mesa, put in these enormous wind turbines … and make lots and lots of money."
- "We've got windmills to the north of us, windmills to the east and west of us, windmills everywhere but to the south," [windmill installation landowner Steve Christensen] said. "Why are they picking us out?"
- "You can build wind facilities in bad places," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, a fan of wind energy who contends that a national monument is an inappropriate setting.