I am writing in response to your editorial on April 15 in which you support the Ocotillo Wind Energy facility, which would put 112 (or is it 155? Information about the project is still inconsistent), 440-foot wind turbines around the community of Ocotillo. The editorial ends by saying, “If unemployment was 10 to 12 percent here, if the median income was in the mid-$40,000s, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Our government officials could be more selective. That is reality. That is the truth.”
Yes, it is true that higher income communities are less likely to consider projects which will damage the environment than a low-income community. (Case in point: Ocotillo, the lowest-income community in a low-income county is repeatedly chosen for high-noise projects.) Here are a few other truths.
In communities all over the world where wind turbines have been built nearby, health problems have ensued. The victims include members of the Manzanita Band of Kumeyaay who live near the turbines in Campo. Complaints range from an inability to sleep and vertigo to cardiac problems.
The project is promising 350 jobs in construction. However in the public hearing when planning commissioner Dave Gaddis asked Glen Hodges , the representative of Pattern Energy, to guarantee 10 local jobs he refused, saying, “ I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver sir.” While insisting that they wanted to hire locally, Mr. Hodges would only guarantee one local job.
With the potential end of the production tax credit for wind energy, and the low price of natural gas, there are serious questions about the viability of wind energy. According to an April 9 article in the online magazine Aol Energy, Hunter Armistead, executive director at Pattern Energy paints a bright picture of the wind energy business. However he adds, “But there are going to be three to four train wrecks in the industry to figure out where the industry is. But that creates opportunity.”
Pattern Energy emerged when Babcock and Brown, an Australian investment firm, went from being a multibillion-dollar entity in 2008 to reaching insolvency in 2009. At that level of finances, train wrecks benefit someone. If this project is one of the three or four train wrecks, it’s hard to imagine how Imperial County will benefit.
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