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Lompoc Wind Energy Project

[Web page updated 09/09/2014]


What's New

Pacific Renewable Energy Generation (PREG) has decided not to construct the Lompoc Wind Energy Project. On July 30, 2014, PREG submitted a formal request to P&D to relinquish the Conditional Use Permit and Land Use Permit for the project. P&D accepted the request and closed the permitting case on August 27, 2014.


Recent Information

Other recent activities associated with the Project are:

  • PREG applied for a two-year time extension of its Conditional Use Permit for the Project. The Director of P&D approved the extension. The approval was appealed to the Planning Commission by a local resident, and the appeal was denied in a hearing on May 15, 2013. The permit has been extended to February 10, 2015.

  • PREG applied for a two-year time extension of its Land Use Permit for the meteorological towers associated with the Project. The permit was extended to February 10, 2015, by the Director of P&D on March 19, 2013.

  • PREG is currently working on applications for permits from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and other agencies, as well as mitigation plans required by the County Conditional Use Permit.

  • The necessary geotechnical studies for access roads and wind turbines were completed in spring 2011.

  • Preliminary grading plans were reviewed by County P&D, Building & Safety Division in 2011.

  • The County Board of Architectural Review (Central Region) in a public hearing on August 12, 2011 granted Preliminary Approval of the project.


What’s Next?

PREG is working to finalize detailed project plans and is working with County staff, California Department of Fish and Game, and other agencies to obtain permits and implement the required mitigation measures for environmental impacts of construction.  The mitigation program to implement the conditions of the approved Conditional Use Permit is summarized in the Environmental Quality Assurance Plan (EQAP).  Detailed mitigation plans will be reviewed prior to construction.

Once all required plans have been approved, P&D will review the project (Phase I) to ensure the detailed plans are consistent with the approved Conditional Use Permit and EIR.  If found consistent, the Director of P&D would approve a Substantial Conformity Determination and P&D staff would issue an appealable Land Use Permit for Phase I of the project.  P&D Building and Safety would then review and approve final grading and building plans, and construction could begin, subject to permits and approvals from other agencies.  The EQAP document will serve as the basis for implementing and enforcing the mitigation program during and after construction.


Project Information

The project applicant is Pacific Renewable Energy Generation LLC (PREG), a subsidiary of Acciona Energy North America Corporation.  PREG filed an application for a Major Conditional Use Permit on February 21, 2006, for a wind energy project, to be located on the wind-swept ridges south of Lompoc, adjacent to Vandenberg AFB.  This would be the first major wind energy project in the County and will provide a significant source of alternative energy.  The project is situated entirely inland of the County’s Coastal Zone.  The southern project boundary abuts the Coastal Zone boundary along the Vandenberg Air Force Base property line.  The wind farm and power line will be located in the County’s 3rd Supervisorial District, except the final stretch of the power line will cross into the 4th District just south of the Lompoc City limit.

The wind farm, as permitted, would consist of up to 65 wind turbines, each standing 389-397 feet high, including blades.  The project may be constructed in up to three phases over seven years. The currently proposed plan for Phase I of project development is to erect thirty-seven 1.5 MW wind turbines (WTGs) located on the southern and central areas of the project site.  Up to 28 additional WTGs may be proposed for subsequent project phases at a later date. Total electric generation capacity will be up to 97.5 megawatts, enough to power over 40,000 households.  The power output will be sold to PG&E through a long-term power purchase agreement.  A new power line will run from the project site to connect into an existing power line near PG&E’s Cabrillo Substation at the southwest corner of Lompoc.  The wind turbines will be located on agriculturally-zoned grazing land (10 parcels; 2,950 acres), under 30-year lease agreements with the landowners.  Existing gravel/dirt roads on the properties will be widened and some new roads constructed.  Plans include an operations and maintenance building and an electrical substation on the project site.

The project chronology is outlined below. It provides links to the EIR and other project documents.

Project Vicinity Map

 

Typical Landscape at Proposed Site

Typical Landscape at Proposed Project Site

Wind Farm in Similar Setting (Spain)

Wind Farm in Similar Setting (Spain)


Project Chronology

  • February 21, 2006 – Application filed for Major Conditional Use Permit.

  • May 24, 2006 – The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission held a Conceptual Review hearing on the project. Staff gave a brief overview , followed by a presentation by Michelle Conway of Acciona Wind Energy USA LLC. The staff’s report for the hearing includes the applicant’s project description and a site map. It is available at the Planning Commission web site.

    Public comments were heard from the Community Environmental Council, two City of Lompoc representatives, a project parcel owner, a project neighbor, and a Lompoc resident. Most speakers were supportive of the project, but identified a number of concerns, including: a) possible viewshed impacts from the Lompoc Valley; b) transmission line route; c) ground water resources; and d) impacts to Frick Springs, which is part of Lompoc’s water supply.

    The Commission took no action, as this was a conceptual review hearing. The Commissioners’ comments were generally favorable and supportive of the project proceeding to further review, while recognizing that potential environmental impacts have yet to be studied. Staff was urged to proceed with environmental review as soon as possible. The Commissioners’ comments during the hearing are summarized in the marked agenda.

  • June 1, 2006 – The permit application was found complete for processing.

  • June 2, 2006 – The project was reviewed by the County’s Agricultural Preserve Advisory Committee, as the project properties are under Agricultural Preserve Contracts. The Committee determined the project to be consistent with the Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves.

  • June 30, 2006 – A Notice of Preparation (NOP) was filed with the State Clearinghouse. The NOP initiated the Environmental Impact Report ( EIR) preparation process.

  • July 17, 2006 – An EIR Scoping Meeting was held at Lompoc City Council Chambers. Following a presentation by County staff, members of the public spoke about a number of potential adverse impacts of the project, including bird mortality from turbine operation and visual impacts from turbines and power lines. Several speakers described beneficial impacts.

  • August 15, 2006 – The contract for preparation of the EIR was approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The consultant was selected cooperatively by the Project Applicant and the County.

  • July 17, 2007 – Draft Environmental Impact Environmental Report (EIR) released. Public comment period began. The entire Draft EIR is available for public review. Copies are available for review in Santa Barbara County Planning and Development (P&D) offices and several public libraries.

    The Draft EIR identifies potential environmental impacts, mitigation measures, residual impacts and monitoring requirements. It documents that the Project could have significant short-term, construction impacts in the following areas: Visual Resources, Air Quality, Biological Resources, Cultural Resources, Fire Hazards/Emergency Services, Geology/Soils, Land Use, Noise, Paleontological Resources, Risk/Safety, Traffic/Circulation, and Water Resources. The Project could also have significant long-term, operational impacts to Visual Resources, Biological Resources, Fire Hazards/Emergency Services, Land Use, Noise, Risk/Safety, and Water Resources. Most of the environmental impacts would be reduced to less than significant through implementation of mitigation measures proposed by the Project Applicant and other measures proposed by the County.

    However, long-term operational impacts to Visual Resources and Biological Resources would remain significant and unavoidable. Significant visual impacts would include views of wind turbines from Jalama Beach County Park and of the proposed new power line along Highway 1 near Lompoc. The visual impacts of the power line could be reduced to less than significant by means of an Applicant-proposed alternative route. Potential for protected bird and bat species to be killed through collisions with wind turbine blades is found to be an unavoidable significant impact to Biological Resources.

    The Project’s significant and adverse effects should be considered in light of its beneficial effects. Beneficial effects include generation of 80 to 120 megawatts of alternative energy and support for continuing agricultural use of the project area.

  • August 6, 2007 – Public workshop on Draft EIR held in Lompoc.

  • August 30, 2007 – Public comment hearing on Draft EIR held in Lompoc. Comments were presented by eleven members of the public, organizations and agencies. While most comments were supportive of wind energy, concerns were raised about the adequacy of the draft EIR analysis in several issue areas, including of potential impacts to biological and visual resources, and effects on local residents.
  • September 4, 2007 – Close of public comment period. Late submittals were accepted from California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Twenty-nine written comments were received. Comments from the Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Center, CDFG and USFWS center on potential impacts to biological resources, particularly birds. Comments from California Department of Parks and Recreation include concerns about visual impacts on La Purisima Mission. Comments from PG&E and California Public Utilities Commission focus mainly on jurisdictional questions relating to the proposed power line from the project site to Lompoc. Other issue areas discussed in the comments include visual impacts, noise, archeological resources, traffic, impact on emergency services, and effects on local residents.

  • February 26, 2008 – New contract approved for Aspen Environmental Group to prepare the final EIR.

  • May 6 – 20, 2008 – Partial recirculation of Visual Resources section of draft EIR. The following documents are available: Notice of availability, Cover letter for recirculated section, Revised draft Aesthetic/Visual Resources section.

  • September 5, 2008 – Proposed Final EIR released. The following documents are available on this website:  Announcement of Availability; Proposed Final EIR.  (Note that the proposed final EIR and the final EIR are the same, except that the final EIR includes the section entitled “Modifications to FEIR Adopted Prior to Certification.)

  • September 30, 2008 – Planning Commission hearing. The hearing notice is posted on this site. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to certify the EIR and to approve the Conditional Use Permit and associated Variance. The Commission adopted modifications to the EIR, as provided in Attachment F to the staff report prepared for this hearing. The final permit conditions, including modifications made during the hearing, are provided in the Planning Commission Action Letter for the September 30 hearing. (Note that the EIR and permit conditions were further modified prior to final approval by the Board of Supervisors.) The public comment letters for this hearing and errata submitted before the hearing are posted at the Planning Commission website.

    The all-day hearing was well attended. During the public comment period 37 people spoke, most expressing strong support for the project. Significant adverse impacts of the project were raised and discussed. Property owners adjacent to the project site expressed concern about noise and visual impacts. Representatives of the environmental community, including Environmental Defense Center and Audubon Society, asked the Commission to consider more stringent protections, monitoring, and mitigation measures for birds and bats, which may be killed by the wind turbines. The Commission approved the project with minor modifications to the proposed bird mortality monitoring program and project decommissioning provisions. The CEQA findings of approval include a Statement of Overriding Considerations that project approval is warranted, notwithstanding that not all significant environmental impacts can be fully mitigated.

    The hearing was televised live and recorded by the County government TV station. DVD copies can be purchased from CSBTV. The hearing is posted in 6 parts on the CSBTV Archives site.

    Please follow the links to the staff report, proposed final conditions of approval, and Proposed Final EIR. The public comment letters for this hearing are posted at the Planning Commission website.

  • October 9-10, 2008 – Project Appeal. The Planning Commission's certification of the EIR and approval of the project was appealed to the County Board of Supervisors. Separate appeals were filed by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and George and Cheryl Bedford. The appeal hearings were docketed on the Board of Supervisors meeting agenda for December 16, 2008 (Departmental Agenda Items #8 and 9). Please see the Hearing Notice. At the December 16 Board meeting the project applicant and representatives of CDFG requested a continuance of the CDFG appeal hearing, because the parties expect to resolve the appeal issues through negotiations, which have been fostered by the County’s facilitated negotiation process. The Applicant also requested a continuance of the Bedford appeal hearing, to continue working to resolve issues raised by the Bedfords and also because the two appeals are interrelated. The Board voted to continue both hearings to February 10, 2009. Links to the Board Letters and other documents for these hearings are provided in the Agenda. The links are labeled File Reference No. 08-01014 and File Reference No. 08-010062, under Departmental Items 8 and 9, respectively. A video recording of the February 10 hearing is also posted on the Board’s website.

  • February 10, 2009 – The Final EIR was certified and the Conditional Permit approved by the Board of Supervisors. The approved permit conditions are included in the Board Action Letter.

  • A CEQA lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in 2009 by George and Cheryl Bedford. The petition claimed that the certified final EIR was inadequate on several grounds and that the project was improperly approved by the Board of Supervisors. The trial court denied the petition. The petitioners appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling and that affirmation was final as of February 2, 2012. Information about the case is posted on the Court of Appeals website (2nd District, 6th Division, Case #B228958) at: [http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/mainCaseScreen.cfm?dist=2&doc_id=1962524&div=6&doc_no=B228958]

  • June 30, 2009 – A zoning clearance was issued to increase the height of two existing meteorological (“met”) towers, as provided for in the EIR.

  • September 23, 2009 – A Land Use Permit was approved for minor modifications of the project description concerning scheduled removal of temporary met towers and the height, location, and number of permanent met towers. Approval was based on a Substantial Conformity Determination approved by the Director of P&D. An EIR addendum was adopted to reflect the changes, which will not create any additional environmental impacts. George and Cheryl Bedford appealed issuance of the Land Use Permit to the Planning Commission and then to the Board of Supervisors. The Board denied the appeal and granted final approval of the Land Use Permit (7/15/09). The appeal record is posted on the Board of Supervisors web site (see 7/15/09 agenda, Departmental Item 7, File Reference 09-00754).

  • March 24, 2010 – The Final Environmental Quality Assurance Plan (EQAP) submitted.

  • November 24, 2010 – A two-year time extension for the CUP was approved by the P&D Director. The CUP expiration date is February 10, 2013.

  • August 12, 2011 – The Project received Preliminary Approval from the County Board of Architectural Review (Central Region).

  • December 12, 2011 – A second Land Use Permit was approved for minor modifications of the project description concerning the number, locations, heights, and scheduled removal dates of temporary and permanent met towers. The public notice is posted here.

  • November 15, 2012 – An application for a second two-year time extension of the Conditional Use Permit for the project was filed. The applicant requests a two-year time extension to February 10, 2015. The Notice of Pending Action is posted here.

 
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