Santa Barbara County will be among the growing number of communities relying on wind energy come next year with the completion of a planned wind farm in Lompoc.
The county’s first wind energy project, located adjacent to the Vandenberg Air Force Base in north Santa Barbara County, has been in the planning stages for several years. Once completed, the farm’s total electric generation capacity is expected to be nearly 100 megawatts, roughly enough energy to power 40,000 households.
According to Doug Anthony, the deputy director for the county’s energy division, the project – which is expected to be completed and operating by the end of next year – will provide the county with a substantial source of renewable energy.
“The county will benefit from an alternative source of energy, largely electricity,” Anthony said. “Each one of the turbines is 1.5 megawatts in capacity, if they’re operating at full capacity.”
The wind farm is a private project under the direction of Acciona Energy, a corporation based in Spain that has worked on similar projects both internationally and in the United States. They expect to build 65 turbines across over 3,000 acres of land.
In February, the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors approved the conditional use permit for the project and certified the final environmental impact report. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr explained the board’s actions, noting the decision marked a major step toward the project’s completion.”
“They have their approval to go forward,” Farr said. “There are of course a lot of different steps to go through before the wind turbines go up, but they’re planning to move forward quite expeditiously.”
However, the project has been met with some opposition from George and Cheryl Bedford, the owners of the property adjacent to the site of the wind farm. The Bedfords filed a lawsuit against the county alleging that the EIR was inadequate and that the project conflicts with the county’s land use and development codes.
According to Anthony, the litigation is not expected to hinder the project’s progress.
“[The project] can still move forward unless plaintiffs get injunction to stop development,” he said, “As of now I haven’t heard that they have.”
Farr said that she spoke with the Bedfords in order to hear their concerns, and acknowledged that there would be significant changes to the neighborhood as a result of the project.
“I think that there is some visual impact,” she said. “They are very large structures and they have to be put on ridgelines to capture the maximum amount of wind, but I think the benefits are many.”
Despite the lawsuit, Farr contends that the general response to the project has been favorable, and is an important step for the county’s move toward alternative forms of energy.
“Overall, the support has been overwhelming and I am very much in favor of these projects,” she said. “We need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. We must do it, and we need to do it right away. If the county has opportunities to move to renewable energy, we really want to take advantage of it.”