Ocotillo: Jim Pelley photo

Samsø And Ocotillo: A Study In “Developmental” Contrasts

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Many of us have been inspired by the story of Samsø: a tiny Danish island that utilized renewable technologies to totally eliminate its carbon footprint. It is a model of what a community can accomplish when it works together. I can’t imagine a greater contrast to the industrial scale wind and solar projects going into the deserts of  San Diego and Imperial counties. Samsø’s story is about a group of people working together. The Southern California saga would appear to be about corporate greed. Tax breaks and cash grants of up to 30% of the developmental cost; utilities companies making millions of dollars in profits from the long power lines they string into the desert; a never-ending stream of complaints from the inhabitants whose lives are in the path of this “development.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob recently emailed San Diego Loves Green that, “My constituents and I have raised serious concerns for years about the potential impact of industrial-scale energy projects in our backcountry. This isn’t a case of a vocal minority making noise. I hear concerns all across my district, in many communities, that these mammoth projects threaten to destroy natural resources, heighten the risk of wildfire and rob rural communities of their quality of life.”

These projects are not wanted.

One of the best examples of this comes from Ocotillo, which is just across the border in Imperial County. According to the linked document, from the Bureau of Land Management, the Wind Project is “5 miles west of the town of Ocotillo.”

That is so inaccurate that it is obvious the writer never set foot in Ocotillo. As you can see in the video below, the town is dwarfed by 438 foot wind turbines that surround it on three sides.

According to Parke Ewing, who lives in Ocotillo, “turbines are located within ½ mile of homes and private properties.” 

To which Jim Pelley added, “Wind turbines are as close as ½ mile from my house.”

Dianne Tucker, who lives in the center of town, wrote that, “The closest turbine to me is 1.17 miles.”

One has to wonder how closely the Bureau of Land Management monitored this project, given that they did not know where it is.

In contrast to Ocotillo, where 112 giant wind turbines are being forced upon largely a resistant population, the inhabitants of

Wind turbines on Samso - from the video
Wind turbines on Samsø (Click on image to enlarge) – from the video

embarked upon a collective vision. In 1998 they won a national contest with their plan to completely switch to renewable energy. They started out by forming a co-operative, which 450 of the inhabitants joined, and erecting 2 turbines that appear to be considerably smaller than those being used at Ocotillo. The people of Samsø proceeded slowly, taking neighborhood concerns into account, and eventually added another 9 turbines on the island (as well 10 offshore). The wind turbines are one of several projects that provide the island with energy and any surplus is fed into the Danish grid.  

None of the energy from the  Ocotillo Wind Project is allocated fro local use, it is part of the 117 mile long “Sunrise Powerlink.” The developer, Pattern Energy, has a contract to supply San Diego Gas and Electric with energy and is presumably the recipient of a number of incentives, as well as an upfront payment of up to 30% of the $600 million development cost, from the Federal Government. There were public meetings before the project went forward, but a number of Ocotillo residents have told San Diego Loves Green their concerns were not addressed.

“I moved to Ocotillo to get away from the industrialization of the city to enjoy the simple things in life, “ said Jim Pelley, an aerospace engineer. “There is a lot to be said about the therapeutic sense of mind I would feel when I would leave the city and stay in Ocotillo on weekends. Once I realized the power of this tranquility I decided to spend the rest of my life in Ocotillo. I have been working on my house for over 8 years now in preparation of living out my dream in my quite peaceful house in Ocotillo but now I have to decide where I go from here after all this was taken away from me with this Ocotillo Wind Project.”

Ocotillo Wind Farm - Parke Ewing Photo
Ocotillo Wind Farm (Click on image to expand) – Parke Ewing Photo

 Parke Ewing added that, “The biggest problem that I have with the wind turbines is every time I glance up to enjoy the old view from my home, I see a wind turbine that reminds me how the Bureau of Land Management and the Imperial County Supervisors ignored the opposing comments of residents and many, many caring people that were concerned about property values, visual pollution, desert destruction, lack of winds, dust, wildlife, night lights, vegetation, safety concerns, potential flooding, low frequency noise, irritating sounds, sleepless nights, anxiety, wind turbine syndrome, recreation and dirty electricity to name a few.  

“I have spent three years of my life opposing Ocotillo Wind, I can’t live with it.  I have lost interest in the many home improvements that my wife and I planned.  Do we sink more money into a home that has lost value?  Do we sell at a reduced value and just get away from the hideous machines?  We don’t know whether to move forward with our lives or stay with the hopes that the turbines will be removed.  I’d say that we have “Wind Turbine Syndrome”…our unknown future has created an anxiety that was never foreseen by this person that thought he planned well for his future.” 

Dianne Tucker wrote that, “When the turbines started my dog was really effected.  She became really agitated and scared and stayed in her kennel most of the time.   Sometimes she would attack the front door and then go hide.  My vet is aware of the Infra sound and stray voltage effects on animals.  Thank God I have a great vet.  Since they have been off she has been her normal self.

“The closest turbine to me is 1.17 miles.  This turbine has not been on until recent like since Saturday July 6th.  So the effects she was experiencing was due to all the turbines North and West and Northeast of me.  I can’t remember how close the 176 which is closest to me is.

“For myself there was constant ringing in the ears and the fight or flight response and a complete feeling of dread or anxiety that something was happening or going to happen and also there was agitation.  I also experienced vertigo which my dog also had.  None of that is going on now that they have been off.  Of course you must remember everyone is different and feel things differently.  I also developed stomach issues that have gone away since they have been off.  I too am under constant Doctors care.”

Ocotillo - Parke Ewing Photo
Ocotillo – Parke Ewing Photo

Jim Pelley stated, “Living next to wind turbines is a living hell; it’s nothing more than a big SCAM. The rotating motion of the blades is very disturbing. When I come out of my house the first thing I notice is the blades in motion, I forget why I was going outside, this motion grabs your attention and you lose your train of thought. I find it hard to do the simplest things anymore, it’s like my brain just shuts down. I can’t sit out on my front porch and enjoy the beautiful view I have of the Coyote Mountains anymore, all I see is wind turbines. At night it’s just as bad, bright red flashing lights shining right into my eyes, I can see these very disturbing invasive bright lights from my kitchen table. Every window I look out of in my house I can see wind turbines and the flashing red lights at night. Wind turbines are as close as ½ mile from my house. If the wind is blowing they are noisy, it sounds like a jet that never goes by. At the Board of Supervisors meeting we were told that the noise from wind turbines would be as quite as a library, this was nothing more than a big lie. It seemed that no matter what was presented at the Board of Supervisors meeting this project was going in – Period. I cannot get a good night sleep when these turbines are spinning, I wake up for no reason and can’t get back to sleep, and it feels like something is wrong, I believe this is the result of low frequency sound or ultra sound.

“The wind industry misleads everyone to believe that wind turbines are good by saying things like the wind is free which is far from the truth, wind energy is one of the most expensive source of energy known to mankind. Wind energy is not green either; the carbon foot print of the Ocotillo Wind project is bigger than anyone will ever know. I would like to know how many thousands of gallons of diesel fuel were used during the construction of this project along with the thousands of gallons of precious water for dust suppression.  One of my biggest fears is the health related issues that both the energy company Pattern Energy and the county of Imperial have not acknowledged.”

Boulevard residents discussing how to resist the invasion of industrial scale technoloies - image courtesy East County Magazine
Boulevard residents discussing how to resist the invasion of industrial scale technoloies – image courtesy East County Magazine

The stories coming out of Ocotillo are not unique. A preliminary report states that two thirds of the residents of Campo, in East County, may be suffering from “Wind Turbine Syndrome.” Someone from the nearby town of Boulevard, which is about to be surrounded by wind turbines, posted the following message on a public website, “Nobody in Boulevard Ca wants it. Put it in your own backyard you hypocrites, if you think it is so harmless. Why not put it on the acres around your factory, around your houses, or around where the energy would be used, which is not in Boulevard. Alternatively put it where no one will see it.”

Now San Diego’s County Supervisors are being sued for amending the Wind Ordinance in a manner that will make it easier for industrial scale wind and solar developments to come into East County. According to Donna Tisdale, Chair of Boulevard Planning Group, “Iberdrola, Soitec, SDG&E, Sempra, Sol Orchard, and other wind & solar developers are being granted lucrative special privileges and immunities at the expense of the health, safety, and socioeconomic well being of disproportionately impacted rural residents–in direct violation of our state and federal constitutional rights for equal protection under the law.”

When San Diego Loves Green asked about this, two County Supervisors sent word it was against their policy to comment on cases involving litigation. The exception was Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has spoken out on behalf of her district on many occasions.

Many lawsuits have been filed against the industrial scale wind and solar projects in Ocotillo and East County. More are coming.

Danish resident talking about their projects - from the video
Danish resident talking about their projects – from the video

You do not hear stories like this from Samsø.

Unlike the residents of Ocotillo and Boulevard, the Danes  were also allowed to decide what would happen to their community and reaped the benefits.

Zach Shahan, the editor of Clean Technica, told San Diego Loves Green, “I am definitely WAAAAAY more for community-owned wind farms. The local community should really benefit and be involved in the ownership. This is largely how it’s done in Denmark (top wind power country) and Germany. Unfortunately, the US is primarily about Big Business and Big Profits.”

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