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Dude, Where’s My Wind Farm?

Lompoc Project Roadblocked into Coma


Thursday, November 1, 2012

By now the wind turbines were meant to be spinning and the green energy flowing liberally from Lompoc. Approved unanimously by Santa Barbara County supervisors nearly four years ago, Acciona Energy’s 65-turbine wind-farm project slated for portions of ag land in and around Miguelito Canyon was originally anticipated to be up and running at some point in 2010.

However, thanks to a long list of roadblocks ​— ​ranging from lawsuits and slow progress on the permitting front to economic woes and a soon-to-expire federal tax credit ​— ​the farm remains stuck in second gear, its fate very much up in the air. “There isn’t really much to report,” explained Acciona spokesperson Eric Schneider last week. “Like many projects across the country right now, Lompoc is in a period of waiting.”

Schneider was confident that Acciona would soon complete the paperwork necessary to extend the life of its existing permits from the county, which are set to expire early in 2013. Further, he explained, with the lawsuit challenging the environmental integrity of the project having been dismissed at virtually every level of the courts, the primary issues still hamstringing Lompoc wind are twofold: Acciona has yet to find a “suitable” power purchase agreement (PPA) to fund the project to completion. “Market dynamics are such that the availability of PPA’s are not as great as the number of wind farms under development,” summed up Schneider.

And this less-than-ideal situation is only made worse by the aforementioned wind tax credit. Essentially a subsidy for the wind-energy sector designed to help make it more competitive with other electricity sources, the credit, which costs about $1 billion a year and subsidizes wind energy to the tune of 2.2 cents a kilowatt hour, has become a bit of a hot potato in the current presidential race and is set to expire on December 31.

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