Friday, August 05, 2005

New windmills near Rio Vista get approval from Solano County Planning Commission

Article Launched: 08/05/2005 07:01:15 AM

New windmills near Rio Vista get approval

By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

Some of the older steel-frame windmills in the Montezuma Hills near Rio Vista will be replaced with six new, towering sleek windmills.

The Solano County Planning Commission gave the go-ahead to a project broached by Escondido-based enXco, Inc., for the six 1.5 megawatt windmills in the Montezuma Hills. They can power up to 2,700 homes.

The approval came after the commission had delayed acceptance of the project last year while more information was gathered about the aesthetics of allowing the 60- to 80-meter-tall towers near Highway 12. More data was also needed about the windmills impact on bird deaths.

The improved data showed that fewer raptors, including the red-tailed hawk and American kestrel, would be killed by the six new windmills than the 90 older-generation windmills.

The impact that wind turbines can have on sensitive raptors and other birds of prey has come under more scrutiny lately because there have been problems in the Altamont Pass with bird deaths.

As the Montezuma Hills becomes a growing wind resource area in the state - more than 800 windmills are built or planned there now - planning commissioners wanted to see detailed information about the amount of bird deaths that are projected in the local area.

Jim Estep, an environmental consultant on the project, said that the new windmills would pose fewer problems for birds than the ones they would replace.

Some 3.4 raptors per year would be killed by the slow-turning rotors of the new windmills, he said. The old windmills was estimated to kill 4.3 birds per year.

"These are biologically insignificant (numbers)," he said.

Solano County is one of four wind resource areas in the state that have proved profitable for companies looking to build California's portfolio of clean, renewable sources of energy.

The Altamont Pass, Tehachapi and the Palm Springs area are the other locations in the state where the winds are consistent enough for the windmills to be feasible, said enXco company officials.

Jason Massad can be reached at

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