waited too long. Thanks to unchecked burning of fossil fuels, global
warming is now causing climate disruption across the planet. The
world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis”
unless there are major transformations to global society, according
to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.
Unless we act immediately and decisively, locally, the future may
bring ever increasing sea levels, drought, wildfire, insect outbreaks
and widespread tree die-off, and more.
What we are currently doing is not enough. Individual efforts to reduce our personal carbon footprints are simply insufficient to make a difference. Keeping climate change under control will require radical systemic change at local, state, national and international level. As is said, “think global, act local.”
What did we learn from the recent PG&E shutdown? One: climate change is a contributing factor in increased wildfire risk. And two: Humboldt County needs energy independence.
The Humboldt Wind Project can help solve both problems. By drastically reducing carbon emissions, and by generating megawatts of clean, renewable electricity for local use.
The Humboldt Wind Project consisting of 47 turbines on Bear River and Monument Ridges would be built on two private land owner’s property: 1) the Russ Ranch, which is managed for cattle ranching; and 2) Humboldt Redwood Company, which is managed for timber production.
The Humboldt Wind Project is a project between three consenting entities who are willingly choosing to build a private project on private property. The project is NOT on public land, nor is it publicly funded. No taxpayer dollars would be used to build the project, nor would it increase any taxes. It is being designed and will be built in conformance with all California and federal laws.
The county (nor public agencies) cannot mandate that private landowners provide access to their property, nor that private landowners replant vegetation that would not be conducive to the existing industrial uses. For example, the Russ ranch needs and maintains vegetation for cattle.
Fact: The Humboldt Wind Project would be located along historic tribal cultural areas of the Wiyot and neighboring Bear River Tribe’s ancestral territories. Bear River Ridge is known as Tsakiyuwit to the Wiyot people and it noted as a “high prayer spot” used by natives prior to the genocidal invasion of settlers to the Humboldt Bay area.
All archeological sites documented during surveys would be avoided in the construction of the project. In addition, ethnobotanical plants significant to the Wiyot Tribe impacted by the project would be salvaged and returned to the Wiyot Tribe for replanting. To protect future condor releases, a cultural resource of the Yurok and National Park Service’s, the project will outfit condors with transponders, install a geofence, and will curtail to avoid any strikes to condors. However, even with implementation of these measures, building the Humboldt Wind Project would have a significant, unavoidable and unmitigable impact on cultural the viewshed Bear River Ridge, a place of significance for the Wiyot people. The impact is “unmitigable” because the Wiyot have stated that there is no way to mitigate for the change of the landscape from an open space used for grazing and timber, to an open space used for grazing, timber and wind generation.
Fact: About 50% of Humboldt’s energy needs has to be transmitted across two lines that cross hundreds of miles of forests, public and private lands from the east. These are the transmission lines that are most vulnerable to fire. Generating electricity locally helps to displace the need to bring in energy from the east. Building Terra-Gen’s Humboldt Wind Project is a huge step in the direction of locally-based, fossil-fuel free energy resiliency. Is it going to solve the conundrum of PSPSs tomorrow? No. But generating local energy gives us tools in our toolbox to use for the next systematic steps that Humboldt County, the State of California and PG&E need to take.
Myth: More of the same, a centralized grid-tied energy project, that will be dependent on PG&E’s fire-prone transmission lines.
Fact: Absent the centralized grid-tied utility-scale electrical system 95% of people would not be able to turn on their lights, and our entire community and economy would be in the dark. Should society look toward more decentralized energy sources? Yes. Is that what we can do tomorrow? No because that is not how our society is currently organized.
While we cannot control how PG&E manages its grid, what we can do is support a project that would increase our supply of local energy generation. The Humboldt Wind Project would pay $14 million for network upgrades to the grid, which would enhance the safety, and reliability to our system. Additionally, Terra-Gen would underground miles of PG&E overhead distribution lines (the ones that contribute to fire risk).
Myth: This project does not in any way plan to isolate energy for Humboldt County. Electricity in the grid flows to the demand, which almost always lies in urban and industrial centers, away from “the hamlet of Humboldt County.”
Fact: Electricity, like water flows to the path of least resistance. The Humboldt Wind Project would generate electricity as close as possible to energy users—Humboldt County, population ~137,000 people. Locally sourced, generation of electricity through harnessing the power of wind is a renewable, carbon-free source of energy.
Currently, about a 1/3rd of Humboldt’s energy comes from the Humboldt Bay Power Plant that runs on fracked natural gas (piped in from the Great Plains). Displacing our local consumption of natural gas helps reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, which helps combat climate change. Even if every single electron was sold out of the area it would still be displacing a fossil-fuel based electron somewhere else. Again, as the saying goes, “Think global, act local.” We need to stop burning fossil-fuels for energy, and replace our energy needs with renewables.
Myth: It takes more carbon to build the project then it is worth.
Fact: Life Cycle Analysis, the “Energy Return on Invested (EROI), has generally been found that energy payback time is less than half a year. The energy balance is determined by dividing the energy consumption of a turbine over its expected lifetime by the yearly energy production of that turbine. Energy consumption includes all the energy required for manufacturing, transporting, erecting, dismantling and disposing of the turbine” https://www.appropedia.org/
Myth: Implementing this project would threaten the carbon storage of 1000’s of acres of forestlands.
Fact: Terra-Gen’s strategy for environmental impact analysis was to take a “corridor approach” that assumed the maximum impact of the Humboldt Wind Project could be on the environment by looking at 1000’ wide corridor, that is about six miles long, with 60 turbines, operating 100% of the time with a 25-mile transmission line. The purpose of CEQA is as a disclosure document to allow the public, agencies and decision-makers to understand what could occur if a project were to be built. Since the DEIR was released in June, Terra-Gen has “micro-sited” the turbines, which means picking the exact locations of the 47 turbines to maximize the wind resources and minimize impacts on the environment. In the DEIR, the HWP would impact 900 acres of land (760 acres of temporary impact and 135 acres of permanent), today it would impact 680 acres (615 acres of temporary and 65 acres of permanent). Permanent impacts to forests and woodlands have been decreased from 90 acres in the DEIR to 35 acres through project redesign in the FEIR—which is a 61% reduction in impacts.
Through the micro-siting project, reducing the footprint from 60 turbines to 47, reducing the length of the Gen-Tie, and redesigning the access roads, the impacts of the project are dramatically reduced, and additional mitigation strategies are being implemented.
No old-growth forest would be harmed or removed as a result of this project. The project is located on industrial forest and ranch lands that are managed for ongoing timber harvest and cattle foraging.
Myth: The off-shore wind project and micro-grids can save us.
Fact: $142,857 is what it would cost every single home in Humboldt county if you used the Blue Lake Rancheria Micro-grid system as the example to power them. To think that an expanded or multiple Rancheria style Micro-Grid systems will somehow power all of Humboldt homes and businesses is a wild fiction to the people of Humboldt County. If we expand those numbers to all of Humboldt county it works out to well over $3 Billion dollars!
The best scientists in the world produced the International Panel Climate Change (IPCC) report and have given us until 2030 to reduce our carbon by 60%+. This is not an either-or decision, it is both, on-shore and off-shore wind! In order to reach Humboldt County’s goal of 100% renewable by 2030 we need 40% from off-shore wind, 25% from on-shore wind, 22% from biomass, 4% from small hydro, 6% from solar, and 2% from utility-scale solar.
We do not have time to wait for a speculative project such as the off-shore wind project. While I certainly hope that everything falls into place with the off-shore wind project, there are a lot of pieces to that project that are not yet realized or “for sure.” At this point in time, there is only one floating off-shore wind farm in the U.S., and it has six turbines. Because floating off-shore technology is new, there is very little research that show what the impacts are (unlike on-shore where we have decades of data). And where off-shore has been proposed, many potential sites have been nixed due to community opposition. We cannot put off something certain, for an uncertain future.
We have the money, we have the technology, we have the willing landowners who want to build these wind turbines on their private property, what we don’t have any more is time. It’s time for people to realize the enemy is global warming, not the Humboldt Wind Project.
Myth: The project will create a new, and near 30-mile-long, transmission corridor through remote forestlands.
Fact: Terra-Gen (not PG&E) would be responsible for keeping its 23 miles of transmission line clear, and free of local wildfire threats. The proposed project uses modern computer technology, modern materials, and modern tower designs. In contrast, the segments of PG&E’s aging grid system implicated in the recent wildfires are approximately 100 years old and in immediate need of replacement
In the case of the proposed transmission line, the alignment crosses actively managed timberland that is regularly harvested for timber by Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) and others. As a result, the project will benefit from its location on actively managed timberland that is less prone to wildfire due to the removal of understory growth and reducing fuel loads.
Myth: Terra-Gen tax dollars and jobs are worthless.
$2,000,000 is not a drop in the bucket for Humboldt County. Income vs. expenses is a fairly simple accounting task. More money into Humboldt County equals more services provided.
Closing: It is impossible to meet our local goals of 100% renewable energy generation without the Humboldt Wind Project. No number of micro-grids, rooftop solar, of conservation can feasibly displace the production of the HWP. And, it is paid for by someone else—not you. If Humboldt County were to buy all of our renewable energy from somewhere else, that would mean someone else’s backyard would be despoiled. Someone else’s sacred site. It is time we wake up and take responsibility for our own energy generation and consumption. We cannot put this off any longer for some magical solution in the future. Or tell someone else, you impact your backyard (for my needs) because mine is too precious to use.
Natalynne DeLapp is paid as the Community Liaison for Terra-Gen. She is a Eureka resident, environmental activist and community organizer, holds a B.S. in Environmental Science & Public Policy from HSU, and is a Cascadia Leadership graduate. Natalynne’s goal is to contribute to Humboldt County’s environmental health, public well-being and economic development.