United States

United States

BOUNDARY CHANGE OPENS UP HUGE AREA OF POTENTIAL IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Most wind farms in the San Gorgonio Pass have been annexed to the City of Palm Springs. An extension of boundaries and a subsequent rise in permitted noise levels now opens up possibilities for new commercial and industrial activity.

Wind business may be boosted in Palm Springs after final approval last month of annexation of most wind farms in the San Gorgonio Pass to the City of Palm Springs -- expected to be more favourably inclined to wind farm expansions. The annexation, of some four-fifths of the area's 4000 wind turbines, was finalised on October 14. The area was previously part of the County of Riverside.

The move is considered good for the wind industry which has been promoting the annexation for two years. Noise limits are now eased on the 13.5 square mile area started and a special wind zone has been created to streamline planning for wind operations and to encourage wind related industrial development. Wind officials had said they were not being treated fairly by Riverside County, which had an effective moratorium on growth because of its noise limits, says assistant planning director Richard Patenaude. "Palm Springs is much easier to deal with -- they want to work with wind energy," agrees Neal Emmerton of the Desert Wind Energy Association (DWEA).

Palm Springs supported the annexation because of extra tax revenue which the wind business would contribute. The city felt it was too dependent on seasonal tourism. "That certainly was an incentive -- that was one of the carrots the wind industry held out," says Patenaude. The city manager's office has said that income from the area might, however, only be $108,000 a year. Even so, there was little opposition to the annexation. Plans moved ahead only after Riverside County had objected to a proposal that it share the cost of services in the annex. Palm Springs boundaries now extend past Interstate 10 and as far north as Dillon Road.

Noise limits in the wind area are now 55 decibels, instead of the 45 decibels limit on most wind farms, says DWEA's Emmerton. A wind energy zone has also been created, encompassing the entire wind area, to ease red tape in the planning process. Up to 15% of the area can be built up with industry as long as it uses local wind energy, says Patenaude. There is also a new commercial and industrial zone, measuring about three square miles, to encourage renewables related activity. Possible activities are a wind turbine rotor blade assembly plant, a cogeneration plant or solar panels inbetween the wind turbines, says Emmerton.

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