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California wind project abandoned. Company rep says no wind, but was it really a victory for opponents?

Chris Clarke — ReWire — January 11, 2013

A controversial proposal to locate as many as forty 420-foot-tall wind turbines near a wildland preserve in the Morongo Basin appears to be a non-starter. Portland-based wind developerElement Power has informed the Bureau of Land Management that it doesn’t plan to install turbines atop Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa near the rustic hamlet of Pioneertown, citing insufficient wind resources.

Greg Thomsen, Special Projects Manager for the BLM’s California Desert District, told ReWire that Element Power filed a formal “Request to Relinquish” its permit for testing wind resources on the site with the BLM’s Barstow office on December 27. That request, since approved by the BLM, becomes official in late January.

The results of wind speed testing are generally guarded closely by developers as proprietary information.

The project, first proposed by Redlands-based Sierra Renewables, would have covered about 4,000 acres of two unique volcanic buttes adjacent to the Wildlands Conservancy’s Pioneertown Mountains Preserve in the Pipes Canyon area. Element erected two meteorological testing towers in July 2011, igniting a firestorm of opposition from neighbors.

Those neighbors were already battle-hardened when it came to fighting energy interests: they’d just the year before beaten back a proposal by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to build a large transmission line, the so-called Green Path North, which would have bisected their rural neighborhood. That proposal was dropped by DWP in 2010, in part due to local opposition.

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