Local News

Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 04:07 PM

Supervisors OK deal to dim distracting turbine lights

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    County supervisors approved a deal to shut off many of the powerful lights on top of the wind turbines between Mojave and Tehachapi.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Kern County supervisors, on Tuesday, cheered a deal that will shut off long strings of powerful red beacons mounted on top of wind turbines in the massive wind fields between Mojave and Tehachapi.

"I'm pleased to announce that 227 lights will be turned off, which is over 64 percent," said Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt.

And future wind energy developments will build lights onto wind turbines under the new plan.

Supervisors thanked wind energy companies, planners and consultants for working to get the Federal Aviation Administration -- which regulated the lights -- to support the change.

But they thanked Stuart Witt, CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port, for pushing passionately for the change.

Witt called the red beacons "light pollution" borne out of a reasonable regulation gone wrong.

He said the lights were supposed to be a safety measure for pilots. But they turned into a very distracting pattern of glaring red that baffled pilots trying to make a final approach to one of the desert airport's runways.

Witt thanked the county for getting done what he couldn't.

John Clancy with ClancyJG International, the consultant who studied the problem and pulled together the solution, said the effort was uniquely successful.

He said his group made two trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration on the issue. They managed to get the FAA to visit Mojave.

"We chartered a plane. We flew them out to the area and they were totally amazed by what they saw," Clancy said.

The lights were strung out over miles, blinking from the top of turbines spaced just a few towers apart from each other.

Ultimately the FAA agreed only to keep the lights on the turbines at the perimeter of the sea of wind machines in the area.

Tuesday's action clears the way for the lights to be shut off by the wind energy companies who control the turbines.

Randy Hoyle with Terra-Gen Power said the lights should be turned off within two weeks.

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