An Opportunity Lost or a Bullet Dodged?
Monday, September 10th, 2007

Looking out to sea from the Mendocino Headlands.

In a surprising development, Chevron has withdrawn its application for a wave energy prototype off the shores of Mendocino. Apparently, the lengthier approval process in California led Chevron to drop this proposal in favor of a proposed project in Alaska. Chevron has even scheduled a community meeting in October to discuss the project – the first such meeting since the application was filed.

This episode was very instructive, since it demonstrated that local input is not necessary in order for a large corporation to stake a claim on the ocean. In the picture above, taken from the Mendocino Headlands, the proposed wave energy plant would quite possibly have been visible. The huge floating sections could have been located as close as a half-mile from shore, well within visual range. Now that people are awakened to the situation, I hope that people will be galvanized to ensure that the local population can have a say in what happens locally (a radical concept, I know).

We obviously need green energy sources, but there are enough questions here that it seems like caution is in order. Why can’t a wave energy plant be located offshore, away from people and viewsheds and whale migrations? The Mendocino Coast has waves in abundance (although not particularly good for surfing), but it also has wind and sun in abundance. Where are the wind farms and solar panels?

There are many questions to be answered, but at least a little time has been bought with which to find some answers.

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