One California power company is betting big on wind

California is already leading the nation in solar efforts.  It’s also seeking to revamp its power grid and go green with a number of other power sources including geothermal and clean fission.

Southern California Edison (SCE) is one of California's largest power utilities.  It has already committed to going green in a big way, with 7.71B kWh of geothermal, 2.58B kWh of wind power, 667M kWh of solar, 580M kWh of biogas, 556M kWh of small hydro, and 336M kWh of biomass generated power generated for customers in 2007.  This placed SCE as the nation's largest supplier of alternative energy, with over 16 percent of its power from renewable sources.

Now SCE is tackling wind power on a large scale, signing contracts for 909 MW of new capacity.  The new contract is with DCE, an affiliate of Caithness Energy and will be one of the world's largest fully permitted wind farms.  With it, California moves closer to surpassing Texas as wind power capital of the U.S. 

The new installation will actually be installed outside California in Gilliam and Morrow Counties in North-Central Oregon between 2011 and 2012.  The installation will consist of 303 3-MW turbines in a 30 mile radius. Shepherd’s Flat will generate around 2B kWh of wind power for SCE, about 10 percent of its total alternative energy portfolio.  The wind-rich region is one of the nation's "bread baskets" of wind power.

Stuart Hemphill, SCE vice president, Renewable and Alternative Power, lauded the latest contract, stating, "This contract is a crown jewel in our renewable energy portfolio.  The project is attractive to SCE because of its size, near-term delivery and its competitive price."

One key to the project's potential is that no new power transmission lines need to be built.  This will allow it to come online much more quickly and start making returns on the investment sooner.  Wind power is also cheaper per kWh than solar or many other alternative energy sources.

Les Gelber, president and chief operating officer of Caithness Energy sums up the new effort, stating, "Caithness has been successfully partnering with Southern California Edison since the 1980s to bring renewable energy to the region.  The Shepherd’s Flat project is particularly exciting and will bring a significant new renewable energy supply to the western United States."

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