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Construction on the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) began last week in California.  (Source: Terra Gen)

The project aims to provide 3 GW of power capacity, power 600,000 homes, and create thousands of green jobs.  (Source: Terra Gen)

Some environmentalists have vocally opposed the project, fearful that the turbins will kill local animals and otherwise damage the desert ecosystem.  (Source: Mojave Desert Blog)
Overcoming landowner and environmentalist protests, the 3 GW project commences

With the death of T. Boone Pickens' unprecedented wind farm project in Texas, the alternative energy industry was left with the glaring question of who would step up to the plate and take its place.  

That question appears to be answered, with the progress of the Alta Wind Energy Center.  Set to become the nation's largest wind power plant and among the largest in the world, the new installation is being constructed in Southern California.

Its tall turbines will blanket thousands of acres of Mojave Desert foothills.  They will be capable of producing 3 GW of electric power at peak -- enough to power approximately 600,000 homes.

The project is actually among the nation's oldest, dating back almost a decade.  It was long delayed due to lack of funding, protests from citizens fearful of damage to the desert ecosystem, and difficulties in implementing the high-power transmission wires needed to carry the power out of the desert.

It appears that the stars are at last aligning for the project.  After receiving $1.2B USD in new funding, the owner of the project, Terra Gen, just broke ground for the first time in the project's history.  Construction began in the Tehachapi Pass, 75 miles north of Los Angeles.  The construction will likely stretch through 2020 or later.

Billy Gamboa, a renewable energy analyst with the California Center for Sustainable Energy, says the installation will be a game changer for the industry.  He states, "It's a super-mega-project — it'll definitely set a precedent for the rest of the state and have a pretty large impact on the wind industry in general."

Ryan Wiser, a renewable energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, concurs, stating, "Alta's an absolutely enormous project in probably the most promising wind resource area that remains in the state,.  It's the single biggest investment in California wind project assets in decades and is likely the largest the state is ever going to see."

The farm already has some of its necessary distribution deals in place.  Terra Gen has signed a contract with Southern California Edison, to buy 1.55 GW of power over 25 years from Alta.  That will allow it to power 275,000 homes purely on wind power.  That distribution alone more than doubles the previous record held by a 735 MW Texas farm.

The first round of construction will install 290 turbines across 9,000 acres.  That will create thousands of jobs and increase California's wind power production by 25 percent according to current estimates.  Denmark-based Vestas-American Wind Technology will manufacture the turbines for this round of construction.

In 2015, the next piece of the megafarm, an 300-turbine 830 MW monster, will come online.  That piece will use new ultra-wide turbines whose blades will be almost as wide as a football field.

Terra Gen purchased the property and the project rights for $325M USD from Australian Allco Finance Group, which went bankrupt in 2008.  After that Terra Gen had to overcome concerns from the Federal Aviation Administration that the turbines could interfere with flights from LA's Mountain Valley Airport.

While the company has finally received the permits it needs to complete the construction, it still is facing petitions from environmentalists and landowners.  One petition by the Old West Ranch Property Owners Assn. has over 1,000 signatures.  The group's president, Merle Carnes, complains, "We're not against green energy in any way, but there just comes a time when you say that this is my community and I don't want turbines encroaching in full view.  There's room somewhere else."

Mojave Desert Blog, an environmental activist blog critical of the project, writes, "Energy firms and the federal government should invest in more research before we rush technology into action that kills thousands of birds and bats and replicating Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" in our new century."

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RE: daf
By bupkus on 8/3/2010 2:00:22 PM , Rating: 2
They want to 'Reduce' the human Population. They want to lower birth rates.
They want to 'Reduce' the human population by lowering birth rates.

But, I like your 'hands off' approach more. Lets increase the human birth rate exacerbating the shortages of food, drinking water and futile land resulting in more starvation, disease and war, destabilized political institutions and the tearing apart of our social fabrics.

BTW, most of the world is already in a decline into the stone age by these same forces you attribute to 'them' those dastardly environmentalists, tree-huggers, greenies, etc.

RE: daf
By theArchMichael on 8/3/2010 2:17:02 PM , Rating: 2
They want to 'Reduce' the human population by lowering birth rates.

Yeah I understood it as the same. I can't get behind the "greenies" complete agenda but I agree with this.
There is lots of data suggesting that birth rate's correlate to levels of education .

What I find startling is that environmental groups tend not to show leniency or flexibility in their message to accomadate this. And I haven't seen evidence that they are proactively using this data to push for more access to education in "third world" countries and here in America. Instead they attempt to dictate to people what food they can't eat and completely halt a project (which might be the lesser of 2 evils, for example, the wind farm) even though it appears to be counterproductive to the point you mentioned.
These "greenies" and other political groups play "roles" and not their part. That's why I think its hard to get behind them.

RE: daf
By bupkus on 8/3/2010 8:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
Instead they attempt to dictate to people what food they can't eat
I don't get your entire statement or where you think you read it from but if I were trying to understand your post I can only recall the belief that meat production uses considerably more resources than non-meat production. Other than that it just sounds like more BS about environmentalists. And quite honestly I don't give a ship about this preoccupation with environmentalists. How about using a little common sense about the limitations of every environmental system and its ability to rebound from overuse? Don't fixate on the damn messenger but instead think about the message.

RE: daf
By Solandri on 8/3/2010 4:42:21 PM , Rating: 2
But, I like your 'hands off' approach more. Lets increase the human birth rate exacerbating the shortages of food, drinking water and futile land resulting in more starvation, disease and war, destabilized political institutions and the tearing apart of our social fabrics.

There is no food or water shortage. There's plenty of drinking water and the world grows enough food to feed the world population many times over.

The problem is distribution. In many cases, getting the food and water to the people who need it is cost-prohibitive. One way to solve this problem is by reducing the human population. Unfortunately, many environmentalists see this as the only solution and take a "my way or the highway" approach when advocating.

An alternative solution is to improve transportation technology to where distribution costs fall enough to make it cost-effective to ship food and water to these locales. Another is to lower the cost of energy so the transportation costs drop as well, making it cost-effective to deliver these necessities. Yet another approach would be to foster economic development in these areas, increasing the productivity of these people. Then they can afford to have food and water transported to them.

There are lots of solutions to the problem. It's only when you have stopping technological progress as a side-goal that you fixate on just the "reduce human population" solution. The "overpopulation problem" is already fixing itself, as people in modern societies are naturally having fewer children (and Japan and some European countries are actually shrinking in population). It turns out that when you use technology to improve your productivity, you don't need to have a dozen kids to provide raw physical labor to help run the farm.

RE: daf
By bupkus on 8/3/2010 8:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
Have you considered another option-- people migrating to prosperous countries? Just a small oversight.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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