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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 theArchMichael on 8/3/2010 2:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
"stone age" might be far flung. But i read an article a looonnnngggg time ago about environmentalists working in africa that were attempting to dissuade the tribes from using genetically engineered crops and animals in lieu of their organic local alternatives.
This sounds great if your in a farm in Potomac or something or if you're talking about someone's victory garden in georgetown. But when the "frankenfood" that they are dissuading them from using is disease and pest resistant crops that can provide much more food for the generally starving local population... That's a lot to ask a reasonable person to support that.
One of the core needs of a growing and evolving society is access and surplus of food and housing. To send missionaries to those who don't have that trying to persuade them that they don't need it is wrong... to me at least.

RE: daf
By Spuke on 8/3/2010 9:48:54 PM , Rating: 3
To send missionaries to those who don't have that trying to persuade them that they don't need it is wrong... to me at least.
If I were a tribal African and I saw a westernary coming my way, they'd get a spear chucked through the eye. Seriously, leave these people alone! Their way of life works for them and they don't need some 22 year old, middle class, junior in college, greenpeace wannabe, "I'm going to save the world!", wet behind the ears, used clothes wearing, Brentwood bitch telling them how to live their lives. Go plant a tomato farm in downtown Seattle or something.

African Tribal Dude: My name Kunta!
Westernary: Your name is Toby!

These bastards supposedly don't believe in slavery but they have NO problems removing your freedom of choice. Then pretending you still have it. If you have no freedom of choice, what are you? And don't give me that "I'm not telling you what to do" or "you can still buy light bulbs, just not these". Where do you people stop? Is it when those that refuse to bow to you are put in internment camps? Oh noes!! I'm not saying that Spuke! What happened to the Jews and Japanese was horrible!

Or are you too pussy to go that far. Instead choosing to brow beat (manipulate) people into submission. Hitler didn't start with gassing people at first either. Look at the Jim Crow era here in the good ole US. How do you get people to behave like they're slaves when slavery is illegal? Wait a minute Spuke, my ancestors were slaves, I'd never advocate that. Good!!!! Then you should promote freedom of choice, stay the fuck out of tribal anywhere, and learn to live with the things you can't control.


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