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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 gunzac21 on 8/3/2010 2:54:10 PM , Rating: 3
i think the discussion was not about killing yourself but more about not having 7 kids... which quite frankly if everyone decided to do that this world would really go to hell. thats the population control they mean.

RE: daf
By lelias2k on 8/3/10, Rating: 0
RE: daf
By Reclaimer77 on 8/3/2010 5:40:50 PM , Rating: 3
Are you kidding? How are the rednecks going to live if they can't have 7 kids?

In America the "white" birthrate is the lowest among all ethnic and cultural groups. By a shocking amount actually. Which is who I assumed you were referring to when you used the term "redneck".

I guess it's easy to pick on whites though, nobody will call you a racist. African American and Latino birth rates, and illegitimate birthrates, are though the roof. It's honestly terrifying. But you wouldn't bring that up because that would be racist.

RE: daf
By Souka on 8/3/2010 7:03:21 PM , Rating: 3
Could you imagine IF American's did have 10+ kids for each couple? Talk about using up the world's energy resources!!!

RE: daf
By lelias2k on 8/3/2010 11:42:44 PM , Rating: 2
That's because they don't count kids with siblings and cousins. :p

RE: daf
By TSS on 8/3/2010 7:55:11 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't have a problem having only 1 or 2 kids, depending on what the best figure would be. It would solve 2 problems: overpopulation of the earth (maybe not now, but at this rate, soon enough), and population booms.

The latter considering the costs involved with taking care of the elderly. Which doesn't become a problem unless when a baby boom crosses over into that care, and there isn't a second boom to cover the costs. It's not about cost, but those people will end up suffering in that case, and all will suffer in the worst case. Which is something we will face up to very soon.

Every human has the right to live, but they should at the very least be concieved first. A stable population wouldn't be a bad thing to leave for our kids.

All of that said, we aren't the problem. The real problem is controlling India's and the whole of africa's population numbers. Some western nations will even see a population decline in the next few decades (at current rates).

RE: daf
By Spuke on 8/3/2010 9:14:17 PM , Rating: 2
Some western nations will even see a population decline in the next few decades (at current rates).
The US is pretty low as are most western countries. I believe Europe is in the negatives for birth rates. Can't get much lower than that. Third world countries have the super high birth rates but it would racist to tell them to slow it down a bit.

RE: daf
By lelias2k on 8/3/2010 11:45:44 PM , Rating: 1
It would be easier if instead of telling someone not to do something, we tried to educate them. ;)

RE: daf
By JediJeb on 8/4/2010 4:14:10 PM , Rating: 3
The latter considering the costs involved with taking care of the elderly. Which doesn't become a problem unless when a baby boom crosses over into that care, and there isn't a second boom to cover the costs. It's not about cost, but those people will end up suffering in that case, and all will suffer in the worst case. Which is something we will face up to very soon.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the government stayed out of people business and pockets and let us provide for our own future needs. Instead the government as set it up so that two generations younger pay for your retirement needs. Had all those prior generations been educated in how to properly save for retirement and allowed to keep most of the money they earned then we would not be in the dire position we are in now.

It funny how you can go around the world and look at even the most backward societies which do not have things like social security and medicare yet their elderly are decently taken care of. Seems most places except modern societies respect the elderly. And for large families, I can say from experience, with my grandfather being one of 12 and my mother being 1 of 11, if anyone in our family suffers from a calamity like losing a house to fire or such, they don't have to worry about the government bailing them out, the family takes care of them until they are back on their feet. Families and communities are what should be taking care of people, not governments.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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