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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 3:16:48 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you, but I think in terms of social acceptance, people are much more willing to live in urban areas with kids even if they have the means to move out of the city. I think it definitely depends on what your nearby city is... ie Detroit. But for a lot of people now an apartment or rowhouse with a little backyard is not just acceptable but desirable.

I think that in most metro areas they don't have the opportunity or it's just not feasible to get a little place "out in the mountains". But I must admit it does sound nice, good luck to you ;-).

RE: daf
By Suntan on 8/3/2010 5:15:22 PM , Rating: 4
I agree with you, but I think in terms of social acceptance, people are much more willing to live in urban areas with kids even if they have the means to move out of the city.

No, all you are really seeing is that *you* personally feel that way, and you just so happen to have moved into a neighborhood that all feels the same way you do about your choice of living location (surprise, surprise.)

The problem is that you are now of the misguided assumption that *everybody* feels the same way you do... Which in all honesty is quite similar to the problems being faced in the region that is the topic of the main article. A whole bunch of people voluntarily chose to set up camp and overpopulate a barren stretch of desert, landlocked by the sea on one side and a mountain range on the other, voluntarily imposed a number of national and state parks/forests to further separate them from the rest of the continent, where the geography suffers from prevailing winds coming off the ocean that locks all their smog and putrescence into the little desert bowl they chose to overpopulate and then began to b|tch and moan because the rest of the union doesn’t feel the same sense of urgency about their crap-predicament as they do.


RE: daf
By bupkus on 8/3/10, Rating: 0
RE: daf
By Suntan on 8/3/2010 9:49:08 PM , Rating: 2
Your rant is misplaced as this person is only suggesting a preference for urban living.

Reading comprehension pal, he specifically said, "...people are much more willing to live in urban areas..." not "I prefer to live in urban areas."

As for the rest of your comments, they are quite irrelevant as the argument was not about "urban vs. suburban which is better to live in" the discussion was about people living in the suburbs needing to "subsidize" urban dwellers out of some misplaced view of "using more resources."


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