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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."

The 
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 3:41:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Hippies = Hypocrites


I think that's a little too absolute to ever be true or if it is I think it would be meaningless because it would most likely implicate everyone else as hyprocrites in different manners.

I don't necessarily disagree that there is some level of hypocrisy inherent in an extreme environmentalist living a modern lifestyle in an industrialized country, but I was more speaking to people at least being aware of their environmental and societal impact. Just because their are the extremists and their agendas doesn't mean "normal" (whatever that is) people have to throw any thought about the environment out of the window. Most people try to be conscious of the environment in small ways everyday (turn off the water while brushing teeth, recycling, sh|t like that). There's nothing wrong with that, in my mind.

I didn't mention it earlier... but you brought up a good point. No I don't believe I have a real ethical right to rail against someone who leads a more excessive lifestyle than myself. BUT, I think that lifestyle should come at a cost.

Plus there are hidden costs (not environmental) associated with living in the burbs that often remains unaddressed.
I live in DC so it doesn't have a state govt... said captain obvious lol, but if I lived somewhere like... Philadelphia. It would suck that I would pay as much or more in taxes to support my city and state, while the state and federal govts typically pick up the tab for providing countless services to people who "choose" to live outside an urban area, typically because of their affluence.

A good example in this case would be transportation budgets, these are highly subsidized by the federal government and that's not including special "expansion" projects. Instead of those monies going into making a cool subway or tram system or something really beneficial to the city with it's millions of residents. It is typically used just to maintain the plethora of roadway that is sprawled across the surrounding countryside that services less residents.

So, outside the environmental impact, and not stating who is "good" or "bad" or where people "should" live. I just think these neighborhoods should pay a price fitting their social and economic burden for the luxury they 'chose'.


RE: daf
By Suntan on 8/3/2010 4:51:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So, outside the environmental impact, and not stating who is "good" or "bad" or where people "should" live. I just think these neighborhoods should pay a price fitting their social and economic burden for the luxury they 'chose'.


Isn’t that what property taxes are for? Not to mention the notion of a progressive income tax? And if you own a car, you’re paying for the infrastructure through car registration taxes. If anything it is unfair that people owning cars should have to pay taxes to support public transportation that they will never use.

Further, I personally live in the far Southern part of the Twin Cities in Dakota County. Dakota County includes a fair potion of the Twin Cities “Urban” area but it also stretches down through suburban and significant rural areas. Now I live in a decent (but hardly lavish) suburb on the outskirts where crime is low and most people just want to live their lives, go to work and raise their children.

Here is how my County spends its funds:

http://www.co.dakota.mn.us/NR/rdonlyres/EA8AEEEF-6...

So 10% total went to transportation (including public transit, of which there have been substantial additions in the form of public mass transit infrastructure over the last year) while roughly 50% of it went to social services like welfare and cops/incarceration. At the expense of painting with a broad brush, how much of that 50% would you guess needed to be spent in my quiet little suburb? Yet my property taxes are footing the majority of the county’s funding... Hypocrite.

Honestly, how many times over should the Have’s continue to pay to satisfy the greedy, jealous, “I want some of that too” nature of the have-not’s?

-Suntan


RE: daf
By Spuke on 8/3/2010 10:53:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No I don't believe I have a real ethical right to rail against someone who leads a more excessive lifestyle than myself.
Define excessive lifestyle.

quote:
BUT, I think that lifestyle should come at a cost.
What costs are these people avoiding? Is it less taxes on fuel? Is it lower property taxes? Is it lower insurance?


RE: daf
By tng on 8/4/2010 10:53:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Instead of those monies going into making a cool subway or tram system or something really beneficial to the city with it's millions of residents . It is typically used just to maintain the plethora of roadway that is sprawled across the surrounding countryside that services less residents.
Whoa, backup there.

The maintenance "plethora of roadway" that you speak of is paid for by mainly gas taxes, the majority of which is paid for by the people who use the roads, not mass transit users!

Why should I, who have no use for some inner city subway system or light rail have to pay for those projects? Especially when it will come at the expense of the roads that I use to go to and from work daily?

If you want a cool subway or new mass transport system in your urban area, then the people that will use it should pay for it. Ongoing operations should be paid for with the fares and taxes on the people in the area that are connected with it, not the people out in the burbs who get no benefit from it.

Going back to the original problem is that the eco nuts that seem to live mainly in urban areas, would probably block projects like your cool new subway, or make it so expensive that it is not practical.


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