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Alta Wind Farm, America’s Largest Wind Power Project, Blows Closer

By Stacy Feldman

Jul 27, 2009

The news that Terra-Gen Power has secured is an important development: After bumps on the road to better transmission lines, America's largest wind power project is finally moving forward, even as the economy stays cool.

The project is the Alta Wind Energy Center, located in California's windy Tehachapi-Mojave region, about 100 miles north of urban Los Angeles.

The wind farm is expected to eventually comprise 750 turbines spread over 50 square miles – triple the size of any existing U.S. wind project and out-performing the world's current largest wind farm. Eventually it will feed 3,000 MW of clean power into California's power grid.

But first things first: The millions raised by Terra-Gen, the New York-based renewable energy developer, will be used to purchase the facility's first 100 turbines. The GE-made windmills will be deployed at phase one of the project, the 150-MW Alta Wind I site.

Currently, the largest wind farm in the world is Florida Power & Light's Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Taylor and Nolan County, Texas. The project was completed in 2006, with 421 wind turbines and a capacity of 735 MW.

The Alta Wind Energy Center facility was announced with great fanfare the same year that Horse Hollow opened. Back then, Alta Wind was heralded as "cutting edge," a new model for future large-scale deployment of wind nationwide. And it's no wonder. When fully developed, the facility was going to increase utility-scale wind power capacity in the U.S. by 14 percent, and in California by 65 percent.

"The Alta Wind Energy Center is a big step toward achieving a new model for future large-scale developments necessary to meet the California Renewable Portfolio Standard [RPS] requirement of 20 percent of retail energy sales by 2010 from renewable sources," the company said.

The plan was to be phased in 100 MW at a time, over a period of five or more years beginning in 2007. That ambitious start date came and went, due to transmission constraints.

To their credit, the developers crossed a major hurdle early on. In December 2006, Alta Windpower Development LLC signed a 1,550 MW, 20-year contract to sell its wind to Southern California Edison. The deal became the largest wind energy contract ever signed by a U.S. utility, and with it, Alta Wind removed an overlooked barrier to the successful development of wind energy. It secured a reliable market in which to sell its power.

But the project's completion was contingent upon overcoming an even bigger challenge for renewable energy: the construction of a transmission line that would carry the electricity generated at the wind farm straight to the state's power grid.

The Transmission Challenge

The road to get there was long and laced with regulatory red tape. But in 2008, Southern California Edison officially began the construction of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, a $1.8 billion, high-voltage transmission system capable of delivering 4,500 MW of clean power. Phases 1 through 3, out of 11, are expected to be completed in 2010.

Transmission remains the main hurdle to wind expansion in America. When the the nation's wind power development earlier this month, it gave the country a B overall but a C- for transmission, saying,

The U.S. showed "very little progress on reforming policies for planning, paying for and permitting transmission."

Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens also blamed the lack of long-distance grid capacity between rural Texas and energy-hungry urban centers when he recently postponed his much-acclaimed 4,000-MW Pampa wind project.

The Tehachapi plan is a notable exception to the lull in long-distance transmission activity in America. In fact, it's the first major transmission project in California being built specifically to access renewable generators in a remote, wind-rich resource area.

alta windpower developement

My mother has been contacted  to lease her Majove land .  I would like to hear from those who have leased land to them and hear their feelings on the pros and cons. 

Investments in Energy

Wonderful news and hope many such wind power projects should be establihsed by the government of United States in various states. This power project is really going to be a bench mark in the wind the sector. Hope many other countries would adopt such project and develop the renewable energy sphere.I also recommend the readers to visit the website , since this website will give plenty of details regarding the renewable energy sector. Hope you will enjoy reading news about energy sphere.

Alta wind energy

Alta wind energy project is it good or bad news for landowners, please leave comments.

I would like to apply a job, where do I do this?

Dear Alta Wind Energy.
My name is Manuel Leal I'm a licensed contractor, and I would like to apply for a job as field wind technician at the Tehachapi project. Please write back and advice. Thank you.
Manuel Leal
P.O. Box 225
Murrieta, Ca 92564
(951) 318-8311

I have been to this place

I have been to this place once and it is a great marvel! I believe that our government should also fund similar projects in other states as this is a great alternative source and eco-friendly way of harvesting and producing energy. A $15mil budget may sound a lot but the results are very beneficial and it is a great investment in the long run.


Project Fiannce

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


lease tehachapi mountain top 80 ac

I would like to talk to people who have leased their land, are they happy with contract,

Alta Wind Farm

We hve property in Mojave, and have been contact by this company-I am curious did you ever get a response to your email asking if folks are happy with their contract? What exactly is the contract for? Appreciate any response and thankyou

Both my kids are in a lease

Both my kids are in a lease with Alta Wind and we are dealing with Kalena shes the one contacting owners its a down payment to start survey and test on land and if they use the property its a 34 year lease with a yearly payment and a royalty fee for energy usage off land.

Vacant Land in Mojave

I have property in same area (CPC East project area) but no one contact me yet, only received papers from Kern county for change in zone classification notice, please leave comments if is good or bad, Thank you.

Altawind Energy Center - Tehachapi/Mohavi

A relative owns property in the area and has just received the lease agreement forms from Terra-gen Power. We are curious as to what is being offered to other property owners, and how willing to negotiate is Terra-gen Power.

the us is creating wind farms as fast the winds across georgia!

Stacy Feldman is doing a good job of capturing the emotion of wind farms. That's much of the problem with this energy form, it's more about emotion than substance.

Think i'm wrong? How fast is the wind energy growing in China? About 100% year over year 'cept China's not known as a worldly windy place. In comparison, the entire expanse of the great plains is incredibly windy yet progress in relatively slow. Read the history of making the Hoover and Grand Cooley Dams and compare that to the pace of wind farm construction. In comparison, the red tape isn't cut through and projects are canceled for bizarre and environmental reasons, by environmentalists who prefer 'Green Energy' - a hypocrisy.

Cases in point:
Just search information about the nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind that has not produced a singe GW of energy yet it's been talked about for more than 5 years. Hoover dam was completed in what, 3 years, and that was far more complicated. Why? Regulations and lack of anyone with the drive to make it happen. Listen to Larry the Cable Guy and just 'get R' done'.

the Sage Grouse and the Prairie Chicken:
What would the world be like if America's Bird, the sage grouse was put on the endangered species and may some day be limited to viewing only in zoos. Is that a world we want to pass down to our grandchildren? I think not. What about America's other critical historic bird, the prairie chicken?

[from {“We’re very concerned they could go into a nose dive that they wouldn’t recover from,” said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation at the National Audubon Society. That’s not because the birds fly into the turbine blades. “They can’t really strut their stuff anywhere where there’s something tall nearby,” Butcher said.

Lesser prairie chickens usually won’t go near wind turbines — much less breed in their midst, according to information gathered through radio collar tracking. The stocky birds see the turbines and transmission lines as hideouts for their predators, namely hawks and eagles. Their already limited habitat is expected to be further fragmented by the wind industry, pushing them into small groups that have low chances for survival, biologists and wildlife experts said.} -endquote]

Wait, America's bird is the Bald Eagle, not the prairie chicken nor the sage grouse. Yet, millions of people and thousands of tons of pollution get spewed into the air because a bird MIGHT not be able to "get it on" or breed like rabbits in the wild. What we need is a wind CEO, someone who can get fired if she/he doesn't 'Get R' Done' but i'll settle for a Wind Farm Tsar.

Kudos to the anonymous post above that talks about the practicality of nuclear power. Choices must be made and not creating power plants quickly by nuclear power means they'll go the route of coal. Stacy mentions not factual tidbits, coal in fact is VERY plentiful, cheap and clean when it comes from Wyoming especially.

Michael the blowhard

Recession or no, Wind power will have problems

It is undeniable that we need better methods of generating energy, definitely in this country, and most certainly world wide. Wind farms are among the better renewable energy methods, and along with solar take the least amount of effort to construct. (Compared with hydroelectric - dams for one being large projects, and also having a mixed bag of effects on the ecosystem.)
Coal is certainly not a viable option long term. For one, the amount of coal that is necessary to generate electricity is wasteful, and the emissions are ridiculous, not to mention that it creates more waste products than any other method of power generation.
My concern with wind and solar being viewed as any kind of solution on a large scale is that both wind and solar depend on certain conditions, whereas hydroelectric merely need running water - but if that is coupled with the sheer demand for energy that the US has, perhaps wind and solar may not be the best option for a universal method.
The best non-renewable energy source, far and away from anything else, is, always has been and always will be nuclear. As the article mentions, Horse Hollow Wind is a 750 MW site - but a single nuclear reactor delivers 1,000 MW. HHW resides on 47,000 acres of land - a Gen 3 or Gen 3 plus reactors require only a fraction (1,000 - 2,000 acres per reactor), and in the case of a plant in Arizona, don't even need to be near a water source. (Palo Verde, which uses waste water for operations.)
Granted, of course, start up costs are significant. Several billion dollars per reactor, and many sites use 2-3 reactors, and any delays in construction become costly, and the average lifetime of a reactor is only 40-60 years. That said, they pay for themselves within 10-15 years of operation, due to the fact that they can generate far more electricity than any coal plant can. Waste treatment and storage/disposal, poses significant problems, but since we put a man on the moon....I think we can figure that out.
Technology in the nuclear field is still evolving, especially with breeder reactors (they generate fuel as they go, instead of just consuming it) and currently, Gen 3 + are the ones that are being proposed for construction. Gen 4 is just getting off the ground. It will take a lot of cash to build more nuclear plants, but the industry that is generated with a nuclear plant is something that can't be ignored - Tri Cities, WA being an example - since the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was built it went from an area (comprising Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco) of 2-3,000 per city and is now at about 50,000 per city (70,000+ in Kennewick, 60,000 in Richland, and about 50,000 in Pasco) and has a higher education (college degree) per capita ratio that almost rivals Seattle. My point here is that nuclear reservations create lots of jobs - something our nation is short on these days - it also creates cheaper energy in the long run, requires less space, and is more reliable than renewable sources that depend on conditions, and those renewables that don't rely on conditions DO depend on geography - tidal, hydroelectric, and geothermal - and perhaps we need to give nuclear energy a fairer shake.

Nuclear or Wind

There are some serious contradictions in the nuclear argument that really do need to be exposed.

"Waste treatment and storage/disposal, poses significant problems, but since we put a man on the moon....I think we can figure that also creates cheaper energy in the long run" are phrases that expose the real problem. Nuclear waste will stay with generations of our children for thousands of years. It is they who will pay the full cost of our greedy decisions to consume nuclear power today.

It is inevitable that somewhere in the world large tracts of acreage will one day be made un-visitable when a major nuclear release occurs. Yes, the probabilities of such events are low, but with nuclear waste remaining a problem for thousands of years, many serious events will occur.

Wind farms do take a lot of acreage and are also capital intensive, but at least all the costs are immediately calculable. They do not contribute to global warming or pollute in themselves, so in the long run they have to be key to our sustainable economic development.

Please governments all over the world, be responsible and drive wind developments to fruition.

Daniel T Shaw

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