Locations: 5 miles west of Mojave, CA
Key Technology: wind power
Description: The Tehachapi Wind Farm is the second largest collection of wind generators in California, comprising approximately 5,000 wind turbines. The Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP) upgraded the transmission of wind energy out of Tehachapi in 2008. Several private companies (such as Terra-Gen and Alta Windpower) operate the wind farm. They sell the electricity to Southern California Edison, the region’s dominant utility. Collectively, the wind farm generates 800 million kWh of electricity each year, which is enough to meet the electricity needs of 350,000 people. The wind turbines were constructed as “smart” products, and can adjust themselves based on the strength and direction of the wind to maximize efficiency. The turbines are designed to have a lifetime of 20 years, at which point their blades, generators, and other parts will need to be fixed or replaced.
Jobs and Economic Benefits: Tehachapi wind farm employs nearly 400 people. Increasing the prevalence of wind power in the electric grid will make it more affordable and competitive with fossil fuel sources. Large-scale wind farms provide more power per acre of land than would be achieved if each company’s turbines were dispersed in different locations. This lowers infrastructure costs and consumes less land, while allowing multiple companies to take advantage of the windiest sites.
Environmental Benefits: The Tehachapi Wind Farm prevents the emission of 55,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year. It also prevents 3,500 tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and particulates that would have been emitted through the combustion of relatively clean natural gas. (The avoided pollution would be greater relative to coal power plants.) The wind farm’s environmental impact is reduced by the fact that it is located in the desert, where ecosystems are not as rich. See the general benefits of wind power for more info.
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