Tehachapi Celebrates 30 years with Expanded Wind Energy Development
The Tehachapi area 100 miles north of Los Angeles, California, is considered the birthplace of wind in North America, and will soon celebrate 30 years of wind energy production. The area is preparing for a new golden age of wind due to a new first-of-its-kind transmission line and an important 20-year contract recently signed between Southern California Edison and Terra-Gen Power to build the 1,550 megawatt (MW) Alta Wind Energy Center. The contract for the Alta Wind Energy Center is the largest wind energy contract ever signed by a United States utility.
The Tehachapi-Mojave Wind Resource Area is considered one of the premier places in the nation for wind power since it is one of the windiest places in the world. Average wind speeds approach nearly 20 miles per hour, which places much of the Tehachapi Pass in wind power class 6 (these classes range from class 1, the lowest, to class 7, the highest). The first turbines erected in Tehachapi 30 years ago were about 45 to 60 feet in height and produced about 25 to 60 kilowatts of electricity. Today, they stand about 400 to 500 feet and they produce about 1 to 2.4 megawatts.
A lot has happened since the first machines were installed. After overcoming numerous regulatory hurdles, Southern California Edison (SCE) officially began the construction of its Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP). The first phase of the TRTP is estimated to cost $1.8 billion. It began in 2008 and is scheduled for completion in 2012. The final product of the first phase completion will be a high-voltage transmission system capable of delivering 4,500 MW of clean energy into the Los Angeles metropolitan area 100 miles to the south. Executed power purchase agreements to date will allow up to 1,500 megawatts or more of power generated from new projects to be built in the Tehachapi area. It represents the first construction of a “public” transmission line that carries electricity generated at the park straight to the grid.
The TRTP project has proven to be a catalyst for multiple projects including Coram Ridge, (consisting of 34 Vestas V90s, developed by Coram Energy Group & Brookfield Renewable Power) Windstar, (consisting of 4 Gamesa G52s, 37 G80s, and 16 G87s, developed by Western Wind Energy) and Alta I-V (consisting of 100 GE 1.5s and 190 Vestas V90s, developed by Terra-Gen Power). These projects are all slated to see construction begin in 2010.
The TRTP will allow SCE to more than double its wind energy portfolio. SCE envisions a connection of more than 50 square miles of wind projects in the region, which is triple the size of any existing U.S. wind farm area. Officials estimate that it will eventually provide 4,500 megawatts of electricity, which could make it the largest wind project in the nation. The new wind farms are expected to eventually comprise 1,750 to 2,000 turbines, which is triple the size of any existing U.S. wind area.
AUTHOR BIO: Nikki Cummings is the owner and president of World Wind Services and a Tehachapi native. She is currently serving as president on the Board of Directors for The Wind Energy Center, and Board Member of the San Diego Chapter to Women of Wind Energy. She was also one of the nominees for the 2009 Rising Star Award for the Women of Wind Energy Association.