After nearly a decade of delays, the largest wind farm in the U.S. is finally moving forward in one California’s remaining premium wind resource regions near where the Tehachapi Mountains touch the Mojave Desert in southern California.
The Alta Wind Energy Center will produce nearly three times as much power as the current largest wind project, and will allow California to reclaim its leadership role in promoting wind power. After California incubated the first wave of wind generation projects in the ’80s under the leadership of former Governor Jerry Brown, both Texas and Iowa have blown ahead and now produce more wind power overall than California. Developed by New York-based Terra-Gen Power, the project is expected to grow to 3 gigawatts (GW) over the next eight years.
Not only will this first-phase 1,550 MW wind project be the largest wind project in the entire U.S., but the transmission system designed to bring this clean electricity to market is also the largest new transmission development to date in the U.S.Another key factor in allowing the mega-project to move forward was over $1 billion in financing, which came together last month.
The key to allowing the project to move forward after ownership changes and oppostion to the project delayed implemention was the completion of a new transmission line last year. The project is expected to start delivering clean electricity to Southern California Edison in early 2011. CEERT played a major role in developing support for this project through its work with the Tehachapi Collaborative Study Group, dating back more than five years ago, and the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, which helped establish competitive renewable energy zones and a stakeholder collaborative to help identify the transmission lines needed to connect the best renewable resources with the least environmental impact.
Insiders, credit former CEC Commissioner John Geesman and former CPUC Commissioner Loretta Lynch with playing instrumental roles in helping to make the transmission lines finally connect to California’s last remaining largely untapped premier wind resource region.