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Butterflies in the West Mohave Desert (photo1)
Wind Farms
(Power Plants) in Tehachapi, CA.

West Mohave Desert - Tehachapi, CA.
The wind turbines generate electricity like that produced at any other power plant, except that they do so without emitting air pollutants. Tehachapi's wind plants offset the emission of seven million pounds of sulfur oxydes, nitrogen oxydes, and particulates that otherwise would be produced by relatively clean burning natural gas. They also offset 1.1 billion pouds of greenhouse gases each year.
Most of the turbines were installed during the mid 1980s during the height of interest in alternative energy. However, 60% of Tehachapi's wind generating capacity has been erected since expiration of the federal tax credits that helped launch the industry's development.
The turbines are operated by a dozen private companies who sell their electricity to the local utility: Southern California Edison Co. Unlike an electric utility though, the wind companies are paid only for the electricity they generate. Southern California ratepayers assume none of the risk for installing, operating, or maintening the turbines.

The industry employs nearly 400 full time in a variety of occupations.


The Tehachapi Pass is one of the windiest areas in the world. The winds through the pass average 14 to 20 miles per hour from one year to the next. Wind speeds vary with the terrain, season, and time of the day.

Wind turbines have also been installed in the San Gorgonio Pass southeast of Los Angeles, and in the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco.

Of the 16,000 wind turbines in California, 5,000 are in the Tehachapi Pass. The wind turbines in the scenic Tehachapi Mountains rank among the world's major engineering achievements, rivaling in scale for example, France's famous La Rance tidal power plant.

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Today these wind turbines collectively generate 1,3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year - enough to meet the residential needs of nearly 500,000 people.California's wind turbines were made by firms in the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and the Netherlands.
There are more than a dozen different kinds of wind turbines operating in California today. Most use a propeller that spins about a horizontal axis (Photo right).
The hoop-shaped Darrieus or "Eggbeater" turbines count for 5% of the states wind machines. They are now phased out in favor of horizontal axis turbines.
(drawing left:© Kern Wind Energy Association)
Each wind turbine has its own electronic "brain" and thinks for itself. They turn themselves on when conditions are right, and they turn themselves off when the winds are too strong, or when they sense a problem. Most turbines change directions as the wind changes. The Eggbatter turbines accept the wind from all directions.

The turbines are designed to operate 20 years. During that time, the blades, transmissions, generators, and other moving part will be rebuilt or replaced. Because of California's dry climate the metal structure supporting the turbines should last indefinitely.

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