The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Renewable Energy Past and Present in California's Tehachapi

The Tehachapi Mountains in central California's Kern County are a wind energy museum. Four generations of turbines are distinguishable on their slopes and ridges, with an installed capacity of more than 800 megawatts of wind power. These hills are alive with the sound of wind power. Kern was once known as oil country and its rich fields supplied much of the oil that made California the oil capital of the U.S back in the 1920s and fueled the U.S. industry's mid-20th century boom. As Ed Duggan of wind developer Oak Creek Energy said, "Kern County knows energy."

Kern knows that energy means wealth and so, as the last of its oil continues to play out, it is now turning excitedly to wind and sun and steam. On the bubble graphs of the most recent California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) report, no California bubble is even nearly as big with resource potential as the Tehachapi-Mojave area, and it is also among those positioned lowest in cost and least limited with environmental obstacles. (See map, below.)

Veteran Kern County planner Lorelei Oviatt isn’t even completely sure how much renewable energy development is currently in the works because the boom has spilled over into neighboring San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties. The rapidly expanding list of solar power project applications and plans includes as many as 63 developers because the Tehachapi-Mojave region’s insolation makes it one of the four best regions for solar development in the world.

The definitive amount of proposed or planned wind is equally hard to pin down. In total CEC data suggests there are probably over 40,000 megawatts of proposed renewable projects. That’s two-thirds of California’s grid capacity and enough electricity to power over 20 million homes.

One thing that is certain is that Terra-Gen is preparing ground for the first phase of its Alta-Oak Creek Mojave project and will soon begin putting up the first of 100 1.5-megawatt (MW) GE towers. Once the project is complete (in early 2011), it will boast 320 turbines of varying sizes and an estimated total of 800 MW of capacity. Many major wind developers including Alta Wind, Horizon Wind, Western Wind Energy, enXco and the L.A. Department of Water & Power are also making wind project plans.

Transmission, Too

That will only be the beginning. Windhub, an SCE transmission substation is being completed at the base of the Tehachapis directly across from the wind projects. It is expected to go online this year, completing the first 3 segments of SCE’s CPUC-approved 11-part Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP). It is an enormous undertaking that will ultimately carry 4,500 megawatts of wind, solar, geothermal and biomass power from the Tehachapi-Mojave area to the energy hungry Los Angeles region 200 miles to the southwest.

The Benefits of Being First to the Table

Kern’s foothill valleys have been, since the 19th century, ranch and farm country. But these days, ranchers and farmers are finding that sowing wind, solar and geothermal makes the economics of rural life more equitable, so Kern’s cattle now often graze nonchalantly beneath towering turbines.

Many developers have been in the region for years, some for decades. Newcomers benefit from the on-going public dialogue that started back in the 1980s.  After 30 years of development, everybody agrees where the right sites are, what the benefits of renewables are and what to expect when they see developers coming.

According to both SCE’s Kathy Hart and the Kern Wind Industry Association’s Linda Parker, the U.S. Air Force at nearby Edwards Air Force Base has been so impressed by renewables that it has its own ambitious solar installation plans.  

Kern County was one of the first places in the U.S. to realize that proper planning precludes conflicts. When landowners and economic development associations started exploring the possibility of profiting from the prevailing winds, they turned up issues surrounding Air Force flight paths, avian migration lanes, precious wildlife habitat and neighbors disdainful of turbine sounds and impediments to their vistas.

So the stakeholders got together and drew maps, redlining places where wind installations shouldn’t go, yellowing out places that might be problematic and greening in the places ideal for green energy and green profits. They also started petitioning, imploring and pushing for SCE to bring them new transmission.

Then in 2004 when SCE was thinking about how to meet California’s 2002 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), it remembered Tehachapi and decided to sit down and make plans with the CEC, the CPUC, county commissions, environmentalists and developers.  It brought Kern country planner Oviatt, Oak Creek CEO Hal Romaonwitz and others who had been turning Kern County maps red, yellow and green for years to the table and from their talks, a detailed picture of a Renewable Energy Zone emerged. It became a veritable prototype for the kind of map a similar group of stakeholders drew up soon afterward for the CEC.

A Template for U.S. Renewable Energy Zone Mapping

The CEC’s maps evolved into California’s RETI, defining where the best and most economically accessible renewable resources are and what transmission routes most readily serve them. The still evolving RETI became the prototype for the Western Governors Association (WGA) Western Renewable Energy Zones (WREZ) Initiative. And that is essentially the template for maps the U.S. Department of Interior is now developing to streamline renewable energy growth and transmission development on the nation’s publicly owned lands.  SCE expects to be ready to establish TRTP interconnections this fall.

Herman K. Trabish is a writes and edits NewEnergyNews and is a regular blogger for RenewableEnergyWorld.com.

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

RELATED ARTICLES

Solar water heating

California Regulators Propose Expansion of Eligibility Requirements for Solar Water Heating Program

Jennifer Delony The California Public Utilities Commission has proposed expanding the eligibility requirements for customers seeking ...
Solar

Florida Supreme Court Takes Up Solar Question

Wayne Barber Because Florida remains one of only four states where current laws expressly deny citizens and businesses the freedom...
solar net metering

Lithuanian Net Metering Hits Snag from Outset

Linas Jegelevicius The much anticipated net metering in Lithuania has hit a major snag from the very start – the introduced network oper...
Solar energy

Colorado PUC Orders No Changes to Solar Net Metering

Vince Font In what is being lauded as a “fair outcome” for consumers, utilities and the solar industry alike, the Colorado Publi...

PRESS RELEASES

Canadian Solar Wins Five Solar Power Projects Totaling 185 MW in Brazil

These power projects were won under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the B...

$100 Off of 5-day Advanced PV Project Experience. Download a Topic Schedule.

Assemble, ground, energize, and commission a complete grid-tied SolarEdge system from s...

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd talks politics of fear vs. politics of hope

Rudd, who led the Australian parliament from 2007 to 2010, told the Summit audience tha...

Intersolar AWARD „Solar Projects in India“ – Applications being accepted until September 18

The Intersolar AWARD in the category Solar Projects in India honors projects in the fie...

FEATURED BLOGS

Washington, DC Bridges the Solar Gap

The District of Columbia has enjoyed 15 years of strong economic growth. But prosperity is spread unevenly across the...

Sell Through Hypothesis

You first learned to hypothesize, or make educated guesses, in grade school science class. Now it’s time to ref...

Cronimet / THEnergy study: In solar for mines size does not always matter - Reducing CAPEX with energy efficiency and load shifting

Munich, September 2015. Mining companies are constantly gaining interest in solar solutions because frequently solar ...

Final Program Now Available for GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo

GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo - Final Program from

FINANCIAL NEWS

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Doing Business in Europe – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

There is now 128.8 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU (appro...

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

COMPANY BLOGS

Vacancy? No Problem!

Have you ever tried to sell an efficiency product or service to a prospe...

Going The Extra Mile

Selling efficiency takes perseverance, creativity, and a willingness to ...

Get In The Groove

When we talk about strategies for boosting productivity, we often overlo...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS