Winds of Change Blow Through California Power Grid

The whirling blades of 100 giant wind turbines sent a jolt of electricity into California’s power grid as a group gathered in Rio Vista [last week] to dedicate the Shiloh Wind Power Plant.

The plant will help California meet the recently updated goal of getting 20 percent of its power from renewable sources like wind energy and solar power by 2010. And it will help keep lights burning, water flowing and businesses transacting in the Bay Area and across the state, PG&E said. Representatives of PPM, WINDIBusiness 2Energy, PG&E, City of Palo Alto Utilities, Modesto Irrigation District, the press, sheep and horses were on hand at the Rio Vista wind farm Wednesday for the dedication of the facility. Combined, the 30-story high turbines can generate 150 megawatts of power at full capacity, enough juice to power more than 100,000 PG&E electric customers, according to Jon Tremayne of PG&E. The event follows the passage of some of the most sweeping legislation in the country mandating new energy resources and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Among other things, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in late September signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which put mandatory caps in place reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. “The plant will help offset 380 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year,” said Blaine Sundwall of PPM Energy, which is part of U.K.-based Scottish Power. California led the nation in installed wind energy for 25 years, but Texas recently claimed that distinction. “This helps put us back on track” to recapturing No. 1 status, said Allen Short, general manger of the Modesto Irrigation District. California has four main wind resource areas: Altamont Pass; Tehachapi Pass; San Gorgonio Pass; and this new, rapidly growing wind resources area near Rio Vista in Solano County, according to Case van Dam, a professor at the University of California, Davis. Juno Beach, Fla.-based FPL Energy also has wind turbines at the Rio Vista site. There have been concerns over birds getting killed by the blades of the turbines in Altamont Pass. Sundwall said PPM Energy has addressed this problem with technology. “Our towers are tubular, not latticed,” Sundwall said. “Birds nest in the latticed towers and we theorize that makes them more likely to get hit by the blades as they fly in and out.” He said the speed of the revolutions at this plant has been slowed to 11 to 20 revolutions per minute on the theory that the birds can see the blades better. Janis Mara is a business writer for the Oakland Tribune. This article was reprinted with permission from the Oakland Tribune.
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