San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm in Palm Springs

Oct 26, 2010 by Lisa Newton

A couple of weeks ago I was extremely happy and fortunate to spend some “down time” in Palm Springs–more specifically, the gorgeous Palm Desert suburb of the same. As a long time fan of the desert, I was excited to spend the weekend close to Los Angeles–my “stomping grounds”–while at the same time, be worlds away.

To be frank, I relied on my Google maps based on Android phone’s cool GPS feature–so it was simple as just driving the 10 to the 60, and back to the 10, with a few requisite stops along the way.

The drive was a breeze as there wasn’t too much traffic. Along the way, the ever changing landscape is interesting and as well, at times fascinating to behold.

The trip to the Palm Springs and Palm Desert area is only 2 ½ hours long.

Indeed, as I approached Palm Springs, the mountains were suddenly dotted with windmills. Indeed they’re very large windmills–and to be more accurate, there are a few thousand of them.

Located on the eastern slope of the San Gorgonio Pass in Riverside County, is the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm.

Beginning in the 1980s, it is one of three major wind farms in California, along with the ones at theAltamont and the Tehachapi.

Because of the air pressure differences that exist between western Riverside County and the Coachella Valleys, the air wind moves from high pressure to a low pressure area, which it is, in effect, “funnels” through the Passes, thereby being able to create these giant “windmill factories.”

As of January 2008, the wind farm consisted of 3,218 units delivering 615 megawatts, and in 2010, it is the 5th largest wind farm in the world.

Currently, wind energy accounts for about 1.3% of global electricity consumption–and it’s growing:

An average U.S. household uses about 10,655 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year. One megawatt of wind energy can generate from 2.4 to more than 3 million kWh annually. Therefore, a megawatt of wind generates about as much electricity as 225 to 300 households use. It is important to note that since the wind does not blow all of the time, it cannot be the only power source for that many households without some form of storage system. The "number of homes served" is just a convenient way to translate a quantity of electricity into a familiar term that people can understand. (Typically, storage is not needed, because wind generators are only part of the power plants on a utility system, and other fuel sources are used when the wind is not blowing. According to the U.S. Department of Energy , "When wind is added to a utility system, no new backup is required to maintain system reliability." Source: American Wind Energy Association

So, if you do the math, with 615 megawatts from the Wind Farm times the 300 households serviced by 1 megawatt, the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm powers 184,500 households annually!

That’s a lot of power, and it’s all coming from Palm Springs. For us here in beautiful Southern California, doing good and doing well, is just part of our daily life.

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