The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the Alta Wind Energy Center has broken ground. The reason this project is considered mega is how it started and the overall plan. It is considered the largest wind power project in the US today. The project has had multiple ownership changes since 2000, the original planner went bankrupt and it has not been well received by the local community. The developer Terra-Gen Power has since taken over the project and they have begun breaking ground for the 290 turbines over the nine thousand acres along the Tehachapi Pass. They have also secured over a billion in funding, and are set to receive turbines from Vestas-American Wind Technology. The plan is to provide power to six hundred thousand homes to Southern California Edison customers as they are compelled to meet the State goal of supplying thirty three percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The next faze will involve another 300 turbines by 2015 with potential wind blades being nearly a football field long. The entire project will dwarf the existing landscape of turbines along the pass. Most of this area is farm land along Hwy 58 tucked away among the mountains. Also most of the land is being leased for this project providing an income source and allowing future cattle grazing for farmers.
This type of land in the past sold for less than five hundred an acre not long ago. It was considered unusable or only suitable for agricultural use. It demonstrates that long term land investment can be a patient and lucrative endeavor. There is still an abundance of available vacant land in Kern County and Los Angeles County that is prime for industrial uses like Wind Energy Projects. Many wind tests and planning has been completed over the years, which verifies this area as a prime wind energy location. In this case the permitting process took three years and the project had numerous environment hurdles to overcome. In the end the Alta project will begin.