Wind Power – Going With The Wind

windturbines_palmsprings_600x333Springing up from the desert east of Los Angeles, at the base of Mount San Jacinto just west of Palm Springs, is a sprawling wind farm that takes full advantage of an almost constant current of air flowing down from two nearby mountains and through the pass that separates them.

The Coachella Valley in California lies just north of California’s tallest mountain range, the San Jacinto mountains, with Palm Springs at the western end of the valley.  North and West of that lie the San Bernardino Mountains.  Between these massive mountain ranges, and west of the City of Palm Springs is the San Gorgonio Pass, creating a natural wind tunnel that provides energy to drive this impressive array of nearly 8,000 wind turbines.

The amount of energy produced by each wind turbine is a function of the wind speed and the diameter of the rotor blades, tweaked, of course, by other elements of the design.  A small blade diameter of 10 meters will produce about 1/10th as much energy as turbines with rotors measuring up to 80 meters.  At an ideal wind speed of 33 mph, the power output of a single large wind turbine is 2,500 kilowatts.  (Source:  American Wind Energy Association)

Putting that into perspective, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that an average home in the U.S. consumes 11,280 kWh annually, or about 940 kilowathours (kWh) per month.  So in a single hour on a windy day at the San Gorgonio Pass, a single large turbine can produce enough energy to power several homes for a month.

Once the infrastructure is built, this free energy continues to flow, day and night, paying handsome dividends to the individuals and utilities wise enough to make the initial investment.

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