California’s Kern County Will Host the Largest Wind Farm In the U.S.

Drive around California’s Kern County and you will see many oil wells pumping up and down. Kern County, as of last year, was still California’s top oil producing county. However, Kern County is also utilizing its Tehachapi Mountains to produce wind energy. The Associated Press reported that Terra-Gen Power LLC broke ground on a 570 megawatt (MW) expansion of the Alta Wind Energy Center in Kern County, California. The expansion consists of four wind power projects that will make the AWEC the largest wind farm in the U.S. with a total capacity of 3,000 MW.

Terra-Gen closed a $1.2 billion finance deal for the four wind power projects, which are slated for completion by the first and second quarters of 2011. The four projects called Alta Projects II-V, will use 190 turbines manufactured by Vestas-American Wind Technology, Inc.

“We are delighted to have closed this financing and to be working with Vestas and GE on the Alta projects. The project represents an important expansion of the renewable generating base of California and helps us advance our nation’s goals of achieving energy independence in an environmentally responsible manner,” said Jim Pagano, CEO of Terra-Gen.

“The Alta projects I-V will create more than 1,500 domestic manufacturing, construction and operation and maintenance jobs, and inject more than $600 million into the local economy,” Pagano added. “We are grateful to Kern County, the State of California, the U.S. Congress, and the Treasury Department for their supportive renewable energy policies, without which ambitious projects like the Alta Wind Energy Center would simply not be possible.”

In 2006 AWEC contracted with Southern California Edison to sell 1,550 MW of power. Three years later, the AWEC secured priority access to a new transmission line.

After completion, the AWEC will account for 10 percent of the renewable power purchases California’s regulated utilities are required to buy. It will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 5.8 billion pounds, sulfur dioxide emissions by 28 million pounds, and nitrogen oxides emissions by 13.2 million pounds.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said of the AWEC, “Having the world’s largest wind project break ground in our state is tangible evidence that our pioneering policies are drawing investment, improving the economy and creating jobs now when we need them most.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.