The largest wind energy project ever in California won unanimous approval from the Kern County Board of Supervisors in mid-December.
Alta Windpower Development plans to erect up to 320 wind turbines on a 9,100-acre site between the cities of Tehachapi and Mojave. The extremely tall (more than 200 feet) and efficient machines will generate 1.5 to 3 megawatts of energy apiece for a total of about 800 megawatts – which is more than most gas-fired power plants in California generate.
Area residents complained that the wind turbines would be noisy, unsightly and potentially unsafe, as the turbine blades could toss chunks of ice long distances. Environmentalists argued that the turbines would kill many birds of prey that hunt in the area, including very rare California condors. Supervisors required Alta Windpower to relocate and eliminate a few turbines to help quell residents' protest, but litigation over the project appears likely.
Kern County is considering numerous other wind energy proposals that total more than 4,000 megawatts of energy.