The power of wind in the Shasta Valley is undeniable. It can be measured in terms of force on a raised hand, or converted from meters per second, to revolutions per minute, and eventually, kilowatt hours.
But harnessing that power and turning into electricity remains science fiction outside Weed, at least for now.
While those who have looked into installing wind farms north of Weed believe that it would be a viable form of alternative energy, the consensus is there isn’t enough data yet available.
Strong prevailing south and southeast winds are well documented in the southern end of the Shasta Valley. From December to March, there are few places in the country that have more wind.
Ron Berryman is a big proponent of wind power in Weed. The retired McCloud forester owns a windblown parcel of land north of Weed which he would like to see windmills on someday.
“With the state of California wanting to get into renewable forms of energy, wind is a pretty nice choice, especially in Weed.” Berryman said.
Last year Governor Schwarzenegger signed landmark legislation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. State utilities will be required to obtain at least 20 percent of their power from renewable resources like wind power by 2010.
In the spring of 2004, the Shasta Energy Group participated in a 6-week study of wind patterns at the Weed airport.
Using remote sensing equipment, SEG gathered data on wind speeds at the site. With sodar, like radar only using sound waves instead of radio waves, the SEG was able to measure wind speed at different heights.
“After six weeks testing was inconclusive,” said Thomas Deerfield of the SEG. “It said there definitely was wind there, but the most conclusive statement was that there needed to be more study.”
The study concluded that the site was characterized by weak winds, punctuated by strong southeasterly winds. A California Department of Water Resources weather station at the airport shows wind in double digit mph speeds for virtually all of winter, then speeds between 4 and 6 mph the rest of the year. That doesn’t bode well for a potential Weed wind farm, Deerfield said.
“Consistency is the real key,” he said. “The Shasta Valley wind just isn’t as consistent as areas known as screamers – the Columbia Gorge, the Walla Walla Hills – places that might not have as high gusts, but more consistent wind.
“The current technology can handle big surges of wind,” he said. “The trouble is it takes a year’s worth of data to qualify for that.”
Berryman said he is in talks with Albany, N.Y.-based AWS Truewind, who is also preparing a study for the California Energy Commission.
Whether or not his hilly parcel just north or Weed is economically feasible for wind turbines, Berryman said he would like to see wind power in the Shasta Valley.
“There is a resource in Siskiyou County that isn’t being used now,” he said. “I think someday within 10 year, we’ll see wind power generated in the Weed area. It’s a matter of where and how much.”
— Rob McCallum
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