Desert Hot Springs City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a wind farm replacement project that will deposit $40,000 a year with a 2.5 percent annual increase for the life of the project into city coffers.
Proposed by Energy Unlimited Inc., a family-owned energy company, the project will replace 16 old turbines that stand 115 feet tall with eight 340-foot turbines along the southern edge of the city.
Bigger can mean better – at least in the wind farm industry – and it’s a trend making its way into the Coachella Valley with one of its first stops in Desert Hot Springs.
“Turbines have gotten a lot larger today than they were 20 years ago,” said David Lamm, president of Pennsylvania-based Energy Unlimited Inc.
“The economies of scale have enabled turbines to become larger and produce more power cost-effectively,” he said.
The Desert Hot Springs wind farm, which has been in operation by Energy Unlimited Inc. since 1985, is home to 69 turbines located west of Sierra Boulevard and north of Oleander Drive.
“The eight turbines would generate about 15 times the power of the 16 we’re removing,” Lamm said.
The 16 turbines already generate about 35 million kilowatt hours, which is enough to power 4,000 homes, he said.
With the switch, set to occur in 2009, the eight turbines are expected to generate more than 42 million kilowatt hours.
More replacement projects like this are expected to occur with other wind farms across the country and the Coachella Valley.
Besides Energy Unlimited Inc. in Desert Hot Springs, Wintec Energy, FPL Energy and Western Wind Energy, as well as a few alternative energy companies, operate wind farms in the area.
“There’s definitely been huge strides in the improvements in technology with wind power,” said Jan Johnson, spokeswoman for Portland-based PPM Energy, which owns two wind farms in the Coachella Valley area.
“Now we don’t need more of them,” she said, “which means fewer effects on wildlife.”
Currently, PPM Energy is in the midst of construction on its Dillon Project, which will be installing 45 turbines – 40 on Riverside County land and 5 within the Palm Springs city limits.
The Dillon Project, which spans three parcels, will be replacing old turbines on two parcels of the 1,500 acres.
Some residents near to the wind farms, however, aren’t too excited.
Joyce Manley, a Whitewater resident who lives off Painted Hill Road, said she is “almost totally surrounded” by the windmills and has been fighting the installation of newer turbines since 2001.
Manley’s concerns with projects like Energy Unlimited Inc.’s, which she says are shared by several of her neighbors, are many.
They include the grading of the roads, “the danger of getting all that equipment near our houses,” the windmills blocking resident views, the noise made by the windmills and the strobe lights on the turbines required by the FAA, she said.
“If they provided a lot of cheap electricity for me I’d look at it differently, but it goes into the grid and goes where it goes – to San Diego or Phoenix,” she said. “It’s a big farce that’s what it is.”
But Desert Hot Springs resident Ron Ebeling, an employee of AES Alternative Energy, disagrees.
“It places less of an environmental footprint than homes,” he said, ” and visually, they are tourist attractions.”
By Mariecar Mendoza
8 February 2008
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