Shasta County isn’t known for its wind.
In most of the county winds average 9 mph or less at the height of most wind turbines, according at a map produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“It definitely doesn’t light up on the map like other places do,” said Nancy Rader, spokeswoman for the California Wind Energy Association in Berkeley.
But east of Redding, on the high ridges of the southern Cascades, the winds are stronger. The map, which details winds at 260 feet above the ground, shows average wind speeds of 16 mph or more.
That’s enough to spin the turbines of a wind power project, she said.
Wind is a growing power source in the state, said Rader, a lobbyist for the industry. She said that’s because state laws require power companies to have an increasing amount of green energy in their portfolios. Often they choose wind as their green power source, and wind currently makes up 2½ percent of all the power generated in the state.
There’s room for more, Rader said.
“We definitely see a lot of growth around California,” she said.
By 2020 wind could produce five to 10 percent of the power generated in the state, Rader said.
Wind projects typically cost about $2 million per megawatt of power produced to build, she said.
Hatchet Ridge – which has 44 turbines producing 103 megawatts, or enough for about 40,000 homes – cost more than $200 million to build, said Matt Dallas, spokesman for Pattern Energy. The San Francisco-based company completed the project last fall.
In contrast, the Alta-Oak Creek Mojave Project in Kern County has 320 wind turbines and will produce 800 megawatts. Using Rader’s arithmetic, the project likely cost about $1.6 billion and power about 32,000 homes.
Most of the state’s wind projects are in Solano County, where strong winds blast through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, or in Kern County, where Tehachapi Pass is a virtual wind tunnel.
Rader said many of the new projects likely will be there too, especially in Tehachapi.
“It’s kind of the state’s gold mine for wind,” Rader said.
Lacking a large wind hot spot like Tehachapi, the north state will have more scattered wind power, she said.
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