The wind blows steady in Gonzales and it will soon turn the blades of a 350-foot-tall electric wind turbine that will help power a vegetable processing and cooling plant.
“It’s something that we’ve been waiting for a year since the Board of Supervisors granted us a permit, so its very exciting,” said Thomas Truszkowski, deputy city manager.
The turbine is the latest component of the city’s Community Sustainablity Initiative. It is being constructed on city land and the power it generates will be used by Taylor Farms. The turbine will supply 50 percent of the plant’s power needs, Truszkowski said.
Taylor Farms and Growers Express together recently expanded their plants from 80,000 square feet to 280,000 square feet.
Taylor Farms reaps benefits from the turbine because it will purchase power from the turbine’s owner at a rate lower than current utility rates.
If the turbine’s blades were to spin 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Truszkowski said, it would produce 2,500,000 kilowatt hours a year, or enough power to supply 700 homes.
Gonzales starts getting windy about 10 a.m. and winds subside between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., making the city an ideal site for wind power.
The turbine is one of two the city plans to install on city property. Talks are in the works for finding another commercial power user.
“There are other people that are well interested and when this turbine is sticking up in the air, I’m sure others will follow,” Truszkowski said.
Contractural agreements for the turbine are a bit complex. The city provides the land, Taylor Farms leases the turbine for 25 years and also contracts with the turbine owner, Foundation Windpower of Menlo Park, to build and maintain it. The city incurs no costs in the arrangement.
The location is in the city’s industrial park along Gonzales River Road. It will be visible from Highway 101.
When the Board of Supervisors approved the city’s use permit it also waved height restrictions. It had been a maximum of 200 feet and was raised to 350 feet.
“It will be a landmark to recognize,” Truszkowski said.
Foundation Windpower currently has 11 turbine projects, generating more than 57 million kilowatt hours per year. You can watch a video of construction of a turbine like the one being built in Gonzales at the firm’s website, foundationwindwpower.com.
The Gonzales project is about one-third completed, Truszkowski said. The project takes about two weeks to complete.
The city is far ahead of other Monterey County cities in the quest to go green.
“We’re pushing the envelope here in Monterey County,” Truszkowski said.
The city’s Community Sustainability Initiative, aka Gonzales Goes Green, already has completed several projects. It has solarized its wastewater treatment plant and municipal water well system, saving many taxpayer dollars.
“Harnessing the strong valley breeze that arises in Gonzales every afternoon just seemed like the next logical progression toward making the city more sustainable and less reliant on traditional sources of energy,” said City Manger Rene Mendez in a news release. “Just the first of two wind turbines will account for an 80 percent reduction in the city’s carbon footprint for its commercial and industrial sectors.”
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