New California Wind Farm Blows Previous Efforts Away

Between San Francisco and Sacramento lies the nearly completed High Winds Energy Center, a state-of-the-art wind farm expected to generate roughly 162 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 75,000 homes — and make wind power competitive with extractive energy sources. The turbines at High Winds represent a substantial improvement in technology: they are more efficient than previous models, creating almost 20 times as much energy as turbines from 20 years ago; they turn to face the wind; their blades revolve more slowly and kill far fewer birds; and they are more widely spaced, for a lighter footprint on the land. Because farmers receive up to $4,000 a year for use of their land from High Winds’ owner FPL Energy, wind power now “represents economic opportunity for rural America,” says Ralph Cavanagh, energy program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. While wind remains a tiny part of the nation’s energy picture, High Winds is a gust of good news for renewable power supporters.