Last weekend we had the pleasure of riding along with Rich on his Palm Springs Wind Tour. If you find yourself in Coachella Valley and looking to learn more about the area, we highly recommend this 2 hour introduction and ride through Palm Spring’s past and present of wind energy collection. Learn more at Palm Spring Wind Tours
The Coachella Valley is one of the windiest locations in the United States. Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto flank the valley and not only cut a striking view against the blue sky but also funnel the oncoming winds through the valley, creating a Venturi effect. The winds make the valley floor an ideal and popular location for building wind turbines. The North Palm Springs is dominated by a patchwork of wind farms, including early wind turbines from the first forays into harvesting wind energy in the valley, to new modern behemoths that can draw up to 3 megawatts.
Early experiments in wind energy collection in the Palm Springs were lead by Southern California Edison. Manned turbines were set on circular tracks and manually rotated into the wind and shifted throughout the day. The turbines would be shut down at the end of the day as their handlers left. Modern wind monitoring in the Coachella Valley have revealed that the strongest winds occur in the evening and night. Thus, holding wind turbines to the common worker’s schedule meant that the best production times were missed all together. Even today, with automated sensors that do not rely on manual handling, many windmills will not even run in the morning as there is not enough wind to warrant operating them at that time.
The process of building the massive wind farms that line the valley today has been one with manny hiccups. While wind turbines are certainly not new technology, their robust, light, and efficient form is. The 80-90 MPH gusts of wind that come through the valley caused catastrophic failure among many early inhabitants of the valley, such as the Carter 25-kilowatt turbine, Darius wind turbine, and Kenetech 330 kW—whose weak blades would snap and towers twist.
Groups from around the United States and the world have now invested in wind farms in Palm Springs.
Today, the valley is in transition. At the moment, there are 2,174 wind turbines in Palm Springs but this is a changing number. Old wind turbines continue to be maintained. But as they gradually age into obsolescence and deteriorate past fixing, they are being removed. Once a large enough spot of land is cleared of competing wind turbines, a new generation in massive wind turbine is erected.
At the moment, the limiting factor on what turbines can be built in Palm Springs is not the wind or land but the size of crane that can be supported by the local road infrastructure. Yet, even these roads allow for towering turbines, so large they require a 70ft foundation. With each passing year, the valley is converting to a model of fewer but much more large and powerful wind turbines.*
Related Wind Claims
- Claims in Riverside County, California
- Palm Springs is Home To Oldest Wind Farm in U.S., Palm Springs Life
- San Gorgonio Pass and the “Abandoned Wind Turbines” Near Palm Springs, California—an Update,Wind-Works
*The newly opened up land below them will gradually be covered with solar panels, optimizing the use of this massive green resource.