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New Altamont Pass Project Repowers Wind Energy in California

Long noted for suntanned hills decorated with shiny wind turbines, the landscape at Altamont Pass is changing. A new project will replace hundreds of aging turbines with less than two dozen state-of-the-art ones, helping to preserve open space.

That project, called Golden Hills North, is installing new turbines that will generate more power and reduce visual impacts. NextEra Energy has an agreement to sell electricity from the project, which is located east of the Bay Area, to Sonoma Clean Power.

“The project is yet another example of how California is leading the way to a clean energy future,” said California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild at a May 24 groundbreaking ceremony. “Replacing some of the earliest wind technology with modern, efficient turbines, and allowing an opportunity for a public utility like Sonoma Clean Power to invest directly in clean energy for its citizens helps both reduce the cost of electricity and the impact of facilities like this one on our environment.”

One of the wind turbines at Altamont Pass

At the project, 283 turbines, some of which are 30 years old, will be replaced with just 20. The project will have the capacity to produce 46 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 13,500 homes.

In California, the vast majority of wind generating capacity and output are located in three regions: the Altamont Pass between Livermore in Alameda Country and Tracy in Contra Costa County, the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs in Riverside County and Tehachapi Pass near Bakersfield in Kern County.

Wind energy is a growing portion of California’s renewable energy portfolio. In 2015, wind energy provided 8 percent of the state’s electricity. Ten years earlier, wind produced 1.5 percent of California’s electricity.

California is committed to taking action against climate change. The state has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. One of the steps taken to achieve the goal is increasing the use of renewable energy.

Senate Bill 350 calls for California to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The state is currently ahead of the pace needed to reach that goal, with 27 percent of its electrical retail sales coming from renewable energy in 2016.

California is a national leader in the wind industry, ranking fourth in the nation for wind power installations and having at least 12 wind-related manufacturing facilities, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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