I am fond of the corps de ballet of the Altamont Pass wind farm, one of three such grand arrays in the state—the other two are Tehachapi and San Gorgonio—row upon row of giant pinwheels, tracing the ridgelines and spinning in rhythmic counterpoint. Altamont was the first of the three and a pioneering endeavor in renewable energy production. It has its problems—of the three, it has proven the least kind to raptors, whose optical systems (I’m told) don’t process the rotation of the blades, seeing them instead as fixed disks, apparently ideal perches for surveying the landscape for prey. Slower turning turbines or turbines in other configurations will address that problem, as funds are available for replacement.
The big problem, though, is that Altamont is there, and I am here. Like the electricity generated at fossil fuel plants or nuclear plants or hydroelectric dams, the electricity from Altamont must be transmitted long distances to those of us who use it. And transmission involves loss. Transmission and centralized production are also big business, which tends to work against more local solutions.
Which is why I’m encouraged to see wind turbines cropping up singly and in pairs or threes in the Central Valley (those shown here are at a Safeway Distribution Center and Teichert Aggregates near Tracy). Less transmission loss + less dependence on large-scale (i.e., government subsidized) infrastructure should = something folks all along the political spectrum can get behind.