Construction begins at Ocotillo this past summer | Photo: Jim Pelly via Basin and Range Watch
A controversial wind power facility on the southern border of California is set to start delivering power to San Diego this week. Pattern Energy expects to deliver power from almost 90 turbines this week from its Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project to San Diego Gas & Electric, just in time to get a little bit of benefit from the federal Wind Production Tax Credit, which expires at the end of the month.
The wind project, adjacent to Anza Borrego Desert State Park and encircling the formerly quiet hamlet of Ocotillo, has been met with numerous lawsuits from the moment it was approved. The legal challenges, from a range of Native, neighborhood, and environmental groups, have not slowed the project's construction. A number of protests have been held on the construction site as well.
The 19-square-mile project will deliver power to the coast via the newly constructed Sunrise Powerlink. With the blades at full vertical extension, the project's 112 turbines will max out at 440 feet tall -- more than 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, pedestal included. When completed, those turbines will deliver up to 315 megawatts of power to SDG&E.
That "up to" is the tricky part. Neighbors opposed to the project spent much of November recording wind speeds and posting them on Facebook; the recorded speeds rarely topped 8 mph. Below 9 mph, Ocotillo's turbines won't produce much power. That's not lost on Pattern. In an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, reporter Morgan Lee quoted Pattern representative Joan Inlow admitting the actual wind resource on site was, well, up in the air.
"In the end, we are taking a risk that there will be wind here, before people purchase it and we can sell it," said Inlow.