Sacramento Delta Wind Zone Gets 128 MW Bump

The latest phase of wind farm development in California’s Montezuma Hills was completed recently, with the addition of 128 megawatts (MW) of capacity.

The extra capacity — equivalent to enough electricity to power 44,000 homes — will bring total capacity at the  5,400-acre site to 230 MW, or enough to power 79,000 homes.

wind-SMUD

image via Shutterstock

The Solano Wind Project is operated by Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). SMUD said the extra capacity had been installed just in time to take advantage of the windiest months.

The Montezuma Hills are considered one of the best wind resource areas in the state. This is largely due to their position in the Sacramento River Delta. Through much of the year but especially during the warm season the delta forms a natural wind tunnel where cool Pacific Ocean air is sucked toward the warmer Central Valley. These winds, which start up in the afternoon and roar through the evening and night, have led to a number of wind farms being located in the Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area, on the north side of the river between the towns of Fairfield and Rio Vista.

Energy firm enXco’s Shiloh 3 project was the latest wind farm to go into operation there, its 50 REpower 2.05-MW turbines churning out a maximum of 102.5 megawatts (MW) of energy. And state regulators recently approved the Shiloh IV project, which will replace 20-year-old turbines with bigger, newer turbines and add 102.5 MW.

SMUD was one of the first to take advantage of the delta currents in the valley and has had wind turbines at the Solano site since 1994.

The energy provider said Phase 3 involved the installation of 55 Vestas-manufactured wind turbines. The turbines were paid for by a unit of Citigroup at the end of 2011 in a financial transaction that SMUD said would save it $60-$70 million over the next six years.

SMUD said they plan to exercise an option to buy back the turbines but, in the meantime, they have a power purchase agreement to buy all of their output.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.