Walmart Puts Big Onsite Wind Power To Test

Onsite wind power on a megawatt-scale is pretty rare – the giant turbines almost always are part of vast, rural arrays. But Walmart is taking on one of the big boys in Northern California, and if the turbine works out as hoped, it could lead to more such projects for the retail king.

The company this week showed off what it said was a 1-megawatt GE wind turbine at a distribution center near the city of Red Bluff. Walmart said the turbine should be spinning and producing 15 to 20 percent of the facility’s power sometimes this fall.

walmart red bluff california wind turbine onsite wind power

image via Walmart

Walmart has been making a lot of noise with its extensive solar program in California; it recently announced its 100th installation. And it actually has dabbled in wind before – although at a much smaller scale.

In 2010, the company put some small wind turbines atop light poles at two locations, including a Sam’s Club in Palmdale, Calif. Those are nothing compared to the Red Bluff project, however. The 17 units at Palmdale were forecast to produce 76,000-kilowatt-hours of power a year; the single turbine in Red Bluff is expected to produce 30 times that amount – 2.2 gigawatt-hours of electricity.

The first element to making wind a meaningful power contributor is the size of the turbine – of course – but the height of the turbine is vitally important, too. At stores like the Palmdale Sam’s Club and Walmart’s thousands of other locations, getting even a 10-kilowatt turbine up to the 100-plus-feet height necessary to find good wind just isn’t viable.

But the Walmart distribution center is in an agricultural area south of Red Bluff — within sight of busy Interstate 5 but with little in the way of nearby homes or businesses that might be impacted by the turbine – making it a good spot for the 265-foot-tall structure.

“We found the perfect environment for an installation with the Red Bluff project – good wind conditions and open land that we own,” Greg Pool, senior manager of renewable energy and emissions at Walmart, said in a statement. “As a result, we expect to reduce our energy costs from the day we flip the on switch. Should the technology at Red Bluff prove successful, Walmart will evaluate the potential for large-scale turbine installations at other distribution center sites in the United States.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

1 Comment

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    paul radcliff

    I think this is terrific! Although not a huge fan of any company that sells a major percentage of goods, produced in China, (what isn’t, anymore, thanks outsourcing traitors), this is a positive step for the environment, although, I’m sure cost savings was top priority for Wal Mart’s bottom line. I wonder how many home made windmills it would take on my roof or on short towers, to save me 75% on my electricity bills. The cost of doing it all myself is what is stopping me. Michigan green energy subsidies for homeowners dried up after the cost cutting Governor Snyder slashed everything from police protection to help for the helpless. Now, I hear they have a budget surplus, so we may get that unneeded bridge to Canada, so the dill hole has a monument to hating on poor people. Funny how everything goes back to politics and the evils of an austerity form of government.  
    God helps those who help themselves. I wish the rich hadn’t heard this, since they take from everyone else’s pockets, in undeserved tax breaks and a total disconnection from the bad things they remotely cause. If God is real, those richie’s have their only Heaven, right now. Satan’s warming a place up for them in the Hell, most of them deserve, if Karma has anything to say about it. It is not jealousy, just observation. Even Helen Keller could understand this fact about the wealthy. Curious, ask Google or, or Bing!
       If you are in the middle class and want to pay  even more taxes, vote for the Mitten Man. If you want the rich to pay more and the majority of the rest of us, stay at current levels, keep the good guy we now have in office, President Obama. He did okay the “taking out” of public enemy number one, Bin Laden. He brought a whole lot of soldiers home to their families, and is on the side of the 99%. We just need fewer lackies doing the wealthy and powerful’s bidding. Replace as many Tea Baggers as possible and vote for Democrats in November. The only way is a majority for the Good Guys and Gals, not for the Party of NO. 
       Women, remember, your bodies are your own, don’t let Republican’s tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Freedom of choice is everyone’s right, especially in one’s health care. President Obama agrees with this stance and supports women’s rights. Remember that, too, in November.  Peace.

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