San Gorgonio Pass wind farm

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San Gorgonio Pass wind farm
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm IMG 0504.JPG
CountryUnited States
LocationRiverside County, California
Coordinates33°54′N 116°35′W / 33.900°N 116.583°W / 33.900; -116.583Coordinates: 33°54′N 116°35′W / 33.900°N 116.583°W / 33.900; -116.583
Construction began1980s
Wind farm
Hub height160 ft (49 m) (max)
Power generation
Units operational3,218
Nameplate capacity615 MW
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

The San Gorgonio Pass wind farm is a wind farm that stretches from the eastern slope of the San Gorgonio Pass, near Cabazon, to North Palm Springs, on the western end of the Coachella Valley, in Riverside County, California. Flanked by Mount San Gorgonio and the Transverse Ranges to the North, and Mount San Jacinto and the Peninsular Ranges to the South, the San Gorgonio Pass is a transitional zone from a Mediterranean climate west of the pass, to a Desert climate east of the pass. This makes the pass area one of the windiest places in the United States.[1]

Development of the wind farm began in the 1980s. It is one of three major wind farms in California, along with those at Altamont and the Tehachapi passes.


As of January 2008, the farm consists of 3,218 units delivering 615 MW.[2] A single Southern California Edison Path 46 500 kilo-volt power line crosses the pass on the northern edge of San Jacinto Peak. This line links the Los Angeles metropolitan area with the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant.

The majority of the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm viewed from atop the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in the San Jacinto Mountains to the south. The farm continues over the hills to the north along California State Route 62. Interstate 10 traverses the image horizontally, and a small portion of State Route 111 is also visible at the bottom of the photo.

History and governance[edit]

Drew R. Oliver, president of the Oliver Electric Power Corporation, was the earliest to promote the idea of generating electricity from wind in the San Gorgonio Pass area. In 1926 Oliver, in collaboration with electrician W. Sperry Knighton, built a wind turbine near Whitewater. The original device used a generator Oliver had salvaged from an old roller coaster at Seal Beach, California. Oliver and Sperry fitted the generator with aluminum propellers, and placed a large funnel on the front to concentrate the wind's power. They set the entire device on a circular rail that allowed it to be pivoted to face prevailing winds[a]. The powerful wind quickly burned out the 25,000 watt unit, but a larger unit was obtained from the Pacific Electric substation in Los Angeles. After the two worked out other mechanical issues, Oliver set out to raise funds to expand the enterprise, with the vision of powering all of nearby Palm Springs. Oliver incorporated the Oliver Electric Power Corporation in Reno, Nevada, began selling stock in the company, but quickly ran afoul of newly enacted California Corporate Security Laws. Oliver was jailed for a short time, then placed on two years probation, but his plans proceeded no further. The device he had built near Whitewater became a landmark and curiosity until it was taken down and sold for scrap in 1942.[4][3]

In 1982 wind energy development in the San Gorgonio Pass area was formally studied, and the results published in the San Gorgonio Wind Resource Study EIR (1982), a joint environmental document prepared for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Riverside County. The document assessed three scenarios for wind energy development in the area and included criteria for the development of wind energy on both a countywide basis and specifically for the San Gorgonio Pass area.[5] Since 1982, and the approval of wind energy development in the San Gorgonio Pass, numerous wind turbines have become part of the landscape. The narrow turbines range from 80 feet (24 m) to 160 feet (49 m) in height.[6]

Panoramic view of the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm

A 2008 proposal[6] details an upgrade to the facilities to begin construction by September 2011. The proposed project would replace the 460 existing wind turbines with 30 new turbines, in two phases. Phase 1 would remove approximately 74 non-operational turbines and install up to fifteen new 1.5 MW GE SLE wind turbines. Phase 2 would remove approximately 384, Vestas V15, 65kW turbines and install an additional fifteen, 1.5 MW GE SLE wind turbines. The proposed project would therefore comprise a total of 30 wind turbines, 330 feet tall.

Further information[edit]

Wind Turbines close to Palm Springs, from Indian Canyon Road. The windmills here stand in lines on the levees between the absorption ponds where water from the Colorado River Aqueduct is used to recharge the Coachella Valley aquifer.
  • In 1998 Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET/Los Angeles, featured the windfarms in California's Gold; the 30 minute program is available on VHS.[7] A second Howser/California's Gold program on the wind farms was produced in 2010.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ A photo of the Oliver turbine can be found on page 13 of the March 18, 1956 edition of the Riverside Daily Press.[3]


  1. ^ Ren Navez (2006). Palm Springs: California's Desert Gem. Westcliffe Publishers. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-1-56579-552-5.
  2. ^ U.S. Wind Energy Projects – California Archived 2010-08-07 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Hoffman, Dick (March 18, 1956). "Beaumont Woman Finds Scarce Photos of Machine That was to Harness Wind". Riverside, California. Riverside Daily Press. p. 13.
  4. ^ Hinman, Jr, Ralph (January 13, 1974). "Saga of 'The Wind Machine Man'". 22 (25). Long Beach, California. Independent Press Telegram. p. B1.
  5. ^ "San Gorgonio Pass Wind Energy Policy Area" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  6. ^ a b U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT DOI-BLM-CA-060-0007-0057-EA Archived 2012-09-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ California's Gold / #909: Big Things in the Desert. OCLC 45819663, 78285388, 719655627
  8. ^ California's Green / Wind Power. Edited by Michael Garber. DVD. 30 minutes. OCLC 747281801