Wind power in California

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California wind resources

As of December 31, 2016, California has 5,662 megawatts (MW) of wind powered electricity generating capacity.[1] California's wind power capacity has grown by nearly 350% since 2001, when it was less than 1,700 MW.[2][3] In 2016, wind energy (including that supplied by other states) now supplies about 6.9% of California’s total electricity needs, or enough to power more than 1.3 million households.[4] Most of California's wind generation is found in the Tehachapi area of Kern County, with some big projects in Solano, Contra Costa and Riverside counties as well. California is among the states with the largest amount of installed wind power capacity.[2]


Wind power in California has been an area of considerable activity for many years. California was the first U.S. state where large wind farms were developed, beginning in the early 1980s.[5] By 1995, California produced 30 percent of the entire world's wind-generated electricity.[6] However, this situation has changed and Texas is currently the leader in wind power development in the USA.

Historically, most of California's wind power output has been in three primary regions: Altamont Pass Wind Farm (east of San Francisco); Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm (south east of Bakersfield) and San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm (near Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles).[6] A fourth area, the Montezuma Hills of Solano County, was developed in 2005–2009, with the large Shiloh Wind Power Plant.

The Alta Wind Energy Center is a windfarm located in Tehachapi Pass in Kern County, California.[7] Kern County is reviewing a number of other proposed wind projects that would generate a combined 4,600 megawatts of renewable energy if approved.[8]

The majority of the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm as viewed from the San Jacinto Mountains to the south. (The farm continues over the hills to the north along California State Route 62 and is not visible from this vantagepoint). The layout includes a variety of large modern and older smaller turbine designs


California Wind Generation by Year
Thousand Megawatt-hours of generated
energy since 2001[3][11]

The graph at right shows the growth in wind generated electricity for California since 2001.

California had a total of 5,662 megawatts installed wind generation capacity, as of the end of December 2015.[1] Wind energy (including power supplied from other state) now supplies about 5% of California’s total electricity needs.[12][13]

In 2011, 921.3 megawatts of new production were installed. Most of that activity occurred in the Tehachapi area of Kern County, with some big projects in Solano, Contra Costa and Riverside counties as well.[13][14][15] After leading the country for many years, California now ranks fourth nationwide in terms of capacity, behind Texas and Iowa, and Oklahoma.[1] Due to higher average winds in the plains area of the U.S., California ranks fifth in wind generation.[16]

California uses about 265,000 GWh each year.[17]

Offshore wind potential[edit]

A 2009 Stanford University study of California offshore wind potential identified a site off Cape Mendocino that could provide uninterrupted year round power from a 1500 MW wind farm that would produce an average of 790 MW. Three types of offshore wind power were studied, with the conclusion that from 12,300 to 19,700 GWh/yr could be delivered from 1,997 to 3,331 MW of monopile wind turbines installed in up to 20 meter deep water, from 38,200 to 73,000 GWh/yr could be delivered from 6,202 to 12,374 MW of multi-leg wind turbines in 20 to 50 meter deep water, and from 462,100 to 568,200 GWh/yr from 73,025 to 91,707 MW of floating turbine foundation wind turbines in from 50 to 200 meter deep water,[18] such as those being studied for use off the coast of Maine by the Ocean Energy Institute and the DeepCwind Consortium.[19]

Wind generation[edit]

California Electricity Generation Sources
California Wind Generation (GWh, Million kWh)
Year Total Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2013 12,320 531 789 1,110 1,594 1,842 1,679 1,460 1,334 1,193 786 590 487
2014 13,776 607 881 1,140 1,389 1,804 1,914 1,439 1,312 995 829 810 656
2015 12,228 187 619 826 1,262 1,681 1,668 1,445 1,523 815 667 617 917
2016 13,698 721 577 1,333 1,337 1,602 1,651 1,700 1,450 1,000 963 564 799

Source:[20][21] [22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "AWEA Fourth Quarter 2016 Market Report Public Version" (pdf). American Wind Energy Association. Retrieved March 9, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "WINDExchange: Installed Wind Capacity". U.S. Department of Energy. 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2017-01-24. 
  3. ^ a b "AWEA 4th quarter 2012 Public Market Report" (PDF). American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). January 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  4. ^ "California Wind Energy" (PDF). U.S. Wind Energy State Facts. American Wind Energy Association. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  5. ^ Major CA Wind Energy Resource Areas
  6. ^ a b Overview of Wind Energy in California
  7. ^ World's Largest Wind Project is Underway Renewable Energy World, July 29, 2010.
  8. ^ California's largest wind power projects has been approved by Kern County December 17, 2009.
  9. ^ a b c d "U.S. Wind Energy Projects – California". American Wind Energy Association. July 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project". U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. September 10, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser". U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved March 9, 2017. 
  12. ^ AWEA 2012 Q1 Report
  13. ^ a b "Five Percent of California's Energy Supply Now Comes From Wind" (pdf). California Wind Energy Assn. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  14. ^ Marla Dickerson (January 31, 2012). "Wind power blowing up in California". LA Times. 
  15. ^ 2012 Third Quarter Market Report, American Wind Energy Association
  16. ^ Electric Power Monthly Table 1.14.B. Utility Scale Facility Net Generation from Wind
  17. ^ How high is California’s electricity demand, and where does the power come from?
  18. ^ California offshore wind energy potential
  19. ^ "Ocean Energy Institute". 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  20. ^ EIA (July 27, 2012). "Electric Power Monthly Table 1.17.A". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  21. ^ EIA (July 27, 2012). "Electric Power Monthly Table 1.17.B". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2013-02-28. 
  22. ^ EIA (Dec 20, 2013). "Electric Power Monthly Table 1.17.A". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 

External links[edit]