The two plants, one to be installed on the Oregon-Washington boundary and the other intended for the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nevada Test Site, will have a total capacity of 560 megawatts (MW) and will generate enough power annually to serve more than half a million people. The former will become the world’s biggest farm with 300-MW, whilst the latter will be the second largest globally with 260-MW, the trade body American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said.

The two plants will contribute to the West Coast’s urgent need for new sources of electric generation (see related story), AWEA said, with 385 MW in place and generating enough electricity for 385,000 people by the end of the year, whereas fossil-fired power plants and nuclear plants often take several years to complete, it said.

The plant to be situated on the Oregon-Washington boundary will be called the Stateline Wind Project, consisting of 450 turbines, and will be developed by investor-owned utility PacifiCorp and wind plant developer FPL Energy. The Nevada Test Site project will utilise 325 turbines and be developed by the DOE and MNS Wind Energy. A third large-scale wind plant, adding another 200 MW, is also due to be up and running in Southern California by the end of 2001. The project is being developed by Southern Sierra Power LLC, a subsidiary of FPL Energy.

“Wind power is extremely competitive today,” said AWEA executive director Randall Swisher, “and new wind plants can be installed within 18 months to two years, with only six months required for construction. The wind potential of California and neighbouring states is vast, enough for wind to be a major contributor to the Golden State’s demand over the next two to five years.”

According to AWEA, the total wind energy potential of California and five other Western states (Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, and Oregon) is more than 600,000 MW. “There are limits to how much of this resource can be tapped in the near term, primarily because of limited transmission line capacity,” Swisher said, “but wind should be the top of the list as California looks for new sources of electricity.”

The news may help to halt Germany’s increasing lead of the US as the world’s wind superpower, following the recent announcement of the nation’s output figures (see related story).

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