PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Some of the best wind in the country is in Palm Springs. Randy Buckmaster of Palm Springs Windmill Tours demonstrates what a gear inside of one these wind turbines does.
“This is what takes the wind and turns it into mechanical power. And then there’s usually a shaft coming out of the back that’s usually going to turn the generator, and it makes the electrical power,” says Buckmaster.
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The wind comes from the San Gorgonio Pass where the lighter, warmer air mixes with the colder, heavier air forming a wind tunnel, which the giant wind turbines are there to collect energy from.
“This one right over here is made by General Electric. It’s 213 feet up to the hub, or 65 meters. And those blades are 125 feet long, or 38 meters,” Buckmaster says.
The wind industry has been around since the 80s in Palm Springs and there are about 2,000 turbines currently. Today the aging turbines are being replaced with newer, more efficient machines.
The new machines are taller with bigger blades, and produce about 2-3 megawatts. One of these turbines alone could power 1,500 SoCal homes at any given moment.
“Many, many of these old ones are going to come out. And they’ll be replaced by a much smaller number of much larger machines. But they’re going to be a lot more efficient, and they’re going to produce a lot more power than we produce today,” says Buckmaster.
The industry itself is filled with promise. Wind is one of the cheapest forms of energy and has provided 114,000 U.S. jobs in 2018. It is projected that wind turbine technician jobs will grow by over 50 percent through 2028.
Wind is a big part of the larger picture. Three point three million Americans are now working in clean energy, which outnumbers fossil fuel workers three to one.
“In most parts of the country where they’re going in in large numbers, they lease from a farmer or a rancher. And they use less than 2 percent of the land and the farmer gets to keep right on doing their thing while they’re getting a lease payment every month. So they’re taking up very little space and they’re using a fuel that’s free,” Buckmaster says.
It really is in the wind.