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Wind power blowing up in California

January 31, 2012|By Marla Dickerson
  • Turbines generate electricity in California's Tehachapi Pass, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.
Turbines generate electricity in California's Tehachapi Pass,… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Wind energy now supplies about 5% of California’s total electricity needs, or enough to power more than 400,000 households.

That’s the word from the California Wind Energy Assn., which said that California put up more new turbines than any state last year, with 921.3 megawatts 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.

“The total amount of wind energy installations in 2011 created a banner year for wind generation in California and is helping to drive California closer to reaching its goal of 33% renewable energy,” said Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Assn. 

Wind capacity in the Golden State has doubled since 2002. With a total of nearly 4,000 megawatts installed, California now ranks third nationwide, behind Texas and Iowa.

To keep the wind at their backs, industry proponents are stumping in Congress for an extension of federal production tax credits to keep the turbines coming. Those credits expire at the end of this year. The industry’s pitch: Wind is clean and abundant, reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil and creates American jobs.

But it remains to be seen how enthusiastic lawmakers are about extending the breaks. Pressure is growing in Congress to cut the deficit and trim subsidies. The controversy over Solyndra didn’t help either. The Fremont, Calif., solar panel maker filed for bankruptcy protection last year after receiving more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees. That has soured some pols on renewables.

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