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Whoosh, whoosh: The green siren song that fills the hills of Altamont Pass & Pacheco Pass
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt


Crest the rolling hills as you head east on Dinosaur Lake Trail after it splits from the Canyon Loop at Pacheco State Park and you will hear the sound.


It’s an electrifying noise.


It’s the sound that powers 11.4 percent of California.


As an economy, if California were a  nation, it would be the fourth largest in the world behind Japan and ahead of Germany based on 2021 statistics.


It is the Gonzaga Ridge Wind Farm, one of eight major wind farms in California.

In-state electricity produced by the wind farms was 15,173 gigawatt hours or about half of the 31,155 GWh of wind-generated electrical power Californians used last year based on data compiled by the California Energy Commission.

Most of the 160 wind turbines in the wind farms are tucked away in the rolling hills as commuters speed up and down Highway 152 to cross Pacheco Pass to reach the job-rich South Bay.

Some 60 miles in a slight northwest direction the state’s first wind farm litters the Altamont Pass with well over 4,000 wind turbines as commuters on Interstate 580 and the Altamont Corridor Express trains make their way up and over the 1,009-foot Altamont Pass.

Passes tend to be strategic locations for powering wind turbines.

Tehachapi Pass, with its 3,400 plus wind turbines, generates about 710 megawatts. That’s much more per wind turbine than the 4,000 plus along the Altamont Pass that, in 2020, generates 266 megawatts.

Next year, the 160 turbines near Pacheco Pass will the thinned out and replaced with upgraded technology

It will allow for opening more of the state park for recreational use. At the same time electricity production will go up about 8-fold from the current 18.4 megawatts to 147.5 megawatts.

The reconstruction of the wind farm will also include battery storage with a four-hour capacity.

It is clear not all wind farms are created equal.

Some of it has to do with aging technology.

Some of it has to do with location.

Simply upgrading technology doesn’t mean power.

One component of the Altamont Pass wind farm complex was redone last year. There were less wind turbines although they were more efficient.

But they didn’t quite cover the power generation that was replaced. There was public outcry about the “visual pollution” the wind turbines created as well as legitimate concerns about the need to reduce the bird kill.

At any given time, experts have said as many of 15 percent of wind turbines maybe not be able to function due to issues not related to the lack of wind. No surprise there as all power generators — from hydro and solar to natural gas fueled power plants — need maintenance.

But there is another threat to the effectiveness of wind power.

It’s climate change.

How, you might ask, is one of the technologies zealous greenie advocates say will allow the world to free itself from carbon-based energy blamed for climate change suffer from climate change?

The term “climate change” says it all. The climate is changing,

The advance and retreat of numerous glacial ages such as those that left their handiwork behind by the carving of Yosemite Valley out of a massive layer of granite demonstrate climate change is a natural phenomenon.

That does not dismiss the concern than mankind is accelerating the process whether it is slightly or larger. Sooner or later, we’re heading toward the end of this epoch age and the start of a new one.

At some point, whether it is hundreds of years or tens of thousands of years from now, ecological systems as we know them  that are hospitable toward current life forms including humans will become hostile to them.

It is an accepted premise among those fearful of climate change that it changes weather patterns.

That may not bode well for those placing their faith in wind power — or even solar power for that matter.

Wind farms are placed where the weather patterns support them.

But as Europe is now seeing that could be changing.

Due to unusual high pressure, winds have fallen along with wind power production sending up prices just as the continental is hit by a natural gas squeeze by Russia.

Wind is not going away. Instead, its patterns are changing. As such identified wind corridors where wind farms were placed may become less productive while other areas may emerge as more favorable to wind. The problem is wind turbines are stationary.

How big of a concern this might be is questionable.

But given the hyperventilating every time we have a flood, hurricane, or drought in the current times that don’t fit neatly in the limited 150 years or so of weather data mankind has compiled, those who are doing the handwringing should worry the same about wind and solar power.

Solar productivity is reduced by less sun. That would mean a shift to more rain in the Central Valley as opposed to snow in the Sierra as some climatologists are predicting due to climate change will make solar production less effective.

It could also change wind patterns.

To be clear, getting as much effective wind and solar power in place makes sense on numerous levels and not just from the aspect of climate change.

However, the all-or-nothing strategy California’s leaders have embraced that is being adopted slowly but surely by the federal government could leave people vulnerable.

Wind and solar — just like hydro — require nature’s active help as opposed to natural gas or nuclear fission.

Striving to eliminate nuclear power at the same -time the mandate is to get rid of carbon-based power is shortsighted and reckless.

Just as reckless and shortsighted is the stampede toward electrifying 100 percent of how we transport people and goods — whether it is cars, trains, planes, trucks or ships.

Hydrogen technology — which is both clean and basic elements available in abundance — needs to be advanced just as strongly, if not more so, than battery technologies.

Instead, government is laser focused on electric batteries as a power source for transportation showering it exclusively with tax credits and such while for all practical purposes ignoring hydrogen power.

Dead silence.

That’s the “sound” made by hydrogen fuel cells that don’t chop up birds or rely on the whims of nature to work.

That is the sound made by wind turbines.