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Bringing the birthplace of wind power into the 21st century

Vintage turbines flanked by the new models increasingly replacing them.
Bringing the birthplace of wind power into the 21st century
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I remember when my dad got his first “car phone.” It was bulky, required an antenna on the window and only worked once in a while. The iPhones we carry in our pockets today, made with three decades of product development, seem otherworldly by comparison.

There’s a similar technology comparison playing out across California.

American wind power was born in the Golden State, where the first large-scale wind farms were built in the 1980’s. Many still generate electricity today, more than 30 years later. But through a process known as repowering, companies are starting to replace vintage turbines with modern equipment.

The transition is akin to moving from a “car phone” to an iPhone.

NextEra Energy and Sonoma Clean Power just broke ground on a full repowering at the Golden Hills North wind farm, replacing 283 turbines from the 80’s with just 20 modern ones capable of generating significantly more electricity.

“[This] allows us to breathe new life into an old project, reduce the impact on the environment, and provide good jobs and meaningful economic benefits for the local economy,” said Daryl Hart, director of development for NextEra Energy Resources.

Other companies are repowering old California projects too. EDF Renewable Energy recently upgraded the Shiloh IV wind farm, originally built in 1989. Just 50 new turbines replaced 235 old machines while quadrupling the project’s capacity to generate electricity.

Elsewhere in California, 21 modern turbines replaced 145 vintage machines at the San Gorgonio project in Riverside County in 2015.

American innovation is on full display at these projects. Decades ago, wind power pioneers figured out a way to generate electricity out of thin air. Through research, entrepreneurship and hard work, today’s turbines are more cost-effective, more reliable, and generate vastly more electricity 22 times more electricity than an average turbine installed in 1990.

Keep track of all of the latest repowering news in our Quarterly Market Reports.

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Greg is AWEA's Deputy Director of External Communications. He is the head editor and writer for Into the Wind, and oversees AWEA's online content and opinion writing. Greg holds a Master's degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University's School of International Service. He also holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and Journalism from Lehigh University.

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