Jan. 26, 2001—The unveiling of plans within the past two weeks for what will be the world’s two largest wind power plants underline both wind energy’s growing maturity and competitiveness and also its potential to contribute to the West Coast’s urgent need for new sources of electric generation, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said January 25.

The two plants, one to be installed on the Oregon-Washington boundary and the other slated for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nevada Test Site (NTS), will have a total capacity of 560 MW and will generate enough power annually to serve more than half a million people.

“More importantly for California,” AWEA said, “of the 560 MW in the two plants, 385 MW will be in place and generating enough electricity for 385,000 people by the end of this year. Fossil-fired power plants often take several years to complete, nuclear plants even longer.”

A third large-scale wind plant, adding another 200 MW, is also due to be up and running in Southern California by year’s end. 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 neighboring 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 near the top of the list as California looks for new sources of electricity.”

The 300-MW Stateline Wind Project, announced January 11 by investor-owned utility PacifiCorp and wind plant developer FPL Energy, will consist of 450 turbines, while the 260-MW Nevada Test Site project, announced January 17 by DOE and MNS Wind Energy, will utilize 325 turbines. More information on the Stateline plant is available from https://statelinewind.com .

“Wind energy is a clean, domestic electricity source that is not subject to the sorts of supply constraints and price spikes we have seen with natural gas,” Swisher said, adding, “The Pacific Northwest has flourished over the years because of low-cost hydropower—wind energy can provide the same benefit to much of the Western U.S.”