The Delta breezes of Solano County are producing electricity for thousands of SMUD customers. Located in the Montezuma Hills near Rio Vista, SMUD’s wind farm was developed in 1994. A second phase was added in 2006 bringing the generating capacity to 102 megawatts (MW).
Major expansion on the way
That capacity will more than double when the next phase is built in 2012. SMUD is planning up to 75 more turbines, adding 128 MW of renewable and emission-free generation. When in place, the expansion alone will provide about 13 percent of SMUD’s renewable energy goal for 2013.
And it’s cost-effective. By relying on the wind, the “fuel costs” are zero, producing wind power at less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That makes wind power one of SMUD most economical resources.
SMUD studies the wind patterns and picks the best spots for the turbines to take full advantage of the winds that whip in from the coast, squeeze through the Carquinez Straits, and spill into the Delta. The site is one of the best locations in all of California for wind generation.
Taller and more powerful, yet slower and safer
As wind energy technology develops, the turbines have grown taller, more powerful and more reliable. The second phase turbines, at 415 feet tall, were the tallest in the U.S. at the time, and towered over the original models that stood only 241 feet high. Likewise, these models had a capacity of 3 MW each or enough to meet the annual electrical needs of a thousand SMUD households. Improvements in the technology allowed SMUD to replace the original turbines. Watch a video.
As the turbines became taller, the blades grew longer. They also move more slowly than the old turbines, making it easier for birds to see the blades and avoid flying into them. The new turbines also have pedestal towers, which means birds are not able to perch or roost near the blades.