Category: Energy

How a massive Amazon wind farm promises to change a tiny town in rural America

KEY POINTS
  • Amazon announced three new wind farm projects in April 2019 as part of their goal to become net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
  • Large wind and solar farms create economic booms for rural communities.
  • Even after an initial construction boom, there is room for business growth.
H-O_WindPowerinTehachapi
The Tehachapi Mountain Range is home to around 4,731 wind turbines that generate about 3,200 megawatts of energy.
City of Tehachapi

Buried in the mountains of southern California lies a field of white. It’s not your typical farm: It produces renewable energy. The Tehachapi Pass is home to one of the largest wind farms in the world. Now a huge tech company is bringing more turbines to the area, and it is going to have an impact on a nearby community.

In April, Amazon announced three new wind farm projects — two overseas, and one in the Tehachapi (teh-HATCH-ah-pee) Mountains, located in southern California. The farms will help contribute to Amazon’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and 100% renewables by 2030.

The mountain range is a hub for the wind industry, with around 4,731 turbines that produce about 3,200 megawatts of electricity along the mountain range, according to the Center for Land Use Interpretation, with private companies flocking to the area because of the high wind speeds. Farther north is the Altamont Pass wind farm, which helps power another tech giant: Alphabet’s Google.

Located just northeast of the mountain range is the town of Tehachapi. With a population of about 12,000, Tehachapi Mayor Pro-Tem Phil Smith called it a nice little mountain town, and while the power being produced from wind only comes to the town indirectly through the grid, Tehachapi gets something else directly as a result of the big renewable energy investments.

“The good news for us is obviously we have the economic impact,” said Tehachapi economic development coordinator Corey Costelloe.

Outside contractors come in to work on the wind turbines, staying in the town’s hotels and eating at its restaurants, like Kohnen’s Country Bakery, one of the town’s more popular local eateries. Family owned by Colleen and Thomas Kohnen, the bakery has been around since 2004. Colleen says the bakery is growing, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is because of the wind industry. Though she says that she does get customers who come from out of the city to work on the windmills.

“I had one guy come in last week, and I guess he was staying in a hotel during the week or something,” Khonen said. “And his wife and daughter came up to visit him. That just introduces people (to the bakery).”

Stephen Abbott, city renewables accelerator manager at Rocky Mountain Institute, says that small businesses seeing an increase in revenue is part of the initial economic boom that follows a renewable energy farm.

Keeping jobs local

According to estimates from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the construction of a 47 megawatt (the size of Amazon’s new farm) renewable energy farm could produce around 50 new jobs.

One company wants to keep those jobs in Tehachapi.

World Wind and Solar is a renewable energy maintenance company that moved its headquarters to Tehachapi in 2019.

WWS CEO Buddy Cummings has deep ties to Tehachapi. His father, Steve Cummings, installed some of the first wind turbines in the town. Cummings feels moving the company to Tehachapi is a homecoming of sorts.

“The relationships that got us into the renewables market are the relationships we grew up with,” Cummings said. “Tehachapi just feels like home.”

WWS has a goal of keeping their work local. Cummings says that he tries to hire Tehachapi residents, and use word of mouth marketing.

“We grow by people telling their friends and family,” Cummings said.

The company, which started in wind but has diversified into solar, requires workers to do general labor maintaining solar panels — cleaning and upkeep. The company hires workers to do that work for 60 to 90 days, and if they perform well, the company brings them back to Tehachapi for two to three weeks of training, teaching them how to do more technical maintenance on wind turbines and solar arrays. After the training they can become full-time technicians.

“It’s a quick and healthy way to get people work,” Cummings said. “It has such an opportunity to grow a career so fast.”

The workers coming in to train are spending their dollars at local businesses, like Kohnen’s Bakery, which cited the World Wind and Solar training period as a profitable time because the renewable energy company recommends it to trainees.

“The wind farms have generated quite a number of very good technical, good-paying jobs that can sustain a family and the employers have benefits,” Mayor Pro-Tem Smith said. “So the people in the workforce can look forward to actually a career in the industry if they want, and the pay is good enough where they can afford a home and stay here.”

Wind turbine technicians are making just over $54,000 a year ($26.14 per hour), according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. It forecast employment growth of 57% for wind turbine technicians from 2018 to 2028. In 2018, there were 6,600 wind turbine technician jobs in the U.S., according to BLS data.

api isn’t the only area that has seen an economic updraft from the wind industry.

Benton County, Indiana (pop. 8,700) has multiple wind projects developed over the past decade, one operated by Pattern Energy which supports electricity needs for an Amazon Web Services data center. The AWS farm, its first major renewables project, went into operation in early 2016, and Paul Jackson, director of economic development for Benton County says the area has seen gradual growth after big, initial booms from its wind farm projects.

“Everything kind of flattens out,” Jackson said. “The big boom is over, and you get into the reality of it.”

The Amazon Wind Farm Fowler Ridge project is expected to make $5 million in economic development payments to Benton County over a period of 17 years. The project is entitled to 100% property tax abatements for a 10-year period, after which property tax revenue for the county will start being generated as well.

“Once wind farms came off of abatement, we are getting tax dollars. The tax money is fantastic,” Jackson said.

Between 2008 and 2018, taxes on Benton County wind farms have permitted the county to allocate an additional $3 million to schools, additional money to medical services, $35 million to new roads — upgraded roads were required to transport giant wind turbines to sites — and a total of $31 million in economic development payments to be made to the county through 2038.

A September article from the Wall Street Journal highlighted that farmers in the U.S. are leasing land out for renewable energy farms to help themselves in a difficult financial time.

“I think one thing we shouldn’t lose sight of is that a lot of farmers in the middle of the country are relatively strapped economically,” Abbott said. “Wind or solar can be a really useful additional revenue stream for people and those communities, particularly if it helps them get through a particular commodity down cycle.”

Facebook’s solar power projects

Big corporations want to build on cheaper land in rural areas and that, in turn, can help these rural economies from regressing to the mean by attracting follow-up projects.

Los Lunas, New Mexico is a good example.

The village has a population of roughly 15,000 people, and will soon be home to a Facebook data center, as well as solar farms to power it. The solar farm was an additional project that will help Facebook reach its goal of making the data center 100% renewable. Data center’s like this one and Amazon’s in Benton County are energy-intensive operations.

Both Las Lunas projects are in the construction phase, and are slated to be finished in 2023. Los Lunas economic development manager Ralph Mims says that the construction has helped workers, who previously had to work out of state, find jobs in the area. Much like Tehachapi, the village has seen a similar economic impact from big tech coming in.

“Since Facebook announced, we’ve got an uptick in our retail footprint,” Mims said. “We’ve had new restaurants come in, we have a third McDonald’s.”

Los Lunas also has several new housing projects that are in the works, but Mims believes that is because of natural growth, not only because of Facebook.

“Facebook of course has helped, but I would say that it’s a natural occurrence.” Mims said. “People want to live in a smaller town, taxes are cheaper down here, housing is super close to Albuquerque, we are about 10-15 minutes from the airport.”

Mims said that other companies currently operating under “code names” have inquired about land in the area, citing low costs and favorable weather conditions as reasons for likely future projects.

Abbott said there is little if any economic downside for smaller communities, like Tehachapi and Benton County, getting into the renewable energy business.

“Wind and solar provide a really important additional value and way to maintain the communities that are struggling in rural America, and have the potential to bring technical jobs and new sources of revenue and income to help support these communities during the energy transition.

 

South Valley Industrial Summit

Join us Wednesday, November 14th for the
optional pre-summit workshops offered free of
charge to industry partners. Come and learn about
new technologies and processes.
Thursday, November 15th is designed to be a
full-day event that will feature vendor booths,
keynote speakers, and various breakout sessions
offered by industry experts and practitioners.
Keynote Speakers
 President & CEO, California Dairies
 Faraday Future
 Surf Ranch, Kelly Slater Wave Company
NEW! Optional Pre-Summit Workshops
Nov. 14
 Lean Principles
 ABB Inc in Robotics
 Variable Frequency Drive Basics & Control Methods
 Intro to Machine Vision
 Safety Solutions: Introduction to Automation Safety

Could autonomous car testing be the rebirth of Castle Airport in Atwater?

September 03, 2018 12:22 PM

Stockton port will get state’s first mobile power station

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is partnering with a maker of zero-emission off-road technologies to deploy the state’s first mobile power stations at the Port of Stockton, officials announced last week, a move that will boost air quality around the port and improve public health.

“This project is a great example of how the cap-and-trade program is fighting climate change while improving local air quality and delivering benefits to disadvantaged communities,” California Air Resources Board’s Maritess Sicat said in a statement.

The MPS is an off-road battery-electric mobile platform that offers multifunction capabilities that can replace multiple pieces of single-purpose, conventional diesel off-road equipment, the Muncie, Indiana-based DANNAR said, and will help accelerate the commercial deployment of zero-emission off-road technologies. Because ports, airports, warehouses, and logistic centers throughout California today rely primarily on diesel technologies to move, load, and unload higher tonnage loads, the project will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pollutants and diesel emissions to benefit surrounding disadvantaged communities, DANNAR officials say.

The port will be using two battery-electric 30,000-pound capacity forklifts with additional cargo handling attachments, including a multipurpose cargo truck bed and scissor-lift. ChargePoint, the world’s largest network of electric vehicle charging stations, will install two DC fast-chargers at the port to support the equipment.

Funded in part by the California Air Resources Board through California Climate Investments, the project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The cap-and-trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. At least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities.

“The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is excited to support the deployment of zero-emission off-road equipment in our effort to reduce mobile source emissions, which remain the largest source of pollution in the Valley,” the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said in a statement.

http://www.recordnet.com/news/20180624/stockton-port-will-get-states-first-mobile-power-station?start=2

 

San Joaquin RTD picked for new PG&E electric vehicle pilot program

Central Valley Business Times

June 23, 2018

In a first for San Joaquin Regional Transit District and Stockton, Pacific Gas and Electric Company says it will conduct an electric vehicle pilot program to support RTD’s long-term electric transportation needs with chargers and infrastructure improvements.

Recently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, this pilot will be a test case for PG&E’s new “FleetReady” program, which supports electric charging for customers with medium-duty, heavy-duty, and off-road fleets such as transit agencies, school districts, and delivery fleets.

For this new pilot with San Joaquin RTD, PG&E will test how smart charging and battery storage can lower operating costs and maximize efficiencies for the agency.

Seeking to partner with a transit agency located in a disadvantaged community which already had electric buses and plans for more in the future in order to meet the timelines of the project proposal, PG&E chose RTD.

“Because we already had a plan for adding more electric buses to our fleet and have a long-term goal around electrification, PG&E approached us with this pilot opportunity,” says CEO Donna DeMartino. “Due to our focus on electric transportation, PG&E can jump right into creating the specifics of the pilot, which aligns with our goal of being powered by 100 percent electric vehicles by 2025.”

The budget for this pilot is $3.35 million, which includes:

  • Design of the sites
  • Cost of the chargers and battery storage system
  • Construction from the electric grid to the chargers and battery system
  • Installation of the chargers and battery storage system
  • Software for charge management
  • Collection of data
  • Ongoing analysis and evaluation
  • Handbook that other transit agencies can use to learn more about electrification

http://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/1708b9fc-8b7e-4db7-a9f1-408e3ef3f803.pdf

Kern County named wind turbine capital of the world

  • BY STEVEN MAYER

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Kern has more wind turbines — 4,581 — than any other county in the nation.

The USGS has created a database that mapped all 57,636 of the nation’s wind machines, Energy Digital reported. Not only does the Golden Empire have more turbines, the USGS says it has the highest turbine density in the world.

 That’s a lot of juice.

According to the survey, Kern has a total wind power capacity of 4 gigawatts, and more turbines than the entire northeast region of the United States.

To put this in perspective, there are a billion watts in one gigawatt. That’s a lot of light bulbs. Now multiply by four.

 That’s enough to power between 1.2 million and 2.9 million homes, depending on the vagaries of seasonal demand. Obviously, most of that power is being exported outside of Kern.

Riverside County ranked second with 2,373 turbines, while Alameda County ranked third with 1,430 turbines. Nolan County in Texas ranked fourth with 1,374 turbines.

The USGS generated the database in partnership with the Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the American Wind Energy Association.

http://www.bakersfield.com/news/kern-county-named-wind-capital-of-the-world/article_f4e22e40-5a34-11e8-a6a2-e7db220d3d8b.html?utm_source=bakersfield.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F%3F-dc%3D1526641220&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

California Resources Corp. acquires full ownership of Elk Hills oil field

  • BY JOSEPH LUIZ
418022508-data.jpg
In this file photo taken at Elk Hills , Matt Wells, Mitch Tate and Steve Northern, left to right, make a connector change.

The California Resources Corp. has acquired 100 percent ownership of the Elk Hills oil and natural gas field in Kern County, according to the company.

The oil company said it purchased Chevron’s interests for $460 million and issued 2.85 million shares of CRC stock to Chevron. The deal went through April 1. Chevron had owned about 20 percent of the field’s assets. CRC had owned the rest of the field and has been its operator.

“We have operated this field for over 20 years and have developed a deep knowledge of the geology and strong operational expertise to deliver robust value from this asset,” said CRC President/Chief Executive Officer Todd Stevens. “We intend to apply this know-how to our newly acquired position, as well as transfer learnings and efficiencies to enhance CRC’s assets across California.”

 In 2017, the interests that Chevron held produced approximately 13,300 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids per day, according to the company.

CRC estimates that based on current prices, the field could provide the company an operating cash flow of around $100 million annually. Elk Hills is now estimated to make up about 43 percent of the company’s total production.

CRC’s acquisition of Chevron’s interests comes after the company went into a joint venture on the Elk Hills field in early 2017 with a portfolio company that is part of the private equity group Ares Management, L.P.

Ares paid $750 million and purchased 2.34 million shares in CRC stock to obtain some of CRC’s Elk Hills assets. The particular interests under the agreement are the Elk Hills power plant, a natural gas-fired power plant and a cryogenic gas-processing plant.

Some of the proceeds from the joint venture were used in purchasing Chevron’s interest in the field, Stevens said.

 “Acquiring sole ownership of such a prolific field is an ideal use of proceeds from our recent midstream joint venture transaction, adding both immediate production and cash flow, while providing for quick synergies and tremendous long-term development opportunities,” he said.

Elk Hills, located west of Bakersfield, was initially discovered in 1911 and has produced more than 2 billion barrels of oil and gas since then, according to CRC.