For most Inland Empire residents, the strong winds that hit the local area at various times throughout the year are annoying and even dangerous — but for local energy agencies, the stronger the winds, the more satisfactory the results of generating energy.
So it was appropriate that on a day in which a wind turbine in Rancho Cucamonga was officially unveiled, there were gusts of wind that knocked down tables and chairs and even threatened to blow over the tent used for the ceremony.
Supporting the “annoying” wind, dozens of people, including San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford and Senator Bob Dutton, gathered on the premises of the Regional Water Recycling Plant No. 4, located on the intersection of Sixth Street and Etiwanda Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga, on April 2 to unveil the structure that would generate approximately 1.5 million kw per year.
“My wish was that it would not rain, that the weather would not be cold and that it would be windy. My wishes were fulfilled. Maybe we can generate one megawatt,” joked Tom Love, CEO of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), which owns the land.
The wind turbine stands 185 feet high and has three blades that span 80 feet in length — sufficient to generate 20 percent of the electricity needed at the plant. Built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the turbine is owned by Foundation Windpower LLC, which develops, finances, builds and operates wind turbines at suitable sites.
The project is part of IEAU’s commitment to produce enough sustainable energy sources by 2020 that will eventually improve air quality and the environment.
In its efforts to help future generations, IEAU has installed solar panels on four of its facilities and collaborates with SCE on operational measures to conserve energy at all IEAU facilities. In addition, next month IEAU will unveil a facility that will use organic waste to generate electricity.
“The new wind turbine provides clean renewable energy. It provides a hedge against potential volatility in future energy prices, as well as improved operational reliability,” said IEAU Board Vice President Michael Camacho.
According to IEUA, the turbine eliminates an annual emission of 1,034 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 203 passenger vehicles from the roads each year. The turbine generates the equivalent energy needed to support 129 homes per year.
Some of the benefits IEUA will enjoy from the turbine are no capital or maintenance expense, an energy cost savings estimated at $3 million over the lifetime of the power purchase agreement (20 years), and protection against future rate increases, said officials.
The project is welcome in a region where pollution levels exceed those accepted by state and federal laws. In fact, the Inland Empire is regarded as having some of the worst air quality in the nation, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).
With the installation of the turbine, whose blades have a diameter of 201 feet, authorities also aim to reduce the risk of residents having heart attacks and developing diseases such as asthma. According to a study by the Department of Public Health of California, high levels of pollution may cause elderly women to suffer from heart attacks more frequently than younger women.
“This is a good example of what you can achieve by working together,” said Chino Mayor Dennis Yates, who serves as an advisor for AQMD. “This turbine will help improve air quality. Best of all, it’s only the beginning.”