La Rumorosa, Mexico is known for its “bluster” — in a good way. Energy experts say there is enough wind energy in this small town just south of the border to power 2.5 million homes in southern California.
So it is no surprise that Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, has been reconnoitering in La Rumorosa for about five years, trying to find a perfect site for a large wind farm.
Now, according to the Latin America Wind Energy Association (LAWEA), the time has come. Sempra will begin construction in 2012 on the Energía Sierra Juárez 1 wind farm— located about 70 miles east of San Diego in Baja California, Mexico, along the Sierra Juárez Mountains. Energía Sierra Juárez will connect to the existing California electric grid at SDG&E's proposed ECO substation in eastern San Diego County via a new cross-border transmission tie-line.
Photo Source (News - Alert): Sempra Energy
When completed in 2013, the wind farm will be capable of producing enough clean electricity to power about 65,000 average homes. Energía Sierra Juárez has been under development by Sempra Generation since 2007 and could produce up to 1,200 megawatts (MW) of wind power at full build-out.
Jim Avery, who is in charge of making sure SDG&E has enough electricity to meet the region's needs, told U-T San Diego, "This will have a much better correlation with our system peak than any other wind regime in California," adding, “Our electric peak occurs when we have a Santa Ana wind. When we have a Santa Ana wind, the winds are coming right across this plateau." Avery said the project meets requirements that it produce power at the "least cost, best fit" for the region.
Sempra Generation also announced that it reached preliminary agreement last year on the framework for the sale of a 50-percent partnership interest in Energía Sierra Juárez to Houston-based BP Wind Energy, a BP subsidiary that owns and operates wind power facilities.
Sempra and BP already have a strategic relationship. Just this month, the two companies announced plans for jointly developing the Mehoopany Wind Farm in Pennsylvania and the Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm in Kansas, representing a combined investment of more than $1 billion. Both wind farms expected to be in commercial operation by year-end 2012. The wind farms will have a combined total output of 560 megawatts (MW) and will each be the largest ever built in their respective states.
The Energía Sierra Juárez 1 wind farm project “will provide a significant amount of renewable wind power to SDG&E customers in the San Diego area and is an example of the types of renewable resources that have been identified in this region,” said Matt Burkhart, vice president of Electric and Fuel procurement for SDG&E. “This contract not only reaffirms our commitment to add regional renewable energy to our portfolio; it gets SDG&E another step closer to reaching the [State of California’s] renewable energy goals.”
California utilities are mandated by state law to increase the amount of renewable energy they purchase to 33 percent by 2020. In 2010, nearly 12 percent of SDG&E's power originated from cleantech sources.“With this contract, we can begin to unlock one of the largest remaining wind resources on the West Coast and support California’s efforts to increase the use of alternative sources of energy,” said Jeffrey W. Martin, president and chief executive officer of Sempra Generation. “We are excited by the opportunity to generate this new source of renewable power for homes and businesses in the San Diego region. Sempra Generation’s employees live and work here, so we look forward to doing our part to create a cleaner and more sustainable energy future for our community.”
Of course, in addition to fair winds, the project is attracting its fair share of controversy. According to U-T San Diego, wind projects east of San Diego have drawn opposition from critics who say they destroy unique environments and contribute to an industrialization of rural areas.
SDG&E’s Jim Avery said he expects that to continue with this contract: "I don't know I've ever done a project that people didn’t complain about.”
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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves