At what wind speed does a wind turbine start generating power? Is there enough wind in the area to make the project commercially viable?

The wind turbines begin producing power when the wind speed at the turbine hub height is approximately 3.5 meters per second (8 mph). The National Renewable Energy Laboratory wind resource model identified the Ocotillo Wind site as one of the best wind resources in southern California. Pattern Energy’s team of meteorologists conducted three years of extensive wind resource studies that confirmed the excellent resource.

Research included utilizing 60-meter meteorological towers and advanced remote-sensing SODAR and LIDAR equipment to capture wind speed data at the turbine height, as well as a highly sophisticated weather model to study the wind climate over the past 25 years. Third-party independent experts representing financing parties confirmed the projected levels of energy production.  


Can the flashing red lights on the wind turbines at night be turned off?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires lights on wind turbines at night so they can be seen by aircraft. The FAA is currently evaluating the use of Visual Warning Systems that use radar technology to keep the lights off until aircraft is approaching the facility. Ocotillo Wind has committed to evaluating this technology when the FAA issues guidelines for its use. 


What effect does the facility have on wildlife?  Have there been any avian fatalities?

Studies have shown that wind energy has the lowest life-cycle impacts to wildlife of any source of utility-scale electricity generation, and we proudly operate under a longstanding legacy of care for all wildlife. As with other types of man-made structures, sometimes birds make contact with wind turbines, but avian fatalities at Ocotillo Wind are low.  We regularly monitor for avian use and fatalities and report our results to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  


What approvals did the project require before it was constructed?

Before beginning construction, the Ocotillo Wind project area underwent several years of study and planning, culminating with the project receiving approvals to proceed from the Imperial County Planning Commission, Imperial County Board of Supervisors and the Bureau of Land Management.

Permitting was a joint National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, requiring a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Bureau of Land Management El Centro Desert District and Imperial County were co-leads for the process.

In 2013, the California Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP) awarded the Ocotillo Wind project its highest award for Outstanding Environmental Analysis and Documentation. The AEP found the project’s environmental review analysis was rigorous and included an extensive public outreach program and complex multi-agency approval process. The analysis also featured innovative analytical techniques including a state-of-the-art radar system linked to video recorders to monitor avian and big horn sheep activity.


What will happen to the facility when the lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) expires?

If the lease is not renewed when it expires, the wind turbines will be removed and the land restored following the decommissioning plan. All decommissioning activity will be completed in accordance with local regulations and the requirements established in the EIR / EIS permit. 


Where were the components for the wind turbines manufactured?

The wind turbine towers at Ocotillo Wind were manufactured by Ameron International in Fontana, California. The blades were made in Iowa and the nacelles made in Kansas, both manufactured by Siemens. 


Where does the power generated by Ocotillo Wind go?

Ocotillo Wind is the first renewable energy project to transmit power over the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, which connects San Diego with the Imperial Valley – one of the most renewable energy-rich regions in California. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and the California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO), the agency that manages most of the statewide grid, consider the Sunrise Powerlink one of the important mitigation measures to help maintain electric reliability during heat waves. Ocotillo Wind has a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with SDG&E that was approved by the California Public Utility Commission.


What is the purpose of the observation tower at the facility? 

The tower is known as the Biological Observation Control Center and acts as the control room for the on-site biologist to view the entire site with 360 degree vision. An experimental radar system was installed to tracks large raptor movements in the project area and is still being evaluated. If the on-site biologist determines that eagles are entering the project site, specific turbines may be curtailed until the eagle has left the area.


Why are cranes ever needed on the facility site?

Cranes are required to carry heavy components to a turbine site. Occasionally components inside the turbine nacelle, such as a generator or gearbox, and turbine blades can degrade and require replacement. The cranes needed to reach the height where components are installed are large and require assembly by transporting crane parts in multiple trucks. Crane operators and riggers are required to have years of specialized training to operate the equipment properly and safely.


How does dust affect the wind turbines?

Similar to the windshield of a car over time, turbine blades do experience weathering which may slightly reduce aerodynamics. The turbines use air filters to keep the cooling air clean as it passes in from the base up through the tower. Otherwise, the dust does not significantly impact the operations of the wind turbines.


What tax revenue does the Ocotillo Wind facility generate?

A report conducted for Imperial County by the County’s independent consultant found that the project will contribute more than $100 million to local taxing jurisdictions over 30 years. Major beneficiaries of the tax revenue include Imperial County, Imperial Valley College, Imperial Unified School District, Imperial County Fire Protection, Imperial County Office of Education and the County Library System. In addition, the initial purchase of the wind turbines installed at the facility generated more than $20 million in sales tax revenue that benefited the County and State.  


How many people work at the Ocotillo Wind facility?

The normal workforce at Ocotillo Wind is about 20 full-time employees. Additionally, the site will use up to 40 contractors at a time for various projects like upgrades and maintenance. Construction of Ocotillo Wind entailed more than 350 people on site and utilized many subcontractors from the local region.


How do I get a job at the wind facility?

Candidates interested in facility management positions may submit their resume to Pattern Energy at employment@patternenergy.com. Those interested in wind turbine technician positions can bring their resume by the Ocotillo Wind office or apply with Siemens through their website at http://www.usa.siemens.com/en/jobs_careers.htm


Do wind turbines use water to generate power?

No, the wind turbines do not use water to operate. 


Where does the wind facility get its water? 

Water is transported to the facility’s operations and maintenance building for the purpose of sanitary uses.


What charitable funding has the project provided to the local residents?  

Ocotillo Wind committed $3 million over 20 years to address challenges and needs in the Imperial Valley through the creation of three separate endowment funds administered by the Imperial Valley Community Foundation – the Ocotillo Wind Community Fund, Ocotillo Wind Education Fund and Ocotillo Wind Imperial Valley Fund. The Community Fund supports local initiatives in the communities of Ocotillo and No Mirage, while the other two support education and civic causes across the broader Imperial Valley.

Ocotillo Wind also committed $250,000 to support the Imperial Valley Food Bank’s Backpack Program, $750,000 to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum to complete its exhibits and open to the public, and $50,000 to install a cover over the basketball court and fence around the baseball field at the Ocotillo Community Park. 


 Where can I learn more about wind energy?

The California Wind Energy Association and the American Wind Energy Association are great resources to learn about wind energy in California and the United States. 


Turbine Diagram