Since the 1980s, travelers barreling along California's Route 10 have been treated to the sight of hundreds of windmills taking the wind blowing through the San Gorgonio Pass and turning it into electricity for Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells and other communities in the Coachella Valley. Although the San Gorgonio windmills, along with the other large California wind farms at Altamonte Pass and Tehachapi Pass were some of the earliest wind farms producing commercial power, they still are counted as some of the largest in the world. The San Gorgonio wind farm produces approximately 619MW, while the Altamonte Pass and Tehachapi wind farms produce 606 MW and 690 MW, respectively.

At a smaller wind farm in the area, the Green Power I facility run by Enron Wind Corp., 200-foot tall wind turbines produce 750 kw at peak capacity — enough electricity to power 5,000 homes. The project was completed in 1999.

Fun facts

The largest of the Enron windmills stands 150 feet tall with blades half the legend of a football field. The compartments at the top containing the generator, hub and gearbox weigh 30,000 to 45,000 pounds. A wind turbine's cost can range up to $300,000 and can produce 300 kilowatts an hour — the amount of electricity used by a typical household in a month.

If you are a wind geek and want to learn more about this interesting technology, bookmark www.awea.org. This website has a ton of interesting information on wind energy, news on new installations and other great resources.

THE 10 LARGEST WIND FARMS IN THE U.S.

Project Name State Installed Capacity (MW)
1. Horse Hollow TX 736
2. San Gorgonio CA 616
3. Tehachapi CA 609
4. Altamonte Pass CA 548
5. Sweetwater TX 505
6. Buffalo Gap TX 353
7. Maple Ridge NY 322
8. Stateline OR/WA 300
9. King Mountain TX 281
10. Wild Horse WA 229
Source: American Wind Energy Association (AWEA): Note: The AWEA does not consider the facilities at Tehachapi, San Gorgonio, and Altamonte Pass in California to be wind farms because the projects contained in them are owned by many different owners.