Winter in the Desert - 2013 travel blog

two blades

up the hill


varying heights

wind turbine tour

another view






hot tub

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whistling wind turbines

The Coachella Valley has many unique features. The San Andreas Fault splits and run through it. The two plates along the fault line are boogying along. City Hall in Los Angeles has moved nine feet since it was built in 1923. This crack allows hot water from the aquifer beneath to run to the surface creating the hot springs that gave their name to the town where we are camped. For centuries they have created an oasis in the desert and people still come here today to soak in the warm water. Our campground pumps the hot water through a series of hot tubs, each one a bit cooler. Than the water flows into the swimming pool, which is still too warm to swim laps (in my opinion) but is a great place to soak and chat. Once the water cools off a bit more it is pumped into a series of ponds which support both fish and bird life. Some of this water also is used to irrigate the golf course which is bordered by the ponds.

As I bobbed in the warmness today I studied the sign post nearby. It promised that the water would cure my arthritis and back pain, prevent coronary disease and diabetes, relieve stress insuring a better night's sleep, and promote thirty pounds of weight loss in ten weeks. If only I had known! I would have come straight here and by now would be as healthy as I was the day I was born. But I must say that it was nice to be in a pool that did not have the chlorine smell. The heated water is moving along so quickly, it's always clean.

A few days ago I commented on another unique feature here in the valley - the profusion of wind turbines located at the bottom of the mountains just west of Palm Springs. We wondered why they are here and in such quantity. We wondered why there isn't more solar power here since it is sunny 350 days a year. So were glad to find a tour that answered all our questions and then some. For two hours we drove up and down the hillsides with a man about our age who must have spent his entire career working in alternative energy. He had so much to tell us he hardly stopped to breathe. My head spun as I tried to remember all the interesting facts he shared with us.

Palm Springs is located about ninety miles from the ocean and on a pass between two of the highest mountains in California which funnels the cool sea breeze into the hot desert. Occasionally the Santa Anna winds funnel the wind back from the higher Mojave to the lower Colorado Desert here. There's always air moving. Five generations of wind turbines have been built here, each one larger and more efficient. Their presence generates many problems as well as copious amounts of energy. The turbines whistle, driving the people who live nearby crazy. Their huge shadows which move past the homes as the sun moves through the sky bother people, too. Birds and bats fly into the blades. Constructing these huge turbines is expensive. Banks don't want to lend money unless they are confident they will get a return on their investment. Turbines have to pivot to catch the wind from either direction. They create vortexes which can affect the turbine next to them. Placement is critical.

All kinds of technology has been developed to solve these issues. Blades have been modified so they don't whistle. Trees are planted nearby to prevent the shadows from bothering nearby residents. Blinking red lights have been found to be effective at keeping birds from flying into the blades. At first solid red lights were used, but birds found them mesmerizing. Sensors on the turbines monitor bat echolocation and emit sounds they don't like if they are in the area. Computer modeling assist with turbine placement, ensuring that enough power will be generated to justify their construction.

Bigger is better but the newest turbines are as big as they can be when it comes to transporting them down the highway to their final location. The industry is looking to the sea. Wind turbines can be built much bigger there brought in on barges in more constant wind. If they are far enough out, tyhe cause far few problems. Solar panel placement is much more invasive on the land. Many of the desert animals we never see are buried in the ground during the heat of the day. As bulldozers level the ground to place the panels, vast habitat is destroyed and if the animals survive, the ground is too hard packed for them to come back.

Whew! He said lots more, but that's enough for today.

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