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The first wind farm on California's coast just came online — here's how it's transforming the energy landscape

The site features 29 GE turbines that tower up to 492 feet.

Photo Credit: iStock

A wind farm in Taiwan. Photo Credit: iStock

California's first coastal wind farm is up and running.

The Strauss Wind Project in Santa Barbara County has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power about 36,000 homes, according to BayWa r.e. Wind, the company behind its development.

The site features 29 GE turbines that tower up to 492 feet, Electrek reported. A 7.3-mile transmission line connects Strauss Wind to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company grid. The wind farm is about 3.5 miles away from the city of Lompoc, home to about 44,000 people.

Strauss Wind also features a nifty artificial intelligence feature called IdentiFlight that identifies birds as far as a kilometer away (a little over half a mile) so that operators can adjust the turning of the turbines when necessary to avoid injuries or kills.

BayWa has also estimated that the project will generate $40 million in tax revenue during its 30-year lifecycle and provide annual income to the ranchers who leased their land.

Natural gas and coal are the two largest sources of U.S. electricity, but wind is steadily growing as the world looks for cleaner energy alternatives. In fact, wind electricity is on course to surpass coal, potentially by 2026, Reuters reported.

This is good news, as the burning of dirty fuels such as gas and coal accounts for more than 75% of all planet-warming pollution, per the United Nations. 

As wind energy expands, scientists are coming up with creative new designs, too. For instance, Spanish innovators made a cylindrical wind energy harvester that works by oscillating rather than using a rotating blade — its design makes it easier to manufacture and assemble, and it's also safer for wildlife, the company says.

Over in Scotland, there's a honeycomb-shaped wind turbine that's well suited for urban environments — its compact design means it can be placed on top of buildings and other structures.

Mona Miyasato, Santa Barbara County executive officer, called the Strauss Wind project a "big milestone" for clean energy, according to the Lompoc Record.

Over on the Electrek forum, one person noted that micro-projects like this could help solve one crucial strain on power grids. 

"With all these local projects popping up, I hope the strain on the grid can be fixed by energy generation staying closer to use," they said.

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