Albert Lopez
Planning Director

Current Development Projects

Wind Turbine Projects

The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) was originally established in 1980 by the California Energy Commission (CEC) within Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in response to rising petroleum energy prices and environmental considerations. Since then, consistent with both historic and current zoning (Agriculture) and general plan designations (Large Parcel Agriculture) and policies in the East County Area Plan, Alameda County has reviewed and approved Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) for private wind energy operators for 'wind farms'. By the mid-1990s, over 50 CUPs had been issued by Alameda County for construction and operation of separate wind farms, which ranged from arrays and strings of as few as 4 or over 400 separate turbines for each permit, on hundreds of acres within the APWRA. These wind farms, or utility-scale wind energy 'plants' generated over 400 megawatts (MW) of energy for homes and business uses in the past in Alameda County, and are now in the process of being repowered, or re-developed with new, much larger and more efficient turbines and control technology. While the older first- and second-generation turbines yielded between 10 and 100 kilowatts (kW) per turbine, and in a few cases up to 250 or 400 kW, the next and third generation of turbines being manufactured in the first decade of this century ranged between 500 and 1.3 MW each, and the fourth and current generation of turbines range from 1.7 to theoretically 4.0 MW per turbine. Some manufacturers around the world have designed and built turbines ranging from 5 to 10 MW but are more often installed in off-shore sites.

The wind farms developed through the 1990s in Alameda County, operated by four companies, had their use permits renewed for operations in 2005 through 2018 with conditions requiring their replacement and repowering also by 2018. Repowering is intended to improve technical operations, improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs among other operational benefits, but also to achieve a wide range of environmental objectives. The most fundamental environmental objective is to substantially reduce avian mortality attributed to wind farm operations, especially the deaths of protected raptor species that include golden eagles, red-tail hawk, burrowing owl and American kestrel. There has been a strong consensus among wind farm operators and the environmental advocacy community, informed by extensive research by many different scientists, that repowering the APWRA would be the most effective means of reducing the rate of avian bird deaths per MW of output. An early repowering project in Alameda County, the Diablo Winds project, was approved in 2003, and is operated with 31 'third generation' turbines with a capacity of 20.5 MW.

In 2010, a Settlement Agreement between the County, the windfarm operators and a coalition of environmental advocacy groups led to agreements by three of the operators to repower by 2015, and a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) process commenced. The PEIR was prepared by the Alameda County Planning Department with consultants and evaluated two specific projects (at a project-level) and on a programmatic basis, buildout of one of two Alternative maximum MW scenarios, either 417 MW to be consistent with the County's capacity ceiling adopted in 1998, or 450 MW as a modest increase from that level of development. The PEIR was certified in November 2014, and at that time the two specific projects were approved, including the Golden Hills and Patterson Pass Wind Repowering projects. Since that time, the Summit Wind and Rooney Ranch Wind Projects were also approved using the PEIR as the effective CEQA document (i.e., they were 'tiered' under the PEIR as provided for by the CEQA Guidelines). The following provides links to the PEIR and approval documents for those specific projects.

The project names, operators, status and MW capacity of the approved and pending repowering projects that have been approved or are proposed as within the parameters of the PEIR are listed in the following table. Links to their public review documents, if available, are included in the table under Project names.
Project Name Owner/Operator Status (& CEQA process) Total MW
Patterson Pass Centauri Approved/Unbuilt/Expired (PEIR) 19.8
Golden Hills NextEra Energy Resources Operational (PEIR) 85.9
Golden Hills North NextEra Operational (Tiered under PEIR) 46
Sand Hill sPower Approved/Unbuilt (Tiered under PEIR with SEIR) 50
Mulqueeney Ranch Brookfield Approved (Tiered under PEIR with SEIR) 80
Summit Wind Salka, LLC Operational (Tiered under PEIR) 57.5
Rooney Ranch (see note) sPower Rooney Ranch (see note) sPower Approved (Tiered under PEIR) 25.1

Note: Rooney Ranch is a nearly square mile area within the APWRA that is owned by and subject to the jurisdiction of the City of Santa Clara. The link provided above is to the City of Santa Clara's website for Legislative Public Meetings, and provides links to related approval documents.

Other Wind Farm Conditional Use Permit applications approved since 2010

Information on the CUPs approved in 2005 and 2006, and the extensive efforts by the County to reduce and monitor avian mortality in the APWRA under the Scientific Review Committee (that was established in 2005 under the CUPs), is available upon request to the Planning Director, Albert Lopez. However, the final 2016 report to that Committee by the Monitoring Team is provided below.

For more information regarding the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area projects contact Sandra Rivera, Assistant Planning Director, at 510.670.5400 or by email.