More than 1% of California’s electricity comes from the wind. During breezy early mornings in summer, the contribution goes even higher. “At those times, the wind accounts for up to 8% of our electrical load,” said Mary A. Ilyin, a wind researcher for Pacific Gas & Electric, the country’s largest utility and a major booster of wind power.
Half of California’s turbines (“Don’t call them windmills,” said Ilyin, “they don’t grind anything”) are located in Altamont Pass and feed directly into PG&E;'s grid. Most of the rest are found in two other major wind centers: Tehachapi Pass on the edge of the Mojave Desert between Bakersfield and Barstow, with a capacity of 458 megawatts, and San Gorgonio Pass north of Palm Springs (231 megawatts). Both are hooked up to the power lines of Southern California Edison.