Desert Winds and Electrical Energy
The energy of the wind can be channeled into other forms of energy besides the energy used as an erosional agent. This is especially true of desert winds. Today, some desert wind is used to make electricity.
Wind velocity is affected by air temperature. When air warms and cools, it changes density, which creates air pressure differences that cause wind. In the desert, temperatures may range from 40º F at night to more than 120º F in the daytime. Because of this temperature fluctuation, wind is generally stronger in desert areas.
There are many windy areas in California. It is usually windier during the summer months when wind rushes in from cooler areas, like the ocean to replace hot rising air in California’s deserts.
In Southern California, the hot air from the desert goes up and out over the Coast Range, reaching seaward. When it cools off it descends and flows back toward the land and re-enters the desert through such loop holes in the Coast Range as the San Gorgonio Pass – the old Puerta de San Carlos – above Indio. The rush of wind through this particular pass is quite violent at times. For wind is very much like water and seeks the least obstructed path. Throughout the San Gorgonio Pass there are wind-eroded ledges attesting to the violent winds that pass through it.
The San Gorgonio Pass has Mt. San Gorgonio on the north and Mt. San Jacinto on the south. Both mountains are approximately two miles high. Mount San Gorgonio rises 11,499 feet. Mount San Jacinto is 10, 804 feet high. San Gorgonio has been described as the tallest hill in the United States, even thought it is a mountain. This is because its peak resembles the rounded knoll of a hill. San Jacinto has the fifth highest rock wall on the North American continent. With its feet in the blazing desert, it rises abruptly over 10,000 feet. The San Gorgonio Pass is the deepest pass in the continental 48 states. The pass opens up in the east to Cabazon and is the gateway to the desert.
The San Gorgonio Pass was a prime candidate for wind turbines as it is one of the three windiest areas of the state. California provides about 30 percent of the world’s wind-generated electricity. The San Gorgonio Pass has more than 3,500 wind turbines; many are massed on the floor of the...