Tuesday | April 25, 2017
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Putting more wind power on the grid

Wind turbines tend to be overshadowed by solar power projects, which get most of the attention from the public and policymakers. That’s the case again in a new government plan for renewable energy projects in the California desert. Though the wind industry shouldn’t get all the land it wants, the desert master plan should provide more and better space for wind farms.

Despite its second-class status, wind is a much bigger producer of electricity than solar. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind is now the source of 3.5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management reports that wind has been the fastest-growing producer of electricity worldwide over the last decade, largely because better-designed turbines have reduced costs by 80 percent over the last 20 years, and it is poised for rapid expansion in coming decades. In Kern County, the wind industry is second only to oil as a source of tax revenue.

Solar, which gets all the glory, produces only 0.1 percent of our electricity, though that number is expected to grow exponentially in the near future. So why has wind been so invisible to all except those who happen to drive through a farm of rotating blades?

For one thing, after an early start in the 1980s, wind farms developed a deservedly bad reputation as death traps for birds, including protected species. One of the earliest wind farms, in the Altamont Pass out