Palm Springs cowboy tests new wind energy technology
If Johann Steinlechner had his way, you wouldn’t see the Coachella Valley’s iconic wind turbines as you drove through the San Gorgonio Pass.
The turbines would still be there, generating renewable energy. They’d just be a lot closer to the ground.
Steinlechner wears a big cowboy hat — and laughs a big cowboy laugh — but he’s working on technology that his Western forebears never could have imagined. The longtime Palm Springs resident has designed a new kind of turbine that he says could make wind energy profitable at much lower speeds than is currently possible, opening up vast new areas to potential clean energy development.
The horizontal, energy-generating disks envisioned by Steinlechner would be mounted just 30 to 40 feet off the ground, as opposed to the hundreds of feet reached by modern wind turbines. That could make maintenance a whole lot easier. It could also substantially lower the risk of bird deaths — a sticking point for many environmental groups — and placate those who see wind turbines as a visual blight on picturesque landscapes.