Seventy miles north of downtown Los Angeles, where the Mojave Desert gives way to the San Joaquin Valley, three newly built wind turbines stand atop a ridge overlooking State Route 58. Strong gusts emerge from the mountain pass below, making this an especially windy spot in one of the windiest parts of California.
A few new turbines aren’t normally a big deal in the Golden State, which has been building wind farms for decades.
But these particular machines are at the heart of a revolution in California’s energy industry, which for millions of people, homes and businesses could mean an end to buying power from monopoly utilities such as Southern California Edison.
The three wind turbines at the top of the ridge — and three others nearby — recently started generating electricity for Clean Power Alliance, a government-run energy provider that is replacing Edison as the power source for more than 1 million homes and businesses across the Southland. Twenty-nine cities have joined Clean Power Alliance, as have unincorporated areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Residents of those areas will start receiving electricity from Clean Power Alliance in February. Edison will still distribute power over the poles and wires of the electric grid, and the Rosemead utility will send out the bills. But the alliance will buy and sell power, set rates and decide what incentives to provide customers for reducing their consumption or going solar.
Clean Power Alliance launched for a small group of customers last year, rolling out electric service to city governments and 30,000 businesses in parts of Los Angeles County. But next month will serve as the alliance’s grand opening. By the end of February, it will be California’s fifth-largest power provider, after Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
That fact is especially striking given Clean Power Alliance’s start-up-like working conditions. The alliance has 13 employees and is based in a WeWork shared-office space in downtown Los Angeles, with living-room-style lounges and Instagram-worthy neon lights.
“We’re not a bunch of people who were running some other public-sector something or other. We’re bringing a business savvy to this that is really important for our size and our ambition,” said Ted Bardacke, Clean Power Alliance’s executive director and a former infrastructure director for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.