In late July, the renewable-energy developer Terra-Gen Power broke ground on what it hopes to be the world’s largest wind-generation project. It is located in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.

According to the developer, the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) will field nearly 600 turbines with the capacity to generate 1,550 megawatts (MW) of energy when completed. With permitting expected from Kern County and a new segment of a high-voltage transmission line recently completed, and more planned, generation capacity could eventually exceed 3,000 MW.

“Having the world’s largest wind project break ground in our state is tangible evidence that our pioneering policies are drawing investment, improving the economy and creating jobs now when we need them most,” said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Groundbreaking was two years after Terra-Gen Power and ArcLight Capital Partners LLC purchased Tehachapi-area wind farm assets from Allco Finance Group of Sydney, Australia, for $325 million. Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the state’s largest utilities, had already contracted with Allco to purchase 1,550 MW.

The AWEC will be built in one of the most proven, best wind characteristic areas in the United States: the Tehachapi Mountains in the high Mojave Desert, which is already home to many hundreds of wind turbines.

According to the New York City-based Terra-Gen Power, $1.6 billion in funding is in place to build the first five phases of the project, which will produce 720 MW.

The AWEC project has secured priority access to a new transmission line that was completed at the end of 2009. Access to transmission and a market to sell wind power are two often-overlooked success factors. Power to SCE will begin upon completion of phase 1 in early 2011.