We went to the Mojave desert (to get our Moja back) and on the way there we went through Tehachapi (pronounced te-Hatcha-pea, named for the maori place for valley of many oaks or something). It was a quaint town (small, rustic etc) with some interesting things. It is probably the smallest town to support a model train shop. There is the largest Californian wind farm there, which covers an entire range on the east side of town.
When you pop over the last mountain and drop into Mojave the climate changes completely, the oaks turn to Joshua trees and the ground becomes decidedly deserted. Here is the tehachapi wind farm from the main street of Mojave. We agreed that whilst we could live in Tehachapi, Mojave is a complete hole. Note the traditional American country town look, with enormous streets (so wide you need a car to cross them) and a penchant for street signs. Due to the age of these 'turbans' they are rather small (perhaps 10m diameter) compared with modern 100m diameter turbines. As the swept area increases with the square of the radius, a single 100m turbine can replace 100 10m turbines. As a result when these turbines fail they are replaced with single larger units.
As regular readers will note, we have a pylon theme on this blog. This photo is very interesting. On the left is a normal 3 phase 450kV or so alternating current line. The pylon on the right, however, has only two conductors, with considerably more insulators. What could this be? I think it might be a +/- 500kV DC line. The Pacific Intertie fits this description.
After our sojourn to Mojave we went back to Tehachapi and had lunch (yummy chilli, even Lynne had some). We checked out the stores there, walked around town then back to the car. As we got to the car the boomgates came down on the railway crossing and Lynne snapped this picture of a 3 header BNSF. One of the things Tehachapi is famous for is the loop. We decided to drive as fast as legal down to the loop and see this train go through - it's hard to pick when they will arrive apparently, so we were lucky to leave town just as a train went through.
We drove down to a spot we thought we'd see it, and there was a man selling postcards (obviously the loop is big tourist business!). He suggested we head back up the road a bit and bounce along a dirt track on the side of the mountain to a spot where we would get a perfect view. If you click this picture you'll get a 9MB video taken by me as I walked up to the look out point. There were quite a few ferroequinologists camped up there, with all sorts of fancy equipment. You can see one in this video. There were of course some patient significant others waiting. Luckily Lynne is also fascinated by such marvels of technology.
(Incidently, After Effects has the ability to remove camera shake as a post processing step. I'm too lazy to even download it off the internal servers and run it through at work, but if you should ever want to remove camera shake, Adobe has the software for you :)
As you can see, as well as loop there are a number of extra bends to drop the height of the track enough.
Here is the final section before it headed out into the distance. Apparently the californian high speed rail project is planning to run through here. Clearly this loop is completely unsuitable for high speed operation (even with tilting trains!). It has a top speed of 20mph (30km/hour). I should find out exactly how they are planning to get through, but having seen the place I think they will just line up either side of Tehachapi and punch a tunnel all the way through.
Finally, as we drove off to our next destination, we saw a solar thermal plant based on an Australian idea (used on the Liddel power station in NSW). Unfortunately it is hard to take pictures of solar thermal power stations whilst driving along a freeway, so here is my best effort:
What you can't see is the large flat mirrors on circular hoops which each tilt the suns light onto the collector at the top of the frame. The neat idea is that rather than tracking the sun in 2 dimensions, if you make the mirror long enough, and aligned roughly north south, you only need to tilt in 1 dimension (and hence simplify the mechanics drastically). This of course comes at a loss at the ends due to the changing sun's declination, but you can reduce this arbitrarily by increasing the length of the mirror. I'm not sure what this plant is producing, it was some kind of chemical or dairy factory.