9 Interesting Facts about Palm Springs' Iconic Windmills

DWA Team


You can see the Palm Springs windmills anytime you drive on the freeway on the northwest side of town. The largest windmill is over 328 feet tall, and each blade is 150 feet long (or around half the length of a football field). This article will tell you everything you wanted to know about these windmills, but to fully appreciate their grandeur you should go see them in person.

1. First and foremost, how many windmills are in Palm Springs?

There are 2,700 windmills in Palm Springs. The first windmill was built in 1962. However, the area was hardly recognizable until the early 1980s when the rest of the wind farm was developed. Still, this remains the oldest windmill farm in the United States. During the 1980s, over 1,600 windmills were built in this area. 212 of the original wind turbines were later replaced with 35 newer and larger windmills. Other windmills have been taken down or replaced over time as well.

2. How tall is each windmill?

The tallest Palm Springs windmills reach over 300 feet high. However, they don’t look this tall when you’re viewing them from far away, which makes it hard to fully appreciate their size unless you view them from up close. Also, the top compartment which holds the generator and gearbox weighs between 30,000 and 45,000 pounds depending on which windmill you’re looking at. They cost around $300,000 each and can produce up to 300 kW of energy.

3. What do the windmills in Palm Springs power?

Anytime you see nearly 3,000 windmills in an open field, you’re likely to wonder why they are there. In total, these windmills produce enough power to light up the entire Palm Springs area (including the Coachella valley). It helps that the San Gorgonio pass is one of the windiest areas in the entire state of California, with average speeds ranging between 10 and 15 miles per hour and rising in the summertime. Some of the energy is used to power homes and businesses in Palm Springs, but much of the energy helps keep the Coachella Valley aquifer going.

4. What’s the difference between windmills and wind turbines?

So far, this article has used “windmills” and “wind turbines” interchangeably, but these are actually two separate entities. The difference between the two is how the energy they produce is used. A windmill pumps water and mills grain, while a wind turbine produces electricity. Therefore, the Palm Springs windmills are actually wind turbines. The word “windmill” sticks around because it's a common vernacular.

5. What happens when the wind isn’t blowing?

While this is uncommon in Palm Springs, there are certainly days when the wind isn’t as strong as on other days. Each windmill requires a wind speed of 13 miles per hour to turn effectively. Interestingly, the windmills will automatically lock up if wind speeds exceed 55 miles per hour to protect the windmills from damage.

6. How fast do the blades turn?

With average wind speeds, you can expect a windmill to turn between 10 and 20 full revolutions per minute. They may not seem like they are turning very fast when you look at them from far away, but imagine what you would see if you saw the massive blades turning completely every three to six seconds while watching from close by.

7. How long does it take to build a windmill?

The average windmill only takes around two months to build. However, because the palm springs windmills are so large, they may take as long as six months to fully construct. Once a windmill is finished, it will last for around 25 years. Once a windmill is no longer in service, many of its components are reused or recycled for other purposes.

8. Who manages the Palm Springs windmills?

When the windmills were built in 1982, Wintec Energy oversaw the entire operation. However, they only own one wind turbine today. The operation is currently managed by Brookfield Renewable Energy, which has major plans for renovation in the works, with the ultimate goal of improving the efficiency of the wind farm.

9. How do wind turbines work?

To put it simply, the wind turbines turn kinetic wind power into mechanical energy, which is then converted into electric energy. As the turbines turn, they spin a generator which creates new forms of electricity. As wind flows across one of the blades, the air pressure decreases and the other two sides can lift and drag. Since the force of the lift outweighs the drag, the roto spins and powers the generator. Because there are a series of gears inside each gearbox that speed up the rotation, the generator can be a little smaller than it would otherwise have to be.

You can see why many people enjoy driving by the Palm Springs windmills, or even scheduling a tour so that they can get closer to these amazing structures. Once you pay a visit to the windmills, you may find yourself so captivated that you want to see what else the area has to offer. If you get to the point where you decide that Palm Springs is somewhere that you want to call “home,” consider giving Diane Williams & Associates a call. Diane Williams & Associates has been in the Palm Springs area for so long that they can answer questions on both the wind turbines and the Palm Springs real estate market