Wind Power in Palm Springs

I once wrote about the power of the wind in shaping the landscape, and during a recent architectural photography project in Palm Springs, I gained firsthand experience with wind power.

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, CA

High winds are a common condition at the north end of Palm Springs. Consequently, a large wind farm resides in the area. The wind turbines are large, numerous, and constantly in motion.

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, CA

Another feature of this area of Palm Springs--a city known for its distinctive architecture--is a unique house inspired by Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome.

The site of the house puts it right in the middle of the wind farm, and you can view the turbines from most of the many windows in the house. The house did not always have all these windows, however. California architect Pavlina Williams, AIA bought the house a few years ago and redesigned it, making it into the beautiful home I’m sharing with you here.

Geodesic Dome House, Palm Springs CA. Architect: Pavlina Williams, AIA

During my last night at the house, the winds were particularly strong. I believe they were 40-50 miles per hour steadily, with gusts even higher. As I worked outside, at times fighting the wind to stay upright, I understood why they chose this location for the wind farm. It was actually difficult to remain standing in the gusts, and I worried that my photography would be affected. Fortunately, my tripod withstood the high wind and allowed me to produce very sharp photographs.

I continue to be amazed by the power of the wind. Not only does it help shape the desert landscape of the Southwest, but it also provides a steady source of power in some places. I enjoyed the opportunity for a short time to reside among these huge wind turbines as they harnessed the power of the wind.

If you’d like to see additional photographs of the house, including some interior images, take a look at this blog post on my architectural photography website. And if I’ve inspired you to visit Palm Springs to see the house for yourself, you can book it through Airbnb at this listing. (Please note: Some of the photographs in the Airbnb listing are by me, but many are not.)

Geodesic Dome House, Palm Springs, CA. Architect: Pavlina Williams, AIA

Wind Power

The desert Southwest is a windy place. In many areas around southern California and Nevada, large wind farms harness the energy of the wind. Their presence is a reminder of the constant and fierce power of the wind here. The strong winds in this part of the country also play an important role in shaping the landscape.

Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve

One example of how winds shape the landscape is sand dunes. There are many sand dunes in the Southwest, and the wind is responsible for forming, shaping, and moving these dunes. One example is in Mojave National Preserve. I’ve written about the Kelso dunes in Mojave Preserve before. These dunes are tall heaps of sand gathered and shaped by the wind.

Another great place to see sand dunes is in Death Valley National Park. Death Valley has several sand dune systems, including the Mesquite sand dunes. It was a very windy evening when I hiked out among the Mesquite dunes. I had to keep moving to prevent the sand from gathering around my feet and causing me to sink more deeply into it. It also took a while for my tripod to gain stability in the shifting sands. At the peak of the dunes, I got sand-blasted as the sand whipped up over the crest.

Tranquility on Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park

The landscape changes constantly as the sand dunes reshape themselves and move within the system. These changes are subtle when viewed from a distance. But when you get up close, it is clear just how much material is being moved around by the wind. Footprints in the sand alter the way the sand flows, but it does not take long for those footprints to vanish, swallowed up by the wind-powered re-shifting of the sand.

Here in Las Vegas, windstorms are one of the few weather hazards we get. This past weekend at the Boulder City Spring Art Festival, I experienced the power of the wind first-hand. My tent, along with the tents of three or four other artists, was blown over by strong wind gusts. It could have been a lot worse for me. Fortunately nobody got hurt, and the only property that was damaged was my own. I’m taking it as a learning experience, and I am making changes in my booth setup to prevent this problem from happening to me in the future. But at least I got a photograph out of it. This photograph shows the remains of my tent. Someone suggested I put a price tag on it and sell it as modern art!

That's not the kind of art I like to make, however. I much prefer making landscape photography, and I thank the wind for helping to sculpt many beautiful sand dunes for me to photograph.

Desert Heat, Death Valley National Park