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Fact #6

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From National Geographic’s 5,000 Awesome Facts book, 2015

Located on the Santa Monica Pier, the Pacific Wheel is the only solar-powered Ferris Wheel in the world.

The Pacific Wheel was not as exciting to me as the other 4 Ferris wheels that I researched previously but I think at this time it is the most famous. It has appeared in 500 or more movies such as “Forest Gump”, “Iron Man”, and one that I just watched because of the name of the movie.. SHARKNADO. . It was absolutely amazing. I don’t really know what else to say about the movie. I don’t think there are words to describe. Little did I know but Sharknado is the most successful movie franchise, beating Disney Pixar’s $4502 billion by $1 at $4503 billion in Franchise Gross, according to It only took 3 million to make. And, I am so pumped. There are 4 other sequels to the first cliffhanger. It does have a lot of the Pacific Wheel in scenes, such as when the sharks fall from the sky, causing the wheel in full rotation roll into the ocean. Ooops. *spoiler.” I’m now a fan..

Onward to the history of the Pacific Wheel, once known as the Santa Monica Wheel, and see why it made it in the book, 5000 Awesome Facts.

The Pacific Wheel is located ON THE Santa Monica Pier in the amusement park, Pacific Park, making it THE ONLY AMUSEMENT PARK ON THE WEST COAST that is located ON A PIER. It is also the only Ferris Wheel that runs on solar panels, So far it has 2 facts that other Ferris wheels lack. Solar Power and west coast pier clout.

The Pacific Wheel and the Santa Monica Pier go hand in hand. The pier was built in 1909 mainly for a loading dock with cargo ships to carry sewage far out into the ocean, “beyond the breakers” so it wouldn’t wash ashore onto their white sandy beach. It had no amenities’ so people really didn’t hang out on the pier. However, the adjoining pier, called the Pleasure Pier, or the Newcomb Pier, was built in 1918 by amusement park pioneers father-son team. Needless to say, their pier had an amusement park, good fishing, sites and very family friendly. How fun. To be an amusement park pioneer.

The Newcomb Pier, (Pleasure Pier) 1918

1909 Santa Monica Pier

Now I have to talk about The Newcomb pier for that becomes the place of the Pacific Wheel premier in 1996. I say that because in the end they somewhat merged together, and I believe the Newcomb name was dropped, and the Santa Monica Pier stands today.

After many years of success, to barely surviving the Great Depression, World Wars, and switching company hands many times, it almost faced the chopping block after a series of storms in 1974 wiped out almost half of the piers which lead the city to demolish both piers. However, the PEOPLE threw their hands in protest and petitioned to save the pier. They were successful, and in 1996 the Santa Monica pier opened on May 25, with an amusement Park located in Pacific Park, free admission, and introduced the world’s ONLY SOLAR-POWERED wheel measuring 85 feet with a view of 130 feet over the pier, looking at the ocean. It was affixed with 5,392 white and blue lights on the hub and spokes giving a spectacular sight and night. That is what everybody says who has gone there. I don’t know how spectacular it is, but the pictures I see look really cool.

A few years later, the city council made the dissertation that the park needed repairs and had the wheel refurbished. A new wheel was built, costing 1.5 million dollars, and the little lights were replaced with 160,000 LED LIGHTS, 20 gondolas, a max of 6 per car, and can hold 800 riders per hour. It runs on photovoltaic energy, which I have no idea what that is, even after reading about it. So here is the definition as supplied by Wikipedia. It currently generates up to 71,000-kilowatt hours of photovoltaic power.

Photovoltaics (PV) is the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physicsphotochemistry, and electrochemistry. The photovoltaic effect is commercially used for electricity generation and as photosensors.

photovoltaic system employs solar modules, each comprising a number of solar cells, which generate electrical power. PV installations may be ground-mounted, rooftop-mounted, wall-mounted or floating. The mount may be fixed or use a solar tracker to follow the sun across the sky.

The new wheel was built by recycling the solar panels from the original and added the 160,00 LED lights. The old wheel ended up being auctioned of on a 10 day auction on eBay* to a Real Estate Developer in Oklahoma City named Grant Humphreys for $132,400, beating out 5 other hopers. The original cost was $800,000, so he got a pretty good deal. This little fact is kind of odd but makes me smile. The things one can find on eBay! He plans to resurrect the wheel, but not quite sure where he will put it. He claims “The views from the top are fantastic.” He must’ve ridden it before he bought it.

Pacific Wheel on the Santa Monica Pier

Finally, after digging a bit more I found it was funded by Edison Tech. Solutions, the Federal Dept of Energy, and the California Energy Commission. Edison Technological Solutions installed the wheel, and manufactured by Chance Morgan Rides Manufacturing in Wichita Kansas.

It has appeared in 105 photo shoots, 69 tv shows, 13 music videos, and 28 feature films.

The wheel will change the color of the bulbs to match the situation. Red and white lights were put on the wheel in the Polish flag to celebrate 40 years of Solidarity. A marriage proposal was appeared as well.

Different lights on Pacific Wheel

Oh! There is another cool thing about the Pacific Wheel. It has a live feed 24 hours a day:


It’s very relaxing to watch.

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