Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This welcome sight generates wind energy

A glimpse of wind turbines high atop the Altamont Pass.

Driving through the tall, grassy brown hills of the Altamont Pass on a recent Sunday, the wind turbines stood erect like milky white egrets soaring tall in the horizon.

There are nearly 5,000 wind turbines spread out over tens-of-thousands of hilly acres that make up the Altamont Pass terrain, a mountain pass in the Diablo Range near Livermore, Calif., which separates the Bay Area's eastern edge from the Central Valley. It's about an hour's drive east of San Francisco.

The Altamont Pass Wind Farm
has the largest concentration
of wind turbines in the world. 
The Altamont Pass Wind Farm is one of the earliest wind farms in the U.S. -- it was commissioned in 1981 -- and it's the largest in terms of capacity. According to Wikipedia, Altamont Pass is "still the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world, with a capacity of 576 megawatts (MW), producing about 125 MW on average and 1.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) yearly."

For decades, the wind turbines have generated clean electricity -- wind energy -- for California thanks to the stiff winds that rake the Altamont Pass during the spring and summer seasons. Their installation came about following the energy crisis of the 1970s and in response to "favorable tax policies" for its investors.

Climbing the Altamont Pass.
On this warm, late-spring afternoon, the wind turbines dotting the summit at 1,009 feet (308 meters) provided a welcome distraction while driving the I-580 back to Oakland from the arid, dusty heat of the Central Valley.

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