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Altamont Pass Wind Farm
Altamont Pass Wind Farm
Turbines near Livermore, California
Location Altamont Pass
Coordinates 37°43′57″N 121°39′09″W / 37.732389°N 121.652416°W / 37.732389; -121.652416Coordinates: 37°43′57″N 121°39′09″W / 37.732389°N 121.652416°W / 37.732389; -121.652416
Fuel Wind
Turbines 4900
Maximum capacity 576 MW
Annual generation 1.1 TWh
Commissioned 1981

The Altamont Pass Wind Farm located in the Altamont Pass of the Diablo Range in Central California. It is a one of the earliest wind farms in the United States. The wind farm is composed of over 4900 relatively small wind turbines of various types, making it at one time the largest farm in the world in terms of capacity. 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.[1] They were installed after the 1970s energy crisis in response to favorable tax policies for investors.

Windmills dot the landscape as Interstate 580 passes through the Altamont Pass Wind Farm
Older wind turbines

Considered largely obsolete, these numerous small turbines are being gradually replaced with much larger and more cost-effective units. The small turbines are dangerous to various raptors that hunt California Ground Squirrels in the area. 1300 raptors are killed annually, among them 70 golden eagles, which are federally protected; in total, 4700 birds are killed annually.[2] The larger units turn more slowly and, being elevated higher, are claimed by the manufacturers and wind farm proponents to be less hazardous to the local wildlife. This claim is supported by a report done for the Bonneville Power Administration[3]. Currently the Altamont wind farm is shut down by government order for several months of the year to attempt to mitigate bird mortality.

An advantage of this particular site is that under hot inland (California Central Valley) conditions a thermal low is developed that brings in cool coastal marine air through this pass, driving the turbines at a time of maximum need. Unfortunately this is not always reliable and with an inland high pressure condition the entire region can be both hot and windless. At this time additional power is provided by natural gas powered gas turbine peaker plants. Future development of solar power stations may provide a complementary source of renewable energy, because summertime heat events often feature abundant sunshine to compensate for the low winds.

See also


  1. ^ "Altamont Pass, California - Encyclopedia of Earth".,_California. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  2. ^ How the Deadliest Wind Farm Can Save the Birds: Green Machines
  3. ^ "Synthesis and Comparison of Baseline Avian and Bat Use, Raptor Nesting and Mortality Information from Proposed and Existing Wind Developments". Retrieved 2009-09-07. 

External links



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