Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Livermore windmills

Although I was born in Boston I think of Livermore California as my home town as my parents moved there when I was 3 and I lived there until I left for college.

One of the things Livermore is known for is the Altamont Pass Wind Farm which is in the hills just to the east. The windmills are quite visible from I580 as it traverses Altamont pass. They were constructed around 1980 which is after I had left but I would see them when returning home to visit.

This windfarm was a pioneer and encountered a number of problems. The tax credits that subsidized construction were based on capacity rather than actual power generated. Perhaps as a result many of the early wind turbines soon broke down and were not repaired. The resulting derelict windmills were quite noticeable and did not help wind power's image. It was also found that the windfarm was responsible for a large number of bird kills. In part this was because of the location but also because of the older turbine designs with small fast blades passing near the ground. It is believed more recent designs featuring larger slower blades higher off the ground are less dangerous to birds. The newer designs are also more efficient and are gradually replacing the original turbines. Wind power in general has been growing rapidly in recent years.

The picture was taken in July 2002 looking northeast from Patterson pass (which is on a back road a bit south of I580).

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