As unusually high winds swept the San Francisco area in mid August, a major wildfire nearly engulfed the longest standing concentration of wind turbines in the United States. Within a few hours, the flames had scorched about 1000 acres and halted traffic on the busy freeway through the Altamont Pass in northern California. County and state fire fighting crews even used helicopters to drop water on the blaze to try and prevent it from engulfing homes or other structures in the Livermore area. Enron Wind Corp operates one of the endangered sites, on a ridge and being swept by gusts as high as 45 mph. The turbines were barely visible to TV viewers through the smoke. But they continued to generate power, Enron's Zavier Rios told a local television station. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it did draw attention to the prospect that recent extremes of weather are caused by global warming. "The winds are so strong, we can't get ahead of it," complained one member of a local fire team. The Altamont Pass has been in the news in the last several months because it will undergo massive repowering between now and the end of July 1999 and new rules for wind farm construction are being laid (Windpower Monthly, July 1998).
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Senior Renewable Energy Analyst (WindGEMINI Product Lead) DNV GL Bristol (City Centre), City of Bristol