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Tule Wind Project back up after being offline for more than 5 weeks

The 57 turbines at the sprawling Tule Wind Project in San Diego’s East County are spinning again, after a faulty transmission line knocked the energy project offline for more than five weeks.

Operations at the 131.1-megawatt wind farm shut down April 11, just three months after the facility opened following 13 years of bureaucratic and legal challenges.

Officials with the project’’s operator, Avangrid Renewables, at first did not know what caused the outage but later determined an underground cable was to blame.

A vendor had to fabricate and eventually install a completely new line, measuring about 1,000 feet.

The entire project came back online May 21.

“We were quite pleased to be able to solve this unique and complex issue in a relatively short time frame,” said Art Sasse, director of communications and brand for Avangrid, which is based in Oregon.

Paul Veers, chief engineer of the National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said it is not unusual for a wind project to experience problems shortly after launching.

“It would not surprise me to know there was a construction or an installation glitch that could cause problems and that would show up right away, as they start operating,” Veers said.

Covering an expanse of five miles in a rugged section of the McCain Valley, the Tule Wind Project’s towers are impossible to miss for drivers along Interstate 8. Each of the wind farm’s turbines climb 262 feet in height, with blades attached to rotors that stretch to a diameter of 351 feet.

Avangrid officials predict Tule will generate enough electricity to service about 40,000 homes and deliver more than $39 million in state and local tax benefits over 25 years. Eight full-time employees work at the site.

The electricity generated on the site is fed into a substation operated by San Diego Gas & Electric and is part of a 15-year power purchase agreement the operators signed with Southern California Edison.

Avangrid has plans to add 24 more turbines in the near future – seven on state land and 17 on land belonging to the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

The wind project has been opposed by some environmental and conservation groups, who have argued the project is dangerous to raptors such as golden eagles and wildlife in the area such as bighorn sheep. Avangrid officials have long maintained they have been careful to protect birds and habitat.