Reporting from Rufus, Ore.— The wide, green gorge where the majestic Columbia River begins its final push to the sea generates so many stiff breezes that windsurfers from around the world make their way to Hood River, not far from here, to ply their colorful sails atop the churning whitecaps.

Lately though, electricity, not recreation, has become the big-ticket wind client in the Columbia Gorge. Wind turbines have sprung up all over the blustery hilltops in eastern Washington and Oregon, an area soon to become home to the largest wind farm in the world, developed for customers of Southern California Edison. Indeed, half the massive new wind power generated in the Pacific Northwest goes down the grid to California.

For the last three weeks, however, many of the wind farms have been ordered to shut down their generation for several hours a day — victims of an unusual surplus of hydroelectric power that has confounded regional electricity operators and infuriated renewable energy advocates who have worked so hard to develop the region's wind bonanza.