Escalating tensions over a proposal to impose rolling outages on wind-power farms in Oregon and Washington State to prevent the electric grid from overheating has convinced the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which is responsible for operating the power grid in the Pacific Northwest, to pull the plug on the plan.
This leaves the BPA with a whole new set of problems as it grapples with the prospect of excess hydropower resulting from an abnormally abundant snowpack in the region this year. In particular, the BPA has yet to offer a viable alternative to the rolling wind outages strategy, which would have ensured the grid complied with federally mandated reliability standards and protected salmon populations from the anticipated flood of freshwater.
“This is going to be a major issue for the region,” said John Saven, CEO of the Northwest Requirements Utilities, a trade group representing public utilities that buy power from BPA, in an interview with The Oregonian. “We’re in the first inning.”
In hardly half a decade, the BPA has scrambled to accommodate more than 3,000 megawatts of new wind capacity, most of which has been developed by California utilities seeking to meet their requirements under California law to produce one-third of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
The BPA continues to express concerns that wind operators will force it to reserve a greater percentage of its hydro generation as backup reserves and could ultimately compromise operations if too much water builds up.
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