PORTLAND – The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) released a plan Friday under which it can limit wind-power production to prevent overloading the grid during the melt-off of a huge mountain snowpack.
When water levels are high, as they are this year, the agency said, it has to send more water through the hydroelectric turbines at dams. Laws protecting endangered species prevent it from sending all the excess water through spillways and around the dams and raising levels of dissolved gases in the water to the point that they might harm fish.
“We’re fortunate in the Northwest to have extraordinary renewable hydropower and wind-energy resources, but occasionally we have to adjust when nature gives us too much,” said Steve Wright, the BPA’s administrator, in a statement released Friday.
A representative for independent wind-power producers says temporary shutdowns could result in tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. He expects lawsuits will soon be filed against the BPA seeking compensation for lost revenues resulting from limits on wind production.
“The current situation was predictable and preventable,” said Robert Kahn, of the Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition. “They are breaking contracts, and can expect litigation.”
The blustery late spring period is a peak period for wind, and as the weather warms and rivers swell with snowmelt, a peak period for hydro production. BPA officials say they took several steps earlier this year to avoid wind-power shutdowns including making more room in reservoirs to manage river flows and adjusting the timing of maintenance to ensure that transmission lines can operate at maximum capacity during this period.
Wright said that wind-power producers will be asked to shut down only after limits have been placed on coal, natural gas and other thermal plants to keep supply from exceeding demand.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
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