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BPA asks FERC for rehearing on wind curtailment

The Bonneville Power Administration on Friday said it will ask federal energy regulators for a rehearing on a ruling made last month requiring them to end the practice of halting wind energy production in the Northwest.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled Dec. 7 that Portland-based BPA could no longer curtail wind power production, which it had been doing since May to strike a balance between the overproduction of power between wind and hydroelectric dams during a period of weak demand.

FERC found BPA unfairly discriminated against a class of power generators and provided preferential service to itself through its curtailment policy. It gave BPA 90 days to develop an alternate strategy.

But in a news release Friday, BPA – a federal nonprofit agency that markets renewable hydropower from Columbia River dams – asked for both a clarification of the ruling and a rehearing of the case. Meanwhile, it continues to to work with various parties in the region to reach a regional settlement of the issue.

BPA said it needs to adopt a new policy by the spring snowmelt season, settlement or not. But it prefers to move foward with a regional solution to avoid continued litigation.

“While BPA is meeting a regulatory deadline to respond to ongoing litigation, we continue to believe that a solution developed in the Northwest by regional parties is the best path forward,” BPA Administrator Steve Wright said in the news release. “We support the continuation and acceleration of ongoing informal settlement discussions with affected parties.”

With significant runoff from spring snow melt last spring, BPA faced high levels of hydroelectric power generation that, combined with wind power generation, produced more power than there was demand.

Employing a policy it calls “environmental redispatch,” BPA in May began requiring several wind farms along its transmission system to curtail wind power production.

During near daily shutdowns of wind power last summer, 35 wind farms with more than 2,000 turbines stood still. In June a coalition of five wind farm developers filed a a claim with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission claiming the BPA was in violation of the Federal Power Act.