Barring unseasonable amounts of rainfall, the Bonneville Power Administration is unlikely to curtail wind production any more this year.
Wind and water both run high in the Northwest in the spring. After rapid growth in installed wind capacity on its system, Bonneville came to the conclusion that generation should be curtailed when water is high and load is low and that failing to run water through dam turbines will cause water-quality problems that can harm fish. Bonneville made wind producers take their generation offline without compensation a number of times in 2011, costing the wind generators contract prices and production tax credits and giving the agency something of a black eye in the media.
The agency implemented its revamped curtailment policy on four successive days in late April and early May, with no curtailments since. In a June 1 call to update stakeholders, operations analyst Steve Barton said forecasts indicate that peak river flow “is pretty much over.”
Inflow peaked at the McNary project around the last week of April and early May, and has remained below 400 thousand cubic feet per second, or kcfs, since then. June forecasts are predicting about 300 kcfs at the beginning of the month, falling to about 200 kcfs near July 1. Inflow at the Grand Coulee and Lower Granite projects peaked around April 27.
“June can surprise us with some rainfall activity,” Barton said, “but it’s looking pretty manageable through the end of June.”
The Columbia Generating Station was reduced to 85% during the high water season. The plant recently came back up, synching to the grid on May 29 and reaching full power May 31. Other Bonneville efforts to deal with over-generation conditions in 2012 included a storage agreement with BC Hydro and Power Authority, moving nonessential transmission maintenance outages to other times of the year, and the development of a recallable energy product to hold required reserves on a separate, interconnected transmission system.
Since things are looking quiet on the over-generation front, Bonneville staff is moving the weekly update calls to every other week.
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