Excess Pacific Northwest Power Generation a Concernby Staff
KPAX/KAJ, March 12, 2012
MISSOULA - The most recent report from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that snowpack totals are close to normal, and in some cases above normal, across most of Montana and that means the water will run when the snow starts to melt this Spring.
A recent analysis by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council echoes that theme showing that the Pacific Northwest is expected to continue producing more electricity than it needs in the spring and early summer.
Surplus power from the Northwest usually sold to utilities in the Southwest and a news release says that the analysis indicates that in the future, excess electricity in the Northwest could exceed the Southwest market demand in the April-through-June period by 300,000 megawatt-hours.
That's enough power for approximately 100,000 Northwest homes for that three-month period. The analysis also indicates this condition will occur about once every four years, and in some years could be as large as 1.2 million megawatt-hours.
"Oversupply is not a new issue in the Northwest, but it has become problematic as more wind power is added to the power supply," Council Chair Joan Dukes said. "This analysis will help size the problem for those who are working on solutions."
Hydropower, wind power, and power from plants that burn fossil fuels all contribute to the oversupply and power producers, including the Bonneville Power Administration, are now looking at ways to handle the surplus.
The Council analysis did not address the policy issue, but it has been on the front burner. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) responded to a December 2011 complaint filed by wind-power generators that Bonneville's "environmental redispatch" policy was discriminatory.
Bonneville has established protocols for replacing other types of power generation when there is an excess of hydropower. In response to the FERC ruling, BPA officials recently proposed compensating wind energy producers within its section of the regional high-voltage transmission grid in 2012 for periodically reducing their output when necessary to keep the electricity supply from exceeding demand during high river flows.
Discussions between BPA and the wind power generators are continuing according to a news release while several groups are still working on potential long-term solutions to the oversupply problem.
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