Grid Problems Trigger Rolling
by William Pentland
The seemingly endless expansion of wind power production in the United States has pushed large parts of the nation's electric grid to the limits of its abilities. Now, in the Pacific Northwest, the power grid is pushing back.
Wind power producers in Oregon and Washington State are likely to be the first casualties claimed in the impending morass triggered by calls for reverse rolling power outages at wind farms to keep the regional transmission system operating smoothly. Needless to say, wind investors are pissssssssed.
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which is responsible for managing the regional transmission system, has indicated that it will likely limit wind power to handle a surge in hydro-power production resulting from the melt-off of a large mountain snowpack this year. The regional transmission system apparently lacks the capacity to accommodate wind production and heavier than usual hydropower production at the same time.
In 2010, the BPA had to divert large amounts of water around hydropower facilities to prevent when a late snow melt pumped a flood of water into the Columbia River while heavy winds were also pushing up power production from regional wind farms. Rather than repeat that balancing act, the BPA said it was considering a proposal to shut down wind-power farms to manage the regional transmission system.
America's wind power industry expanded by 15% in 2010 and accounted for more than a quarter of all new electric generating capacity in the United States. With the 5,116 MW added last year, U.S. wind installations now stand at 40,181 MW, enough to supply electricity for over 10 million American homes. Meanwhile, the U.S. wind market entered 2011 with 5,600 MW under construction -- more than twice the megawatts under construction at the start of 2010.
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