BPA, Power Council Convene to Address
by John Harrison
PORTLAND, Ore. - Northwest electricity industry leaders met today in Portland to launch a new initiative that will explore how to integrate large amounts of wind power and other renewable resources into the Pacific Northwest power system while maintaining high overall reliability.
Wind power, which is a proven source of clean and renewable electricity, currently supplies about 3 percent of the region's electricity. The popularity of the generation source is growing both nationally and regionally. Since January 2005, more than 970 megawatts (MW) of wind power have been completed or are under construction in the Northwest, and construction of another 660 MW or more are expected within the next two years. Wind project developers have requested integration services and facilities to add more than 3,000 additional megawatts of wind power in the region over the next several years.
The issue of wind power integration is critical because wind power is the region's fastest-growing renewable power source. Further, production from wind power sources can vary widely in a given period due to the intermittent nature of the resource, and periods of strong production do not always match up with periods of peak consumption by electricity customers. Adding too much of a variable resource to the baseload power supply coming from hydroelectric facilities and power plants fired by coal and natural gas could reduce the overall reliability of the region's system.
Today's policy discussion was convened by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the Bonneville Power Administration at the Council's Portland headquarters. Participants included power experts from the four Northwest states and British Columbia. Council Chair Tom Karier of Spokane and BPA Administrator Steve Wright are co-chairing the policy discussion. Technical workshops are scheduled throughout the fall to explore these topics further, ultimately resulting in an action plan for Northwest wind integration.
"We feel lucky to be facing this issue in the Northwest because most areas of the world don't have the wonderful combination of both a robust hydroelectric system and a quickly growing wind power component," Wright said. "Our job is to find strategies to accommodate the growing renewable technologies into the system we already have so that the efficiency of both can be maximized while preserving our system's high level of reliability."
Karier noted that the popularity of wind power in the region today likely wouldn't have been predicted just a few years ago.
"Wind power is being developed much faster than the Council anticipated in its regional power plan, and we want to be sure that the power system absorbs this resource efficiently and economically," Karier said.
Today the participants agreed that the focus of the workshops will be to develop an action plan that addresses three key questions:
The Council anticipates that renewable resources, particularly wind power, will play a major role in meeting the region's future demand for electricity. The Council's Fifth Northwest Power Plan, which went into effect in December 2004, calls for meeting future demand for power with a mixture of energy conservation and new power plants, with a large emphasis on wind power. The plan calls for achieving 700 MW of new energy conservation between 2005 and 2009, and up to 6,000 MW of new wind power over the 20-year planning period. One average megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts of electricity delivered continuously for a period of one year. One aMW will power about 585 Northwest homes for a year.
Driving Forces of Wind Power Popularity
Several factors are currently driving the growth of wind power. The federal production tax credit for the resource has been extended, some states have adopted or are considering renewable energy portfolio standards, and utilities increasingly are recognizing the fuel-price and environmental-risk-mitigation benefits of wind power. Additionally, it is a desirable resource because its fuel is free, it does not pollute, and, particularly with the federal tax credit, its cost is competitive with other new resources.
At the national level, the U.S. Department of Energy also is partnering with the wind industry and state agencies to lead the nation's efforts to improve wind energy technology so that it can generate competitive electricity in areas with lower wind resources. DOE's goal is to reduce the cost of wind generated electricity by 2012.
The Council is an agency of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington and is directed by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to prepare a program to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife of the Columbia affected by hydropower dams while also assuring the region an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply. River Basin
BPA is a not-for-profit federal agency that markets about 40 percent of the electricity consumed in the Pacific Northwest. The power is produced at 31 federal dams in the Northwest and one nuclear plant, and is sold to over 140 Northwest utilities. BPA operates a high-voltage transmission grid, comprising more than 15,000 miles of lines and associated substations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
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