BPA Proposes Plan to Pay Wind Developers
by Rocky Barker
The Bonneville Power Administration today proposed paying wind energy developers for reducing output to help balance the electricity supply during high river flows.
If BPA decides to proceed with the compensation proposal, it would seek to split the cost equally between customers including electrical cooperatives and public utilities like Idaho Falls Power, and wind developers.
BPA is releasing its proposal for public review now so the agency can meet a March 6 deadline for filing the proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The BPA markets about one-third of the electricity consumed in the region. It sells the power produced from 31 federally owned dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries and owns and operates 15,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines.
Wind generation in the Pacific Northwest has grown from around 500 megawatts in 2006 to more than 6,000 megawatts today. When integrated with hydro or gas power that's more than twice the capacity of the four lower Snake River dams that have been at the center of the salmon debate for the past decade.
It's enough power for more than two cities the size of Seattle or two states of Idaho, at least when the wind is blowing.
The proposal comes in response to a FERC ruling that BPA discriminated against wind developers when it ordered shutdowns last spring during high river flows. BPA ordered the shutdowns, it said, to meet state laws aimed at protecting migrating salmon, which critics say is unnecessary.
"This is an important step toward resolving a Northwest issue in a way that works for the Northwest," said BPA Administrator Steve Wright. "We're focused on seeking solutions based on regional input that maintain reliability, protect fish and support renewable energy while equitably sharing costs."
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