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BPA Prepares for Too Much Power

by Staff
BPA Journal, March 2011

When nature supplies your fuel, you don't mind a little rough weather. But in the Northwest, with its wealth of renewable water and wind power, nature occasionally provides too much fuel. BPA has long handled seasonal surges in river flows and the hydroelectricity that comes with them by using its transmission system to get the power to consumers.

Now, as renewable energy expands in our region, BPA is learning how to handle the coupling of too much water and wind. Too much generation can be a problem because power systems rely on a constant balance between power demand and power generation. If one exceeds the other, the lights can go out.

The agency is proposing a new policy called environmental redispatch, which would allow BPA to substitute free hydropower for other energy when necessary to avoid harm to endangered species.

To control generation, BPA can hold water in reservoirs. When those fill, the agency can work with dam operators to spill water over spillways rather than through turbines. But too much spill can harm fish. BPA can take many steps to reduce spill.

Displacing non-hydro generation with renewable federal hydropower would be BPA's last resort to maximize hydro generation, reduce spill to protect fish, and allow generators to continue serving their customers.

BPA will accept comments on the proposal through March 11. To learn more, visit our Columbia River High Water Management website.

Related Pages:
BPA may Turn Off Unneeded NW Wind Turbines when Power Plentiful by Associated Press, The Republic, 3/11/11

BPA Prepares for Too Much Power
BPA Journal, March 2011

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