The EFFECTS Electric Power Generation (from FR/EIS Summary February 2002)
The Columbia River and its tributaries are extensively developed for hydroelectric power, with over 250 Federal and non-Federal dams constructed since the 1930s, including 30 major multi-use facilities built by Federal agencies. These facilities, on average, account for about 60 percent of total regional energy needs and 70 percent of total electric generating capacity. Hydropower generation has kept Pacific Northwest electricity rates low. Surplus hydropower is also an important export. The four lower Snake River dams have a peaking capacity of 3,033 megawatts, which accounts for approximately 5 percent of energy produced in the Pacific Northwest. Bonneville Power Administration distributes and markets hydropower generated by these facilities.
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Alternative 4—Dam Breaching
If the four dams were breached, the four lower Snake River hydropower facilities would no longer be operated or produce hydropower electricity. The loss of this approximately 3,033 megawatts of peaking capacity could require the construction and operation of alternative power sources. Lost hydropower could be replaced by a more expensive form of electric generation, which could result in increased costs of $251 to $291 million per year. The costs involved in replacing this electric power capacity could result in electric rate increases for residences and businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Depending on what facilities are built and how they are funded, residential electrical bills could increase from $1.20 to $6.50 per month. Pacific Northwest aluminum companies, which are extremely large consumers of electricity, could see average monthly increases between $170,000 and $940,000.
The economic analysis of power impacts was based on the assumption that any new replacement generating facilities would be natural gas-fired combined-cycle combustion (CC) turbine plants. Since hydropower generation releases no air emissions, the replacement of the hydropower generation with thermal-based plants would increase air pollution by over 4 million tons per year (bluefish calculates: 1.66 million tons per year). To see if the effects of Alternative 4 on air pollution could be reduced, a study was done to evaluate a conservation replacement strategy, where thermal generation resources, renewable resources, or conservation could be used to replace the hydropower generation lost with dam breaching. It was determined that conservation and renewable resources could be used to replace the hydropower generation from the four lower Snake River dams and result in no net change in air pollution from the existing conditions.The costs would be similar to, but higher than, the replacement with natural gasfired CC turbine plants. The implementation of conservation/renewables would, however, require considerable government intervention, including subsidies, and implementation long before the dams were breached. The CC plant replacement strategy would require almost no government intervention or subsidies.
It has been posited that Idaho's forests are starving for the thousands of tons of marine-derived nutrients that once arrived annually by the migration of Salmon and Steelhead returning under their own power and volition. As one small example, Sockeye returning to Redfish Lake historically provided 40 tons of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous every year. The forest surrounding this lake is now dominated by dead trees and new seedlings are not emerging at a rate that would be expected of a healthy forest ecosystem.
National Forest Service tells us, "Idaho has sixteen national forests, and they cover more than 20 million acres - more than any other state except Alaska. This is about two-fifths of all the land in Idaho." (20 million / 1.9 billion = 1% of the world's temperate forests are in Idaho.)
Project Drawdown tells us, "While temperate forests are not threatened by the same large-scale deforestation that afflicts the tropics, they continue to be fragmented by development. They also are experiencing hotter and more frequent droughts, longer heat waves, and more severe wildfires, as well as worsening insect and pathogen outbreaks.
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"Sequestration rates of temperate forests are set at 3.0 tons of carbon per hectare per year (7.4 tons CO2 equivalent / acre / year), based on meta-analysis of 18 data points from 8 sources."
If salmon recovery were to allow Idaho's forest to increase by at least 1.1% from its current size, then net carbon sequestration would result, even if electricity generation from four LSR dams were replaced ENTIRELY by natural gas combustion and NOT with renewable energy.
The Seventh Power Plan from the NW Power & Conservation Council looked at 800 future load paths in its Regional Portfolio Model (80 historic water conditions x 10 different load, gas price and electric prices) to find a "Least Cost Resource Strategy". The "Planned Loss of a Major Non-Greenhouse Gas Emitting Resource" scenario, which very closely resembles the loss of four Lower Snake River dams, found its "Least Cost Resource Strategy" to reduce exports by the amount of LSR production lost (see Figure 3-14 -- Average Annual Net Regional Exports).
Also noteworthy is that conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest replaces the equivalent of one LSR dam each year.
A synchronous condenser is essentially a motor with an exciter system that enables it to dynamically absorb or supply reactive power as necessary to maintain voltage as needed by the transmission system.Converting turbine bays of decommissioned LSR turbine bays is being studied by the Columbia Basin System Operations (CRSO) NEPA process. Voltage regulation is most important near high load centers, and because of the LSR dams distance, conversion of LSR dams to synchronous condensers may have already been set aside from further study in the CRSO process. Detailed analysis is ongoing in 2018 with completion set for 2019.
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Generators operated in condense mode perform the same voltage control function as when producing real power. Normally, generating units are operated to produce real power and at the same time provide voltage control. However, at certain times real power production must be curtailed (e.g., for fish-related spill). At such times, having units idle at particular locations may degrade reliability, so the transmission system operator will request that certain units be operated in condense mode. Generators operated in condense mode perform the same voltage control function as generators that are producing real power, but the units are not capable of producing any real power while being operated in condense mode. This is because the generator turbine is “de-watered” by shutting off the water supply (and using air compressors, if necessary, to push water below the blades of the turbine), so that the unit may spin freely.
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At certain locations and under certain conditions, having generating units offline adversely affects transmission reliability. For example, TS (Transmission Services) monitors and manages reactive margins to support transfers on the Southern Intertie. To the extent a sufficient number of units are not online and generating near the Intertie, TS will request that units be placed in condense mode to ensure adequate voltage support and reactive reserves.
The Energy Strategies study commissioned by NW Energy Coalition found that:
The Energy Strategies study's "Balanced Replacement Portfolio" provides better resource adequacy than the four dams and does not create any significant regional reliability issues.
The study shatters the myth that replacing the lower Snake River dams and restoring our wild salmon would compromise the reliability of our power system and cause major increases in rates and greenhouse gas emmisions.Importantly, had the Energy Strategies study included more up-to-date costs of solar and wind installations, the $1-2 dollar increase in monthly customer power bills would be reduced yet further. Considering the fact that the Northwest has a large power surplus (selling this primarily to California), the most energy efficient place to site additional renewable energy is closer to where it is consumed (i.e., California).-- Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director, NW Energy Coalition
The concept of sustainability has been increasingly brought into focus as we have become convinced that all systems on earth are interrelated and that many of today’s problems were the solutions of yesterday. Sustainability is, however, a very old concept. Most American Indian cultures understood the importance of sustainability and sustainable development, living in harmony with all things.
Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation philosophy commonly credited to the Iroquois Confederacy but practiced by many Native nations. The Seventh Generation philosophy mandated that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendants seven generations into the future. There was a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.