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Economic and dam related articles

Lower Snake River Dams Provided Crucial
Energy and Reserves in Winter 2021

by Staff
San Juan Islander, June 17, 2021

Bonneville touts the benefits of Lower Snake River dams as being important to the Northwest grid for backup reserves. Portland, Oregon -- From December to March and particularly during the deep freeze of early 2021, the four dams on the lower Snake River were once again winter workhorses, according to a recent assessment by the Bonneville Power Administration. These four facilities not only provided important real-time electricity and critical power reserves, they also picked up slack when there was an equipment failure at Chief Joseph Dam -- one of the largest dams in the Columbia River power system.

“Year after year, the Pacific Northwest can count on service from these projects in the winter when electricity consumption is highest,” said BPA Administrator John Hairston. “As we feel the impacts of climate change and the region builds more intermittent energy resources like wind and solar, we’re seeing more evidence that these dispatchable hydroelectric facilities are vital to public safety and electric reliability for the region.”

This recent assessment by BPA provides a clearer picture of how each dam performed during the storm. While federal agencies operate the 31 dams of the Federal Columbia River Power System as whole, this more granular data is helpful for power planners who are evaluating the potential impacts of climate change, including extreme-cold weather scenarios, and how the federal system can respond.

As Northwest residents turned up thermostats to keep warm and businesses maintained operations during the February storm, the four dams on the lower Snake River revved up on numerous occasions to meet the demand. In addition to generating more than 1,700 MW of electricity at times this winter, these facilities also accounted for important back-up reserves BPA could use to pick up slack when other hydro units experienced unplanned outages.

About BPA

The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale, carbon-free hydropower from 31 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. It also markets the output of the region’s only nuclear plant. BPA delivers this power to more than 140 Northwest electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA also owns and operates more than 15,000 circuit miles of high-voltage power lines and 261 substations, and provides transmission service to more than 300 customers. In all, BPA provides nearly a third of the power generated in the Northwest. To mitigate the impacts of the federal dams, BPA implements a fish and wildlife program that includes working with its partners to make the federal dams safer for fish passage. It also pursues cost-effective energy savings and operational solutions that help maintain safe, affordable, reliable electric power for the Northwest.

Lower Snake River Dams Provided Crucial Energy and Reserves in Winter 2021
San Juan Islander, June 17, 2021

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