With High Runoff Expected, BPA Taking Measures
The Columbia River system could see more runoff this spring than it has in a decade. It will also likely see more wind generation than it has ever seen before.
Bonneville Power Administration officials say such a situation could pose unique challenges for dam operators, whose goal is to operate the hydro system reliably and keep water conditions safe for fish.
BPA says it is taking steps now to help it achieve these goals, should the forecasts prove accurate.
Depending on when and how quickly the snowpack melts, BPA could at times end up with more water for the hydro system than it needs. Power systems rely on a constant balance of energy production and consumption. So when faced with a surplus, BPA must either reduce generation or find consumers to absorb the extra power. .
At the same time, BPA's integration of renewable resources has greatly increased the amount of generation that may be online during high runoff, increasing the frequency and magnitude of "overgeneration" conditions.
Spill is one tool BPA uses to balance generation and consumption - and spill often helps young fish migrate downriver. But too much spill can lead to excessive levels of dissolved gas in the rivers, which can harm fish.
So BPA officials says the agency is taking additional measures.
Since spring runoff began April 1, BPA has:
In February, BPA sought public comment on a proposal to protect fish and maintain system reliability during high runoff by temporarily replacing non-federal generation in the region with free federal hydropower. Because wind producers may lose production tax credits or renewable energy credits when wind power is replaced with federal hydropower, BPA has not yet announced a decision on the proposal.
The agency received significant comment on its proposal and says it is determining the appropriate course of action. In the interim, officials say the agency continues to do what it can and consult with other regional utility leaders to minimize the risk of excess generation.
BPA Balancing Authority Load and Total Wind, Hydro, and Thermal Generation Bonneville Power Administration, Near-Real-Time
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