BPA Braces for Strong Spring Runoff,
by Ted Sickinger
From a hushed control center tucked into a building in Portland's Pearl District, Kit Blair and dispatchers at Iberdrola Renewables captain a fleet of 3,000 wind turbines spread over 17 states.
Laid out before them on a wall of flat panel displays is the performance of every Iberdrola turbine component in the United States.
A few keystrokes can bring up a real time schematic of an individual turbine's gear box in Texas, feather every blade at a wind farm in upstate New York, or still Iberdrola's entire fleet on the Columbia Plateau.
Across the river in Northeast Portland, Blair's counterpart sits in a control center at the Bonneville Power Administration, juggling the output of 31 hydroelectric dams in The Columbia Basin.
The teams usually work in perfect harmony. Bonneville, in tandem with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, fine-tunes hydroelectric output minute-by-minute to compensate for Iberdrola's fluctuating generation. It sends more water through its turbines when wind farms aren't generating enough electricity, or dials back when a squall sends windmills spinning.
But all bets are off for the next few months. It's springtime in the Northwest, meaning rain, warmer temperatures, snow melt and blustery wind. Occasionally, it also means more hydro and wind electricity is pulsing into the grid than anyone can use.
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