Bonneville Power Stretches
by Christina Williams
A new pilot program Bonneville Power Administration is starting with two wind energy operates will add flexibility to the Northwest electric grid and enable better accommodation of variable renewable energy sources.
Portland General Electric and Snohomish PUD have both agreed to provide twice-an-hour scheduling of wind energy transmission through BPA's system, increased from the once-an-hour schedule they've operated the system with for more than a century.
Because wind energy output depends on how strong the wind is blowing -- something that can change quickly -- the more frequent communication between wind suppliers and the grid will allow the entire system to better adjust to fluctuations.
"It will lower that error between what they're actually producing and what they've scheduled," said Doug Johnson, BPA spokesman.
As a result BPA will be able to better manage its reserves, mostly in the form of water it uses to generate hydropower.
Johnson said the program isn't likely to help in times of oversupply of water, a situation faced by BPA last spring that prompted the shut down of Northwest wind farms and led to an ongoing dispute between renewable energy advocates and the BPA, which is a federal agency.
"But it will help with the flexibility of the system and with integrating wind overall," Johnson said.
It should also ultimately result in lower costs for BPA and lower prices for customers.
PGE and Snohomish PUD agreed to provide wind energy data every half hour in exchange for a 34 percent reduction in the rate BPA charges them for load-balancing services. PGE operates 450 megawatts of wind on the BPA grid, while the PUD has 97 megawatts.
The program will allow BPA to reduce by 23 megawatts the balancing reserves it holds in case wind facilities generate less energy than scheduled and 34 megawatts of reserves it holds in case wind plants produce more energy than scheduled.
BPA will accept other wind energy operators into the two-year pilot program up to a total of 1,200 megawatts of of wind power. While wind energy operators have been doing intra-hour scheduling on a voluntary basis, the pilot program will make the stepped-up schedule a requirement, making it something that BPA can bank on.
"We feel BPA's advancement of intra-hour scheduling will facilitate additional renewable energy on the grid, benefiting rate payers, the regional economy and the environment," said Rachel Shimshak, executive director of Renewable Northwest Project, in a statement.
BPA manages 75 percent of the Pacific Northwest's high-voltage electric transmission system and has been working to keep up with the abundance of new wind power coming online in recent years.
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