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Getting Wind to the Grid

by Becky Brun
NW Current, September 26, 2006

The Condon wind project As Northwest wind power developments continue to increase, will the region's electricity leaders be able to handle the load? Industry representatives from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana recently came together to prove they could.

More than 40 representatives of Northwest utilities, state energy offices, wind developers and researchers met Aug. 14 to review a draft of the Northwest Wind Integration Action Plan. The action plan, approved Aug. 24, aims to integrate an increased wind power supply into the regional power system in a cost-effective and reliable way.

"It's not often that you can bring senior executives from all the region's energy organizations together. They have put this issue high on their screen," said Elliot Mainzer, wind integration project leader for the Bonneville Power Administration, which convened the meeting along with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC).

Wind power currently supplies about 3 percent of the Northwest's electricity needs, and Washington and Oregon rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in output among states with wind energy developments. But along with a federal production tax credit, concerns over fuel price, volatility and supply are driving increased demand. The biggest hurdles involve building transmission lines to bring fickle wind from rural sites to urban centers [See "Catching the wind," nwcurrent, March 31, 2005].

According to the Renewable Northwest Project, the Pacific Northwest has the potential to generate 133,000 average megawatts or more from wind power. "We are going to see a lot of increase in wind power developments," Mainzer said. "The question is how do we manage that growth?"

Technical work groups plan to meet monthly to tackle the Northwest Wind Integration Action Plan. Six subcommittees also plan to meet weekly for the next five months to address issues such as wind forecasting, regulatory policies and transmission planning.

The subcommittees intend to share their findings on the NWPCC Web site and at the monthly meetings, to be held at the NWPCC in downtown Portland. The meetings are open to the public. "The most important thing about this plan is that we looked at the issue before it became a problem," Mainzer said.

Becky Brun
Getting Wind to the Grid
NW Current, September 26, 2006

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