This spike comes at a time when the Pacific Northwest grid already has an abundance of power. That’s because rivers are running high as the snow melts.
Spring salmon runs also complicate the system. The fish need a certain amount of water spilling through dams, which means hydropower can only be limited to a point, BPA officials say. But conservation groups, including Save Our Wild Salmon, debate the accuracy of this argument.
Last year BPA shut down wind facilities because there was more power than the grid could handle. This angered many wind energy producers. Spokesman Mike Hansen says BPA is trying to avoid those problems.
“The trick is how to make that much wind work on our system. So we continue to build transmission lines and substations, and we’ve been improving our forecasting system,” Hansen says.
That forecasting system allows BPA to better predict how much power will be on the grid – and develop a plan up to three days ahead of time.
Hansen says BPA has recently completed the McNary-John Day transmission line, which stretches 79 miles and allows for an additional 500 megawatts of wind onto the system. The Big Eddy-Knight transmission line is still under construction and will add 3,000 megawatts of power.
Cameron Yourkowski is a senior policy manager with Renewable Northwest Project. He says this record is an important milestone for the wind energy industry.
“While much progress has been made, we recognize that wind, solar and other new renewables still comprise only about 5 percent of our region’s resource mix and that the region will need to continue to evolve how the system works in order to take advantage of all the benefits renewable energy offers,” Yourkowski says.
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