Planet Gore

No Wind Power Needed in the Pacific Northwest

What a waste of money. AP:

PORTLAND, Ore. – The manager of most of the electricity in the Pacific Northwest is running such a surplus of power from hydroelectric dams that it put wind farms on notice Friday that they may be shut down as early as this weekend.

The Bonneville Power Administration has more than enough electricity during a cold, wet spring that has created a big surge in river flows where hydroelectric dams are located. The agency responded by announcing its intentions to curtail wind power until the grid has more capacity, in a move likely to cost the industry millions of dollars.

The decision reflects an overlooked issue amid the push to add wind farms around the country: The capacity of power grids has not kept pace.

How soon and low long wind farms might be shut down depends on how quickly the region warms up and the water shoots downriver to the Pacific Ocean, said Steven Wright, administrator of the BPA. The farms that would be shut down are mostly in Washington and Oregon.

The main culprit for the wind slowdown is spring weather that followed a winter with heavy snow in the mountains feeding the Columbia River basin. The spring surge is expected to be the largest since 1997.

When water levels are this high, the agency said, it has no choice but to use the water to generate electricity in hydroelectric dams. Laws protecting endangered species prevent it from sending all the excess water through spillways and around the dams. That beats up salmon and steelhead. It also creates so much nitrogen gas bubbling in the water that the fish get the equivalent of the bends.

Grid operators say they have run out of capability to sell the surplus electricity, store the water or shut down gas, oil, and nuclear plants — leaving wind farms the unfortunate victim.

The rest here.

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