BPA pulls back on plan to shut off wind

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The Bonneville Power Administration is anticipating power oversupply due to high spring runoff.

The Bonneville Power Administration is anticipating power oversupply due to high spring runoff.

The Bonneville Power Administration has put the breaks on a plan to halt energy production from wind farms when water levels in the federal hydropower system are high.

Opponents to the plan, including Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon democrats, say it has the power to upend renewable energy development in the Northwest and unfairly discriminates against wind-energy generators.

Though the plan is intended in part to help BPA comply with laws that protect endangered salmon and steelhead, environmental groups counter that it does not.

Some of Oregon's biggest wind developers — Horizon Wind Energy, Iberdrola Renewables and enXco — also say the plan protects BPA's revenues at the expense of wind energy developers, violates contracts and runs afoul of laws guaranteeing equal access to transmission facilities.

“I think the impact on a regional consumer is that it sends a very negative signal and creates uncertainty about locating renewable energy projects in the region. That has a negative economic impact, a negative environmental impact and a negative diversity impact,” said Rachel Shimshak, executive director of Renewable Northwest Project (Shimshak weighed in on the issue last month in a column for Sustainable Business Oregon.)

The plan was proposed by BPA Feb. 18. It is designed to address a power phenomenon known as over-generation, which occurs when spring runoff is surging through the Federal Columbia River Power System, putting more hydropower on the grid than energy consumers can use.

BPA is charged with managing the power supply to meet demand, which keeps energy prices stable. That means the agency must find ways to slow energy production or curtail it when there is more power produced than can be sold.

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Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon. Her last story was on a bill that would enact a per-mileage charge for electric vehicles in Oregon.

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