Powering down wind isn't the only answer for over-supply
By Rachel Shimshak
Renewable Northwest Project
As Oregon navigates economic recovery and charts plans for a more stable future, energy has been a focal point. The president and our governor have identified clean energy development as a critical element of our future prosperity. Strategic investments in energy efficiency, new renewable resources and new infrastructure to accommodate those investments will benefit the economy and the environment. Forward momentum requires innovation and collaboration across sectors and coordination among diverse working parts. If just one key player is missing, the success of the entire group could be compromised.
That's why businesses, some utilities and advocates are pushing back on the Bonneville Power Administration's extreme proposal for dealing with the seasonal challenge that occurs when natural resources produce more cheap power than the region can absorb during spring months. BPA's proposed policy response could impede Oregon’s clean energy progress and economic renewal.
So-called “over-generation,” a set of circumstances that has impacted the Bonneville system since it was created, is an overabundance of power, caused by a heavy spring runoff for example, that coincides with low demand. These days, over-generation happens when the use of energy is down due to a slow economy, but both hydro and wind are generating power at high levels. Like the economy and our plans for its recovery, over-generation is a system-wide issue that will require a forward-thinking, system-wide response.
However, BPA’s proposed approach is controversial. It focuses on unilaterally curtailing wind power as the single answer to this issue, even while coal and nuclear plants generate energy that also contributes to the situation. We feel this is unnecessary and discriminatory. If the proposed approach moves forward, it could have costly consequences for Oregon.
Rachel Shimshak is the executive director of Renewable Northwest Project.
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