FERC ruling favors wind energy industry
By Lee van der Voo
Wednesday's ruling calls on Bonneville Power Admininstration to find other ways of dealing with high water events than to ask wind farms to power down.
It’s official: wind wins.
That’s the very simple summary of a ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Wednesday, which ordered the Bonneville Power Administration to halt the practice of curbing wind power in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s a long-awaited conclusion for both the wind power companies and the utilities that both develop and purchase wind power in the northwest. Those entities have grappled with the decision by BPA since curtailments of wind power began May 18. During near daily shutdowns of wind power last summer, 35 wind farms with more than 2,000 turbines stood still. Those companies say they are still tallying losses from the event, which ultimately curtailed 97,557 megawatt hours of wind power over 53 days, worth more than $2 million in production tax credits alone.
Since a claim was filed with FERC in June by Iberdrola Renewables, PacifiCorp, NextEra Energy Resources, Horizon Wind Energy and Invenergy Wind North America, more than 70 entities sought standing in the case.
But the decision from FERC this week affects all power generators in the Pacific Northwest, and presses BPA, which operates a transmission system that encompasses all or parts of nine states, to open access to any power producer in the market, even when doing so means setting aside better pricing for its own customers and its power generation business.
In arriving at the order, FERC used its authority under a 2009 provision in the Federal Power Act for the first time, relying on a rule enacted on the heels of the California energy crisis and designed to give FERC authority to prevent discrimination and preferential treatment in power markets.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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