Northwest Plans 6,000 MW of Wind Power

By Published On: March 23, 2007

Embracing renewable energy in and outside California is driving the growth of wind power in the Pacific Northwest. It is predicted to surge to 6,000 MW of capacity by 2024, up from 1,400 MW today. The Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the region’s power industries, released a wind integration plan March 21 that outlines needed expansions to accommodate the expected growth. “The Northwest is a pretty windy place,” said Tom Karier, executive director of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, in releasing the report. It outlines new facilities needed to integrate a growing number of wind turbines into the regional grid, including new transmission lines and new gas-fired power plants to level electricity supply in the area when the wind dies down. It catalogs wind power storage technologies, including the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage project. That project’s proponents say that banked wind power can be used to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper one to then be released to turn turbines for peaking power. However, wind power is usually used as it’s created and tends to be fully subscribed. The plan also calls for the industry to develop detailed data on the wind and weather in the area – including potentially in Northern California – to better forecast wind availability and manage the regional power grid. The plan notes that as wind power is increasingly tapped to meet growing demand for electricity, the region would need more natural gas-fired generating plants to fill a supply gap when there is little wind. This would dramatically raise the cost of wind integration. For instance, the integration costs for PacifiCorp, which serves a small part of Northern California, would rise from $1.86/MWh when wind supplies 5 percent of the utility’s peak load to $5.94/MWh when wind supplies 20 percent of its peak load. “These challenges can be solved, but we need to get after them,” said Steve Wright, Bonneville Power Administration administrator.

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