Bonneville Power Administration Forced to Shut Down Wind Power

BonnevillePowerAdministration1 300x238 Bonneville Power Administration Forced to Shut Down Wind Power

Bonneville Power Administration

The land of federal subsidies is a strange place, where often the ideals and agendas of political leaders conflict with actual economic realities. Take, for instance, the problem facing Pacific Northwest energy company Bonneville Power. Tax incentives, such as the United States Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, have led to the creation of a large number of wind turbines in the Pacific Northwest. As a result of wind power’s highly variable energy output, the turbines must be balanced with Columbia River’s hydroelectric dams to make up for frequent shortfalls in energy production.

The problem that plagues Bonneville Power in recent months is this: during periods of high water flow over the dams, or on very windy days, the combination of wind and hydro turbines generates far too much energy for the local grid to accommodate.

The solution is as complicated as the problem itself: BPA could alleviate the amount of power generated by these two power sources by allowing more water to enter the spillways (i.e. not running the water through the power generating turbines within the dams). Forcing that much water through the spillways, of course, would add a large amount of nitrogen into the downstream river system, violating government regulations designed to protect the increasingly fragile salmon stocks.  The other solution? Shut down the wind turbines.

A stark parallel can be drawn between this situation and the one unfolding in Ontario, where the government’s bold Green Energy Act has invested heavily in wind power. The government has come under fire for paying $1.4 million last June to neighboring US states and to Quebec in return for taking excess energy off their hands. Ontario Conservative opposition leader Tim Hudak contests the large power overflows in Ontario are due to the contracts the province signed with wind power providers: contracts that mandate the province will take on power from wind farms, even if the power isn’t required — a frequent occurrence for a power source as unpredictable as wind.

Wind power, even with its problems, is extremely valuable in the political sphere, because it represents something very attractive — clean, unlimited energy. However, when examining the economic realities that come part and parcel with wind power, one has to wonder whether it’s worth the investment.

 Bonneville Power Administration Forced to Shut Down Wind Power
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