Monday, January 15, 2007

The way the wind blows

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council tomorrow is scheduled to release its Northwest wind integration action plan, which will, in part, decide how the proposed 25 percent renewable portfolio standard will play out in the Legislature. If the cost of integrating new wind power generation into the current system or adding additional capacity is determined to be "too great", the proposed standard will face greater resistance from utilities and large electrical customers.

The ability to integrate wind power into Bonneville's hydropower system "will be a key issue" in the debate over a renewable portfolio standard, Senator Alan Bates, D-Jacksonville, told me at a natural resources committee meeting in June.

Here's an excerpt on the issue from my June 28 article in the DJC:

...the uncertain cost of wind power could hamstring the Legislature's ability to pass the standard next year, state senators and lobbyists say....
Wind projects, due to the increasing cost of natural gas, are the most cost effective renewable resource to develop, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
Wind generation has proliferated in Oregon, in part due to the aggressive standards set by California in 2002.
And wind power represents about one percent of the region's total power generation. But, say utilities, wind power development projects may already out-pace the current system's ability to integrate the additional power generation.
The council, which oversees regional power planning, estimates that up to 2,000 Megawatts of wind energy will come online in the next five years. The region's 2005 power plan forecast for that same amount of wind energy integration over the next 20 years.
"We've had much more rapid development of wind power than we envisioned in the power plan and we're beginning to get to the point where there's uncertainty over the ability to integrate that power" into the current system, said Jeff King, senior resource analyst for the council.
The council and the region's electrical utilities are calling for caution in passing rigid standards that would put undue cost on utilities and that wouldn't, in the end, produce a net benefit.
"Unless we have some certainty on cost, there's a significant risk that a mandate will limit utilities' ability to compete," said Michael Early, executive director of the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities.

Here's what the first phase of the action plan will determine:
• The amount of wind capacity that can be operationally integrated using the existing system
• The amount of integrating capacity required per megawatt of wind capacity
• The cost per average megawatt of these integrating services
• Wind capacity that can be accommodated by the existing main grid transmission system
• The years remaining until transmission upgrades are required
• The nature and cost of these upgrades

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