Bonneville Power, wind curtailments and the bigger picture.
Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
When we last left the Bonneville Power Administration in this column, some 10 months ago, it was battling Iberdrola, NextEra, and other renewable energy players over wind power curtailments and transmission service rescheduling. BPA claimed that high-water runoff during the spring snowmelt season forced it to make the curtailments to avoid excessive spillway discharges—the kind that would produce unacceptable levels of total dissolved gas and threaten Columbia River fish populations with potentially fatal gas bubble trauma.
Forcing wind off the grid left the nation’s largest federal power marketing agency free to serve the disenfranchised load with available low-cost hydropower from its own New Deal-era federal dam projects. That gave Bonneville the option to re-route water through its power-generating turbines, avoiding the excessive “spill” that might violate environmental laws or compromise BPA’s role under federal statutes as chief steward of the Columbia River’s agricultural and wildlife resources. (See, Bonneville’s Balancing Act, Sept. 2011.)
Since then, however, much has happened.