Wind power in Northwest could see huge increase

SUNDAY, MAY 8, 2011

PORTLAND — Northwest wind power could more than double by 2025, possibly causing problems for managing the transmission grid, according to a new study.

Wind turbines now operating or under construction can generate a peak output of about 6,000 megawatts, or the equivalent of 15 good-size natural gas-fired power plants, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council said.

Most of that wind power was added in the past five years.

The Portland-based council estimates the region could see another 5,000 to 10,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2025, The Oregonian reported.

The council is tasked by Congress with developing long-term power plans that balance the region’s energy and environmental needs.

Its staff prepared the study to provide power planners with a forecast on the upper limit of potential wind development for a region that is already struggling to absorb the rapidly increasing and highly variable output of its expanding wind turbine fleet.

Most Northwest wind farms are directly connected to the transmission system operated by the Bonneville Power Administration, which also markets federal hydro power.

Bonneville, also based in Portland, has already put wind developers on notice that its ability to absorb more wind power is limited.

Variable wind output taxes the hydro system, and Bonneville has a policy to pull the plug on wind farms when output misses scheduled deliveries by enough to exhaust hydro system reserves.

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