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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

High rivers a blow to wind farms

When the wind is blowing and the Columbia River is flowing, wind turbine operators in Washington have a problem they are looking to France and Germany for help.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is in Europe for a 10-day trade mission, said she met Thursday with the chief executive officer of AREVA, a French firm that operates wind farms around the Tri-Cities. The problem of wind power and hydropower peaking at the same time has been particularly bad this year, she said.

"There are concerns about BPA shutting down wind power because of excess hydropower," she said.

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The Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency, operates the Columbia and Snake River dams, and the region’s power grid.

Wind farm operators are trying to develop good ways to store the power instead of shutting off their turbines, and AREVA is developing a storage project in the south of France. It’s an area where Europeans are more advanced, she said.

In a telephone press conference, Gregoire said she left the Paris Air Show Thursday for Germany, where she is meeting with executives of BMW that have built a factory in Moses Lake to build composite car parts. She will also tour an Airbus factory to talk about partnerships with the aerospace giant and the state’s aircraft parts suppliers.

Airbus announced it had signed orders for some $72 billion worth of planes at the air show, most of them a new fuel-efficient model of the A320. Boeing announced orders for about $22 billion, and is looking at either redesigning the 737 which competes with the A320 or equipping it with more fuel efficient engines.

Boeing builds the 737 in Washington and company officials told Gregoire this week the state will get "a good hard first look" for any expansion or new assembly line. "But that would not be the last look" and the state will have to compete with other states trying to land a new airplane factory and its high-paying jobs.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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