BPA Continues Not to Have a New Plan for Handling Excess Renewable Power Production

Michael Giberson

From The Oregonian, “BPA, wind developers argue over looming problem of too much power from renewables.”

In sum: “The BPA has backed away from formally implementing the wind-curtailment plan, a move that renewables advocates applauded. But it hasn’t come up with an alternative. ”

The looming problem involves moments on the Bonneville Power System in which the combination of hydropower production and wind power production (along with a little nuclear power) is well in excess of consumer load and the ability to ship power out. BPA wants to tell wind operators to shut down in exchange for essentially free BPA power, and wind operators – who face the loss of production tax credit subsidies and other renewable energy payments say free isn’t enough. Wind operators want to be paid to back off of the system to compensate for the loss of these other income streams.

In short, the wind operators need a market-price system to ration the moments of excess supply in order to preserve at least some of the benefits of the non-energy price side payments they earn through production tax credits and renewable energy credits. A market-price system for coordinating supply would let the wholesale energy price go negative, essentially requiring generators to pay to deliver power to the system. BPA resists the idea of paying people to take its power, particularly when they must run the system to meet environmental or other requirements.

By the way, much of the boom in wind power development in Washington and Oregon is fostered by demand from California utilities seeking to comply with their state renewable portfolio standard obligation.

Related, from bloggers at Forbes.com:

We’ve discussed this issue a few times in the past, try this search of the KP archives: Bonneville + wind

5 thoughts on “BPA Continues Not to Have a New Plan for Handling Excess Renewable Power Production

  1. OK, let me get this straight. Wind operators are getting free money (“production tax credit subsidies”) to generate surplus power, but don’t want to give BPA a slice to take the surplus off their hands. In fact, they want BPA to a pay them to NOT generate the surplus power. How frickin’ greedy is that? And are these Power Guys (BPA included) so dim-witted that they can’t find a market for intermittent CHEAP surplus electricity?

  2. I was under the impression that the issues of wind integration had been resolved, based on “information” provided by AWEA. However, in the case of BPA, it appears that there might be limits to the percentage of wind-generated electricity which can be efficiently integrated into the grid; and, it appears that they have been exceeded.

    BPA should simply require that the wind generators store their surplus until there is a need for it in the market. That would permit the wind operators to generate whenever there was sufficient, but not excessive, wind available.

  3. You’ve posted several times about surplus wind in Texas causing negative prices for power. Why isn’t this happening in the NW, with wind farms paying somebody to take away their power and dump it — boil the Columbia or whatever?

  4. The problem is that the transmission system approaches the limit of what power it can take, at least in BPA’s analysis, so that even if the wind farms have contracts to sell the power there isn’t always enough transmission capability to handle the power. Because BPA is the transmission system operator and responsible for managing flows, it falls to them to identify which generators need to cut back when excess generation is a problem. BPA is also the biggest generator owner/operator in the region, it does a lot of the necessary balancing work with its hydropower resources, but sometimes those resources aren’t enough. The problem with a competitive wholesale price in these situations, from the point of view of BPA, is that BPA doesn’t want to face a negative price for its extensive generation assets.

    Notice I say BPA, BPA, BPA a lot above. Part of the problem may be the huge federal power agency that runs the transmission system for the area, but isn’t an “independent” system operator by any stretch of the imagination.

  5. BPA does have experience “cratering” the transmission system by feeding too much power through it. They did it twice in the Fall of 1996 and took most of the West coast down with them.

    It is interesting that BPA apparently has not lost the profit motive. There may yet be hope.

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