Northwest wind farms inched past the 4,000 megawatt mark briefly on Sunday, a mark that many analysts did not expect the industry to reach for several more years. The electrical output, which peaked at 4,039 megawatts around 3 p.m represented nearly twice the total output of all BPA’s coal, nuclear and gas plants at the same time.
The recent boom in wind development in Oregon, and Washington has brought wind power on faster than forecast with supplies expected to come online before the end of the year, according to the Bonneville Power Administration, which serves as the regional transmission provider, carrying power from wind farms to utilities. It’s also caused a few problems for Bonneville, which has been forced to curtail windpower during high runoff years when federal rules prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from spilling water over the Columbia Dams due to concerns about the impact on endangered wild salmon and steelhead. The historic runs of those fish have been decimated by the impact from dams and habitat destruction.
BPA recently announced new rules that force customers to reimburse wind power utilities for some of their lost revenue during such events.
At the same time, BPA is working to bring more transmission capacity online to meet the demands of wind power developers and utilities that working to diversify their energy portfolios. BPA is working on a new high voltage line that will allow it add another 3,000 megawatts of wind capacity, according to the agency.