River Surge in U.S. Northwest Sparks Wind-Hydropower Collision

A surge in hydroelectric power caused by a heavy spring flow in the Columbia River in the U.S. Northwest has forced authorities to shut down nearby wind energy operations for several hours a day to ease the stress on regional electric grid, triggering conflict between the two renewable energy sectors.

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal authority that operates the massive dams on the river, has ordered wind generators to shut down because dialing back hydroelectric generators could harm juvenile salmon now moving down the river in their spring migration to the sea.

So far, the area’s rapidly growing wind power industry been unable to feed nearly 75,000 megawatt hours of electricity into the grid, or about 15 percent of their production, and executives say the cutbacks are costing them millions of dollars as a result of contract violations and lost tax and energy credits.

Wind energy advocates allege that BPA is using the salmon as an excuse to keep hydroelectric power filling the grid. “This is not about fish, and it’s not about reliability; It’s just about economics,” said Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of the American Wind Energy Association.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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