een wereldwijd elektriciteitsnet een oplossing voor veel problemen  GENI es una institución de investigación y educación-enfocada en la interconexión de rejillas de electricidad entre naciones.  ??????. ????????????????????????????????????  nous proposons la construction d’un réseau électrique reliant pays et continents basé sur les ressources renouvelables  Unser Planet ist mit einem enormen Potential an erneuerbaren Energiequellen - Da es heutzutage m` glich ist, Strom wirtschaftlich , können diese regenerativen Energiequellen einige der konventionellen betriebenen Kraftwerke ersetzen.  한국어/Korean  utilizando transmissores de alta potência em áreas remotas, e mudar a força via linha de transmissões de alta-voltagem, podemos alcançar 7000 quilómetros, conectando nações e continentes    
What's Geni? Endorsements Global Issues Library Policy Projects Support GENI
Add news to your site >>

About Us

Power Plan Sets Lofty Wind Goal

Apr 25, 2007 Missoulian (

KALISPELL: When Bill Drummond caught wind of the notion that energy analysts were considering ways to blow a whopping 6,000 megawatts of wind power onto the regional grid, he thought it was so much pie in the sky. No way, he thought, can that much wind power be generated and transmitted in the Pacific Northwest. "But today," Drummond said, "I'm convinced it may be on the low end" - not only of what's possible, but of what's likely.

Drummond manages the Western Montana Generating and Transmission Cooperative, and his personal turnaround came as he helped industry leaders craft a future wind power plan that reaches from Montana's flatlands all the way to the Pacific Coast.

Called the Northwest Wind Integration Action Plan, the document released Wednesday concludes "the region's existing power system can most likely accommodate the 6,000 megawatts of wind energy anticipated by 2024 - or perhaps much sooner, given the current pace of development."

That's enough power to supply five Seattles, the equivalent of two big nuclear plants, and that's the good news. The bad news is it will come with both costs and complications, not the least of which is how to transmit all that wind power to the people.

"The Northwest is a pretty windy place," observed Tom Karier, chairman oft the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The council - a multi-state agency formed by Congress in 1980 to balance the need for affordable hydropower against the needs of fish and wildlife - joined Bonneville Power Administration in convening participants such as Drummond. Bonneville markets the power produced at federal hydroelectric dams throughout the region.

BPA chief Steve Wright talked Wednesday of a recent "explosion of wind power development" throughout the region, calling wind an "excellent resource."

The first turbines built here were installed near Walla Walla, Wash., in 1998. Since then, Karier said, hundreds of blades have filled Northwest skies.

Today, wind generates 1,400 megawatts of power for the region, and another 2,400 megawatts are expected online by 2009. That's 5 percent of all the power produced in the region, Karier said, "and it will continue upward from there."

Babcock and Brown Infrastructure, the Australian firm looking to buy NorthWestern Energy, is one of the world's biggest players in wind farms, with stakes in more than a dozen wind operations worldwide. And already, 8 percent of NorthWestern Energy's electricity comes from wind.

Montana has convened a "Wind Working Group," and a January poll of residents here showed energy issues outrank both job development and school funding as matters of importance. Most indicated a preference of renewable energies, such as wind, in place of traditional coal.

(A 250-megawatt coal-fired power plant, to be built near Great Falls for an estimated $700 million, will pump out about 2.8 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.)

Wind prices are not as volatile as natural gas prices, Karier said, and wind generates no climate-changing greenhouse gases. Some coastal states have even passed legislation requiring a certain percentage of the power mix to be renewable and clean, a move sure to increase the power of wind in coming years.

So with all that wind power being built, the keepers of the region's grid decided it was time to begin planning for it.

How will power providers and consumers deal with the costs of integrating wind into the energy portfolio? How will the power be transmitted? How will regulators adjust? How will investors recover their costs?

And how will wind fit in with other power sources? Because the wind, all agree, doesn't always blow when you need it. In fact, it mostly tends not to blow on the hottest and coldest days, exactly when people need the most power.

To help find answers to those questions, BPA and the council brought together a team of industry representatives, regulators, environmentalists and utilities, among others, to study exactly how wind will fit in. The idea, Karier said, was to plan now so as to save time and money later.

The conclusion - "that more wind power projects can be incorporated into the Northwest power system," Wright said is tempered by the realities of both markets and nature.

"To maintain a reliable electricity system," Wright said, "there are costs that need to be addressed, transmission resources that need to be built, and wind resources will need to be supplemented by non-wind generation. These challenges can be solved, but we need to get after them."

Trouble is, electricity can't be stored. When you flip on that switch, a turbine somewhere has to turn a little faster, When you flip it off, the turbine slows.

That means power producers have to be able to control output (since they surely cannot control your use of that switch.) But wind is neither controllable nor constant. So it must be "backed up" with steady power, such as hydro or thermal (coal or gas) plants.

For now, the analysts said, the Northwest is fortunate. The region is awash in relatively cheap federal hydropower. That means the "backup" for wind is both available and affordable.

But it will require new flexibility in the way that hydropower is managed, and that could mean changes for dams, rivers and sensitive fish species.

And at some point, as more wind comes online and the "backup" hydropower is used up, the system becomes less flexible. That's when new power sources will be needed to "firm up" the fickle wind, and those new sources will come with a price.

Still, the analysts said, the cost of "firming up" 20 percent of your wind output remains lower than not having wind at all, not to mention the considerable gains made in carbon emissions.

Spreading the wind farms out across the region will help curb costs - after all, it's always blowing somewhere, which means you can back up wind here with wind elsewhere - but the fact remains you simply cannot build wind generation without also building some amount of backup.

And scattering the wind producers around raises another problem - how to get all that far-flung power onto the primary grid. The region's transmission system has long been regarded as outdated and increasingly inadequate, a bottleneck to future power plans.

Spread out new facilities to distant places where the wind blows and you've only complicated the problem, Karier said. Whole new paradigms will be needed, Wright agreed, for how best to use existing transmission lines, and how best to build new.

Tomorrow's transmission lines, Wright said, will carry a mix of power - firm and otherwise - and will carry it far beyond the windy and rural Rocky Mountain Front to urban centers in the Southwest.

That means the folk directing the flow - think air traffic controllers for electrons - will need new and revised rules, allowing them to recover the costs of their newly complicated jobs.

But the fact is, analysts concluded, no power source is cheap and simple. With wind so obviously on the horizon Wright said, it makes sense to plan now for how best to integrate it into an increasingly complex power portfolio. Learn now to spread the variability, the analysts advised, to better market wind products, to make hydro backup available, to create new technologies.

Doing so, of course, will require more than anything else a new level of coordination and cooperation, Karier said, the groundwork for which was laid during the process of crafting the wind plan. It will also require follow-through, including perhaps, controversial changes to state law.

Some already are advocating new Montana rules that would allow NorthWestern Energy to build its own backup power plants, thereby helping to usher wind onto the grid. Others see different regulatory futures.

There are, Drummond said, no easy answers. But there is, he added, a surprising light at the end of the tunnel, a light powered by a whopping 6,000 megawatts of wind power he simply could not imagine until he himself helped hammer out the details.

"This important work is the necessary, if not sufficient, first step in establishing how wind will become a significant, costeffective source of zero-carbon electricity for the Pacific Northwest," said Angus Duncan, president of Bonneville's environmental foundation. "It demonstrates that the technical requirements for integrating 6,000 megawatts of wind into the system can be met, and it points us to the cost solutions."

Copyright The Missoulian Mar 23, 2007

(c) 2007 Missoulian. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.


Updated: 2016/06/30

If you speak another language fluently and you liked this page, make a contribution by translating it! For additional translations check out (Voor vertaling van Engels tot Nederlands) (For oversettelse fra Engelsk til Norsk)
(Для дополнительных переводов проверяют )