October was a good month for showcasing the power of wind, especially Exergy’s 129 turbines in Idaho, which produce about 30 percent of the wind energy in the state. In fact, on Oct. 16, wind for the first time regionally hit 3,165 megawatts, surpassing for the first time the electricity generated in the Bonneville Power Administration’s area, and wind peaked at 4,361 megawatts.
At full tilt, Idaho’s turbines can produce up to 638 megawatts. For most of the afternoon of Oct. 16, the turbines generated about 500 megawatts, a third of Idaho Power’s load. They contributed to a regional surplus that sent excess power to California and elsewhere to utilities contracted to buy the power, or who buy the power on the spot market, thereby boosting revenues for Northwest utilities.
However, as Rocky Barker points on in this story, the lack of transmission is a problem. If the Gateway West project (designed to connect to the Hemingway Power Station west of Boise) were in operation, the entire region could have benefitted from dependable wind power throughout the day. Idaho Power has expressed numerous concerns about the supposed expense of integrating wind power, but gaps in the transmission system are another factor in preventing full utilization of electricity. With better transmission, Idaho Power would be better able to sell wind and increase its profits.
The story made another good point: Wind saves water. The BPA and Idaho Power have constraints on their hydro system in the fall and need to allow additional water for to assist salmon. At such times, wind can really come to the rescue, allowing dam operators to hoard precious water for fall and winter generation, even has operators increase flows for fish. The hydro system has enough flexibility to accommodate wind in the spring, when water is sometimes more plentiful.
Every day, wind power proves its ability to deliver. As the Production Tax Credit is set to expire at the end of the year, we urge political leaders in Washinton to re-authorize the PTC to ensure continued low-cost, non-polluting wind energy.