Wind Power in the Pacific Northwest
Wind Energy Facts
Renewable Energy Resources
Exponential growth in wind power across the Pacific Northwest requires Bonneville Power to address electricity generation overcapacity issues.
One emergency situation from June of 2010 explains the dilemma.
High water levels forced the BPA to provide over 73,000 MWh of free electricity to the grid so that the wind farms, which receive government subsidies as a substantial portion of their profit margin, could generate power.
According to the BPA, the already 3.3 gigs of wind generation capacity in the Pacific Northwest, will soon be supplemented by an additional 3 gigs of wind power.
Lack of sufficient transmission capacity in the region partially accounts for the problem. Therefore, because of the additional wind power capacity, the BPA expects the problems to persist over time.
A quick examination of the specs on the The Pacific DC Intertie Sylmar Replacement Project, the Intertie shows it is capable of transmitting 3,100 MW (or about 3 gigs of electricity).
Fuzzy electricity math suggests that the 3 gig HVDC system between OR to CA is already insufficient to deal with electricity transfer from OR to CA in some instances, and therefore will be even less capable of dealing with electricity transfer of the additional wind generated electricity.
Transmission planning is no doubt being considered. Here's one take.
Siemens designed an Ultra HVDC Transmission System capable of transferring up to seven gigs of electricity.
So, if the Pacific DC intertie had the Siemens Ultra HVDC installed rather than the current system installed, it sounds as if the current problem would be solved, along with possibly solving potential future transmission glitches when the extra 3 gigs of wind power capacity comes online.
Someone (in a wind webinar about the 1:08 mark) suggested that if the BPA managed their load in 5 minute intervals rather than hourly intervals, they could improve their load balancing efficiencies. However, it did not appear that this approach would help in emergency situations, or address the issue of the next 3 gigs of wind power coming online.
Because the Pacifc DC transmission corridor already exists, the issue of eminent domain is moot with respect to upgrading the present transmission lines.
The older HVDC equipment be recycled and used for solar projects in the area.
No doubt alternatives to this proposal exist. It's offered as an example of a simple two step problem solving exercise.
© 2011. Patricia A. Michaels