U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Water Power Program

BPA Draws on Hydropower to Make Wind Energy More Attractive

January 21, 2004

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which supplies power to utilities throughout the Northwest, has launched a new service that will make wind power more attractive to those utilities. Because the wind produces a variable supply of energy, BPA is using its hydropower facilities as a back-up energy source to cover the times when the wind turbines don't turn. BPA announced the new service on January 13th in conjunction with its sale of two megawatts of wind power to Cowlitz County Public Utility District in Longview, Washington. The wind power will be generated at the Nine Canyon wind energy project near Kennewick, Washington, a facility operated by Energy Northwest. See the BPA press release.

The BPA service is partially based on a report by energy consultant Eric Hirst, who for years has been studying how best to integrate wind power into utility power grids. According to a report published by Hirst in 2001, wind advocates often claim that wind energy can be integrated into existing power grids at no cost, and detractors claim that "every unscheduled megawatt movement of a wind farm must be offset, megawatt for megawatt, by some other resource, generally at high cost." The truth, says Hirst, lies somewhere in between. Hirst concludes that wind facility owners can use improved wind forecasting techniques to schedule their wind power output in advance with electric system operators, thereby earning more money per kilowatt-hour of wind power. See Hirst's summary, with a link to his 2001 report, on his Web site.

Wind integration into the utility grid is also an issue in New York State. The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) is developing a minimum requirement for renewable power generation in the state—also known as a renewable portfolio standard (RPS)—and wants to know how much wind power could be integrated into the power system without harming reliability. According to a preliminary assessment prepared by GE Power Systems Energy Consulting, the state should be able to provide 10 percent of its peak power load from wind power without any adverse impacts. That would be about 3,300 megawatts of wind power. See the report (PDF 1.75 MB) and the PSC RPS Web page. Download Acrobat Reader.