FERC urged to reverse wind power curtailment by hydro-rich BPA

Pacific Northwest wind generators have filed a complaint that too much of a good thing — hydropower — has prompted Bonneville Power Administration illegally to force curtailment of wind generation in favor of providing free excess hydropower to the region.

The wind generators are urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stop BPA from using its transmission monopoly power to curtail competing generators in an “unduly discriminatory manner.”

“Abandoning adherence to (transmission) open access principles set forth in (FERC) Orders 888, 890, and 2003, Bonneville has adopted a new practice whereby it unilaterally curtails wind generators without compensation, and ‘substitutes’ its own generation for delivery to the wind generators’ customers, in violation of the wind generators’ interconnection contracts with Bonneville and the firm transmission rights associated with the delivery of the output of the wind generators’ facilities,” the complaint, No. EL11-44, declares.

BPA began limiting the output of non-hydroelectric energy, including thermal generation and wind energy, in May due to high river flows creating a temporary oversupply of hydropower. The agency said the action was required to protect salmon and steelhead, maintain the reliability of the power grid, and avoid shifting costs to BPA customers.

The action came as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased river flows to maintain space in upstream reservoirs for further runoff from the largest Northwest snowpack since 1997. The Northwest River Forecast Center projects Columbia Basin runoff this year will exceed runoff in all but two of the last 40 years.

BPA said rising runoff has pushed dissolved gas levels above 120 percent at most of the eight federal dams on the Lower Snake and Columbia rivers, exceeding Washington and Oregon water quality standards and threatening protected salmon and steelhead. BPA said reducing hydro generation would send more water through spillways and could push gas levels higher for longer periods, further endangering fish. BPA noted it, the Corps, and the Bureau of Reclamation are required by court order to manage spill levels to protect fish.

Wind generators not reimbursed for lost revenues

Under its interim “Environmental Redispatch Protocol,” BPA said it will not reimburse wind energy producers for lost production tax credits, renewable energy credits, or other revenues, saying that would shift costs to Northwest ratepayers who do not receive the wind power. The wind generators’ complaint protested these potential losses.

“Bonneville has estimated that the financial impact of the Final ROD (Record of Decision) with regard to PTCs and RECs could be approximately $50 million in 2011,” the June 13 complaint said. “In addition, wind energy generators may forgo revenue associated with lost power sales under power purchase agreements.”

The wind generators asked FERC to order BPA immediately to revise its curtailment practices to comply with non-discrimination standards of the Federal Power Act and to abide by terms of interconnection agreements with the wind generators.

The complaining wind generators, Iberdrola Renewables Inc., PacifiCorp, NextEra Energy Resources LLC, Invenergy Wind North America LLC, and Horizon Wind Energy LLC, were joined in a supplemental filing July 5 by BP Wind Energy North America. In response to a request by BPA and other entities, FERC extended the deadline for answers to the complaint to July 19 from July 5.

In a June 28 statement, BPA said wind projects on its system have curtailed 6.7 percent of their scheduled output since BPA began curtailments. It said wind generators typically were affected at night and on weekends when power demand dropped.

In other efforts to help the situation, BPA said it made an agreement with Alcoa to adjust power use at the Intalco Works aluminum smelter in Ferndale, Wash., to help balance demand. It previously said it was working with other agencies to maximize reservoir space, adjusting non-essential transmission line maintenance to maximize export of excess power to Canada and California, and pumping water into storage at Banks Lake above Grand Coulee Dam for later use.

The National Hydropower Association last month released a set of “guideposts” for consideration in the debate. It called for increased energy storage opportunities from existing conventional hydro projects and from new pumped-storage facilities.

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