NEWS FLASH: BPA curtails NW generation due to high river flows

In an action similar to one taken in the spring of 2011, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) ordered Pacific Northwest power generators to curtail production on April 29 and April 30 because of a surplus of hydropower coupled with low demand for electricity.

“We displaced 5,118 MWh on Sunday, and 5,800 MWh during early Monday,” a BPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub on April 30.  “We had a situation where we had lots of water in the river and lots of wind, [but] didn’t have the demand for that amount of power.”

The spokesperson said the agency works with thermal generators to displace that source of power first.  “Typically, the thermal plants shut down [first] because they can save on fuel costs,” the spokesperson said, “but wind producers have production tax credits and renewable energy credits that depend on continued wind generation.”

Due to low demand, thermal generators had already decreased their generation to minimum levels by early Sunday morning, so all the generation curtailed on Sunday was wind.

The agency curtailed thermal generation as well as wind generation on Monday morning but, as of press time, did not have a breakdown of how much of which type of resource was curtailed.

Last spring, BPA curtailed wind turbines during a period of high water flows in the Columbia River. The agency was forced to route the water through power-generating turbines because spilling the large quantity of water over spillways would have increased total dissolved gasses to a level that would endanger salmon.

The curtailment prompted wind producers to file a complaint with FERC, accusing the BPA of violating contracts for firm transmission rights and of treating them in a discriminatory manner. FERC responded with an order finding that BPA’s curtailment policy represented noncomparable transmission service and requiring BPA to file a revised tariff to provide transmission service on conditions comparable to those it gives itself.

The agency filed a protocol with FERC on March 6 that is intended to help reimburse wind generators for those lost credits, but that protocol has been widely criticized by area wind producers as not going far enough.