BPA Expands Wind Energy Contracts

By Beacon Staff

KALISPELL (AP) – The Bonneville Power Administration, the region’s largest wholesaler of electrical power, has reached a 20-year agreement to purchase 50 megawatts of electricity from an Oregon wind energy project.

It’s part of a BPA effort to increase the amount of wind energy it sells to meet new state regulations and consumer demand.

“Public demand in the Northwest for sources of clean, renewable power has never been stronger,” said Steve Wright, BPA administrator. Wright called the new 50-megawatts of wind power “a sound business decision; it’s cost-competitive, fits with the agency’s goals of serving the region’s needs, and helps BPA maintain its near-zero carbon footprint.”

BPA is a quasi-governmental agency that markets power produced at 31 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin, some 40 percent of all the electricity used in the Pacific Northwest. The electricity is sold at cost to 140 utility companies in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

The latest wind project, the Klondike Wind Power III in Wasco, Ore., is owned by PPM Energy of Portland, Ore. It is expected to generate 221 megawatts of electricity.

The 50 megawatts purchased by the BPA will increase its wind energy capacity to 257 megawatts. A 20-year plan calls for adding 5,000 or more megawatts of wind in coming years.

Wright said customers are increasingly concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, and are demanding renewable options from their power providers. And state lawmakers are making rules that both constrain polluting power sources and encourage clean and renewable technologies.

Already, he said, Montana, Washington and Oregon have enacted legislation requiring utilities to phase in additional clean energy sources over time.

The wind, however, cannot be counted upon to blow steady year-round, Wright said, and so is called an “intermittent resource.” As such, it must be “firmed up” by a more constant power source, such as the region’s 31 hydropower plants.

Those dams, Wright said, have the flexibility to “respond to increased consumer needs for power in an instant,” making them a perfect fit with wind.

BPA’s transmission group is working on a 12-mile transmission line to connect the wind project to an existing BPA substation, which will be expanded to handle the increased load. The system should be in place by the end of the year, the BPA said.