One of the trends to come out of all the wind power that's been developed in the Pacific Northwest the last several years is an increasing surplus of generating capability. Or, to put it another way, we have the ability to generate more energy than we need.
Historically, the combination of high springtime runoff and low demand has led to episodes of excess energy in the region. The recent large-scale development of low-cost wind power appears to be adding to the frequency and magnitude of these events. Constraints on spill, which can cause trauma to migrating fish, may require that wind production be curtailed during these episodes. However, financial incentives encouraging wind plant operation complicate this decision.
The growing surplus can contribute to lower electricity market prices, the reduced value of hydropower energy, and the increasing frequency and severity of excess energy events.
Some of the key findings in a recently released paper on this issue by the Council include:
- Developing resources to meet state renewable portfolio standards tends to increase excess energy events
- Additional wind development to meet renewable energy credits outside of the region (California) will probably also increase the frequency of these events
- Good water years increase the probability of these events, and poor water years lower the probability of their occurring
- Aggressive renewable portfolio standard targets and financial incentives lead to qualifying renewable resources being developed before they are actually needed, which drives down the average market price of other resources
- Hydropower is especially affected, with its value disproportionately reduced
"We think there are legislative solutions available that will allow hydro project operators to maintain dissolved gas standards, yet leave wind plant operators economically whole," says Jeff King, senior resource analyst. "In the longer term, we should take actions that will help us to use both wind and water power during extreme energy events."
The Council is seeking comment on its paper until January 31.