Utility Experience Underlines Need for Transmission By Michael Goggin

In the post, Wald describes how heavy spring rains, accompanied by strong winds, produced a sudden excess of both hydroelectric and wind power for the Bonneville Power Administration, which manages the utility system in the Pacific Northwest.

AWEA Manager of Transmission Policy Michael Goggin posted the following comment to Wald’s report:

It’s important to point out that wind power plants’ superior technology and capabilities allowed them to play a critical role in helping the Bonneville Power Administration manage this unusual spring water runoff event. Unlike other power plants that have limited ability to reduce their output on command, wind energy plants can reduce their output to zero within a matter of seconds by pitching their blades out of the wind in the event that the grid has too much electricity. Of course, a more optimal outcome would be to transmit this zero-fuel-cost, zero-emissions electricity to other regions by upgrading our power grid so that it has greater capacity to transmit electricity from region to region.

This event is a testament to the amazing job grid operators have done for generations in managing the variability and unpredictability in electricity supply and demand, whether caused by an extreme heat wave, the sudden loss of a large conventional generator, or an abnormally large spring runoff. Building additional transmission capacity will give grid operators greater flexibility to accommodate such events by moving power from regions with excess power to regions that need it.

As the article notes, building additional transmission lines will improve our country’s ability to move clean energy from regions with abundant wind energy resources to regions that need the power. Generations ago our country upgraded our power grid to move the Pacific Northwest’s abundant hydroelectric resources to areas that need it, and now it is time to do the same thing for wind turbines and solar power, the clean energy resources of the 21st century.

The Bonneville Power Administration has been actively working to build additional transmission infrastructure, and we encourage them to continue doing so. As noted in the article, making greater use of demand response resources, like timing the use of electric water heaters that are already installed in homes and businesses, can also play a role in making more efficient use of our existing grid.

By Michael Goggin, www.awea.org/blog/