The project also holds promise for lowering costs while increasing the environmental benefits of wind power in the region.
The initiative, called Customer Supplied Generation Imbalance or "self supply," brings together hydro, wind farm and natural gas-fired energy to reliably and cost-effectively integrate wind turbines generation into the electricity grid and reduce use of coal-fired generation.
Wind power is the fastest-growing form of energy in the world, and the U.S. is the fastest-growing market. The Pacific Northwest has been at the forefront of that growth, zooming from zero megawatts to more than 5,000 megawatts in operation in 12 years.
Currently, more than 3,000 megawatts – almost three times Seattle’s average power use – are connected to the BPA transmission system. Since the wind doesn’t blow continuously, the actual energy output of regional wind farms is about 30 percent.
Because wind power is an intermittent resource, it must be backed up by reserves. Currently, wind turbines generation is backed exclusively with energy from federal hydropower marketed by BPA. Wind power’s significant growth in the Northwest threatens to exhaust the federal dams’ capacity to alone provide wind balancing services and meet its other obligations.
The self-supply pilot enables wind turbines to procure their own balancing resources, freeing up federal hydropower. This will increase hydro-system flexibility, which would help add more renewable resources to the electricity grid.
This pilot effort could dramatically and positively change how wind power is backed by using energy from many Northwest-generation resources that are capable of adjusting generation levels up and down to respond to the natural variation in wind farm generation output.
"We recognize that integrating wind power creates unique challenges, and we’ve taken the initiative to create solutions," said Ralph Currey, Iberdrola Renewables CEO. "Through our extensive energy management capabilities, a 24-7 National Control Center and our asset management group, Iberdrola Renewables is well-positioned to participate in this pilot and is hopeful that together with our partners we can expand this test into a long-term solution."
Iberdrola Renewables also has resources of more than 600 megawatts of low-carbon-emitting, natural-gas fired generation at its Klamath Cogeneration Plant and nearby Klamath natural-gas peaking plants located at the Oregon-California border in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Iberdrola Renewables also has entered into strategic agreements with TransAlta and Grant County Public Utility District (PUC) to use their electric generation.
"This is a promising addition to the tools we’re developing to support Northwest wind power," said Cathy Ehli, vice president, BPA Transmission Services Marketing and Sales. "If this continues as well as it’s starting out, we’ll make better use of both hydropower and wind power and decrease fossil fuel emissions. It’s a great example of the collaboration among many parties interested in integrating more renewable resources to the mix that powers the Northwest."
"This initiative merges Constellation Energy’s commitment to the use of sustainable energy resources with the expertise of our separate business unit, Constellation Energy Control & Dispatch, a 24-7 National Control Center, in managing renewable and conventional power sources as well as loads," said Kathleen Hyle, senior vice president, Constellation Energy, and chief operating officer of the company’s commercial division. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to provide the expertise and technical resources to assist Iberdrola Renewables’ efforts to reliably integrate wind power into the BPA Balancing Authority and directly reduce BPA’s integration burden."
"Our contractual arrangement with Iberdrola Renewables offsets coal-fired generation, and TransAlta is delighted to play this pivotal role in helping to green the Northwest energy supply," said Rob Schaefer, vice president of Commercial Operations and Development, TransAlta Energy Marketing (US) Inc.
"We’re delighted to participate in helping the integration of wind into the grid. Everybody wins when clean, renewable hydroelectric power is used to help another green resource," said Kevin Nordt of Grant PUD. "This agreement in particular helps Iberdrola Renewables, BPA, the customers of Grant County and the planet in general."
Iberdrola Renewables, Inc. is headquartered in Portland, Ore, with more than 850 employees. It is part of the Iberdrola Renovables global group, the world’s leading provider of wind power with more than 11,000 MW of renewable energy in operation around the world, and more than 3,800 MW of that wind power located in the U.S. www.iberdrolarenewables.us.
Constellation Energy Control & Dispatch Group (CECD) provides an assortment of energy services to load-serving entities (LSEs) including cities, municipalities, electric cooperatives, independent power producers and industrial facilities throughout the North American continent. CECD’s national, 24-7 integration desk tracks and accounts for variations in output from wind facilities and utilizes sophisticated forecasting and dispatch systems to balance sustainable power sources with the continuous demands of the grid. Constellation Energy Control & Dispatch is a subsidiary of Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG), www.constellation.com, a leading supplier of energy products and services.
TransAlta is a power generation and wholesale marketing company focused on creating long-term shareholder value. TransAlta maintains a low-to-moderate risk profile by operating a highly contracted portfolio of assets in Canada, the United States and Australia. TransAlta’s focus is to efficiently operate our biomass, geothermal, wind, hydro, natural gas and coal facilities in order to provide our customers with a reliable, low-cost source of power. For 100 years, TransAlta has been a responsible operator and a proud contributor to the communities where we work and live. TransAlta is recognized for its leadership on sustainability by the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index, the FTSE4Good Index and the Jantzi Social Index. TransAlta is Canada’s largest investor-owned renewable energy provider.
BPA is a not-for-profit federal electric utility that operates a high-voltage transmission grid comprising more than 15,000 miles of lines and associated substations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. It also markets more than a third of the electricity consumed in the Pacific Northwest. The power is produced at 31 federal dams operated by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation and one nuclear plant in the Northwest and is sold to more than 140 Northwest utilities. BPA purchases power from seven wind projects and has more than 3,000 megawatts of wind interconnected to its transmission system.