Rep. Markey weighs in on water vs. wind question

Rep. Markey weighs in on the Bonneville Power Administration's plan to curtail wind in times of excess hydropwer.

Rep. Markey weighs in on the Bonneville Power Administration's plan to curtail wind in times of excess hydropwer.

With a high spring runoff in the cards for the Pacific Northwest, the issue of what the Bonneville Power Administration should do in the case of an oversupply of hydropower has caught the attention of Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the top-ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Markey asked the federal government to come up with an alternative way to to keep the Northwest grid stable without shutting Northwest wind farms.

The BPA has been struggling with what to do in cases of oversupply but has agreed to look for an alternative to a plan that would require wind farms to power down rather than flooding the grid with more power than it can use. Renewable energy advocates argue that such a plan would have a negative financial impact on wind energy companies.

In his letter, Markey asks Chu to work on finding a solution to the conflict, which may repeat itself in other areas of the country where variable energy sources feed the grid.

"We are at a turning point in our electricity system in the United States," Markey wrote in the letter. "Renewable energy is becoming cheaper, distributed generation is becoming more common, and energy efficiency and demand response are reducing the need to build much new generation capacity. But integrating these new models into the existing electricity systems presents new challenges as well."

Rachel Shimshak, director of Renewable Northwest Project, said Markey has been a leader on clean energy issues so it made sense for him to weigh in.

"There's no one single thing that will solve this issue," Shimshak said.

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christinawilliams@bizjournals.com | 503.219.3438 | @SustainableBzOR

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