Making renewable energy ‘work’ – diversification is key

Posted on 12. Oct, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

Balance and diversity are critical cornerstones of making renewable energy an effective solution to our long term energy needs. No one renewable energy resource is the answer to all of our problems. For renewable energy to effectively meet our energy demands, the region needs a mix of resources – wind, solar, geo-thermal and hydro – from diverse points on the system.

Because wind power is currently the most cost-effective, utility-scale renewable resource, the region is experiencing a boom in wind project installations. The media have naturally focused on the impact of this rapidly-growing sector to help the public understand the industry and its impacts.

An article in The Columbian newspaper (”Transmission lines key to BPA wind power plans,” Oct. 11) describes how the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is working to meet the challenges associated with integrating thousands of MW of wind power into a system that has seen few substantial improvements in several decades.

The … (BPA)… has seen energy generated by wind in its four-state service area grow from virtually nil to about 3,000 megawatts — enough to power 750,000 homes — in little more than a decade. With projects in the pipeline, the BPA expects to incorporate up to 6,000 megawatts of power into its grid by 2013.

Altogether, renewable energy now provides enough electricity to power more than one million northwest homes, according to the Renewable Northwest Project.

Such rapid growth has placed strains on the grid, due in part to the concentration of wind projects in the Columbia River Gorge area, The Columbian points out.

The fact that the region’s wind turbines are concentrated on the Columbia River Plateau makes the challenge trickier, said Johnson of the BPA, because a single storm sweeping through the region can pack such a wallop.

“We want to add as much wind as people can find places to put it,’” he said. “It would be helpful to us if there were a little geographic dispersion.”

The Greater Echanis projects can help ‘balance’ the Gorge area projects in that very way – by entering the ‘grid’ well outside of the Gorge and by virtue of their dramatically different production profile. This benefit of the Greater Echanis projects is vitally important in bringing balance to the grid, the resource mix and a struggling local economy.

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