PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) announced today that is has finalized a Record of Decision, essentially blocking Northwest wind power projects’ access to federal transmission lines at certain times. The BPA plan unilaterally changes wind generators’ contracts without compensation, harming the booming alternative energy industry and shortchanging endangered salmon populations on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
BPA is using salmon as an excuse to shut off wind energy production in the region when river flow levels are too high. The agency claims that legal protections for salmon and overgeneration of wind and hydropower are forcing it to turn off wind power production while continuing hydropower generation.
While overgeneration situations do occur, the supposed legal constraints on BPA are largely self-created and self-imposed. Salmon aren’t forcing BPA to order reduced spill and thus more hydro production at the expense of wind generation; it’s the total dissolved gas (TDG) limits for the Columbia and Snake rivers. Currently, BPA follows Washington state’s spill standard, which allows a maximum dissolved gas level of 115%. If Washington adopted or federal agencies implemented Oregon’s standard, allowable dissolved gas levels would increase to 120%. This shift could allow more spill and help avoid curtailing wind energy. It would also benefit salmon and steelhead by easing their migration past these dams.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu addressing current issues with BPA and its approach to wind energy production and water spill levels in the Columbia and Snake rivers. In his letter, Rep. Markey writes that he is aware that changes in power systems will present new challenges to energy managers. However, he asks that BPA utilize resources such as the Department of Energy to create sound policies, rather than just shutting off wind.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) also sent letter to BPA recently, asking it to reconsider its Record of Decision and expressing their concern that it would “cause significant problems for renewable energy development in our region.” Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) sent his own letter stating, that BPA’s ROD “would create enormous uncertainty in the developing renewables marketplace . . .”
Says Save Our Wild Salmon Policy and Legal Director Nicole Cordan: “It’s time for BPA to stop putting its hydro operations and revenue above the needs of the Northwest, both for the sake of our salmon and for the benefit of the renewable energy industry.”
NW Energy Coalition Executive Director Sara Patton agreed: “To suggest that developing clean, renewable wind power and saving endangered salmon are somehow at odds is absurd. We know we can build a healthier and more prosperous Northwest while combating climate change and protecting wild salmon; shutting off access to wind power is not the way forward … for any of us.”
Nicole Cordan, Policy and Legal Director, Save Our Wild Salmon
(503) 703-3733, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc Krasnowsky, Communications Director, NW Energy Coalition
(425) 281-0668, email@example.com