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Tackling the Climate Challenge

windmills garrett downenA recent Oregonian article explores how earlier this month, for the first time ever, wind generated more power in the Pacific Northwest than water. This is a milestone reflecting the diversification of the region’s hydro-heavy power portfolio. Thus far wind-over-water has been a brief occurrence, but one sure to become more common as additional wind projects go online.

The Oregonian article quotes the Renewable Northwest Project’s Cameron Yourkowski about how wind and hydro can work well together in our region. Sometimes, however, barriers arise. During the last two springs – amid the juvenile salmon’s downriver migration and high river flows – the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has cut transmission access to the region’s wind power producers rather than decreasing hydropower to leave grid space for the electricity that those wind turbines produce.

BPA inaccurately claims that the extra spill - more water going over the dams rather than through the turbines - that would have been caused by cutting back hydro generation would harm migrating salmon and steelhead. The best and latest science, however, supports wind and salmon, not BPA. More spring spill the last two years would have benefitted both wind producers and salmon and steelhead returns.

What our region really needs are effective, comprehensive solutions that work well for wind, for hydro - and for salmon. BPA should honor all of its public responsibilities and reposition itself as a regional leader providing clean, affordable, renewable energy – including hydro and wind – while protecting and restoring healthy, harvestable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Salmon, fishing and clean energy advocates, along with businesses and others, believe this is one of the important issues that could be tackled through regional stakeholder talks. It’s time to get them started!

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