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The Associated Press
May 23, 2011

Blumenauer, wind advocates blast BPA on curtailment plan

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, joined the American Wind Energy Association and others today in accusing the Bonneville Power Administration of discriminating against wind power at a time it needs help to expand, and failing to adopt strategies identified in a 2007 report on integrating wind power into the Northwest energy grid.

Bonneville, which sells power from federal dams in the region, has been curtailing wind generation on the Columbia Plateau because a heavy spring runoff has left the federal power marketing agency with more water and wind energy than it can sell in the region or export to California. That raises grid reliability issues.

Blumenauer said the BPA's actions are in "direct conflict" with the renewable goals of the Obama administration and key energy policy leaders nationally and regionally.

"The Northwest Wind Integration and Action Plan drafted in 2007 outlines what actually should happen," he said. "But 50 months later, this action represents an unfortunate failure of political will and imagination."

The BPA says it already is curtailing as much fossil fuel-powered electricity generation as possible within its control area and can't simply spill more water over the dams to accommodate more wind power because that would violate water quality standards and potentially harm salmon.

Wind developers are widely expected to sue BPA in the next few days for unilaterally canceling wind farms transmission contracts. While the agency has been substituting free hydropower for scheduled wind power deliveries, the curtailments deprive wind farm operators of valuable revenues from renewable energy credits and tax credits that are only generated when wind turbines are operating.

The American Wind Energy Association contends that such curtailments have resulted in "seven figure" losses to wind farm operators in the last week alone. The industry maintains that the BPA has dragged its feet for years on potential solutions to the wind integration and over-generation problems.

Participants in a conference call today also suggested that the BPA could be doing more immediately to accommodate more wind power, though they offered few specifics. A representative of Save Our Salmon suggested that the BPA could increase spill in some instances, though he acknowledged that it wasn't a silver bullet solution to the problem.

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