Too much of a good thing

Generating electricity is one thing. Being able to move it from Point A to Point B is quite another. Our electrical 'grid' has not been substantially upgraded in the last 30 years or so and adding new generating capacity is not always a good thing. From Portland Oregon station KATU:
'Too much' wind power could actually hurt salmon
Wind turbines are the hottest rage in 'going green' but the technology has a dangerous side for endangered salmon in the Columbia River.

No one is saying wind power is bad by any stretch - it will play a huge role in producing sustainable, green energy.

For example, the new Rattlesnake Road Wind Farm at the eastern end of the Columbia River will produce enough power to light 30,000 homes and will prevent the annual emission of 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to taking 7,000 cars off the road.

And the blueprint for wind energy in the Northwest, known as the Wind Integration Plan, calls for even more wind power online by 2009.

But while all that sounds great, it is important to understand that there are serious concerns to consider.

You see, when the wind is really blowing and the farms are operating at maximum capacity, the present system will not be able to handle all of that electricity, which ultimately affects fish.

This isn't just a theory - it actually happened recently. At the end of June, there was an unexpected surge in wind power and too much energy was created for the regional grid to handle. To compensate, the dams cut their power by spilling more water.

Spilling more water is dangerous for fish because water plunging from the dams into the river becomes saturated with air. Air is mostly nitrogen and salmon do not like nitrogen saturation.

"I think it caught us just a little bit off guard because the rate of growth of wind has been so fast," said Elliot Mainzer with the Bonneville Power Administration. He's in charge of strategies for balancing the electricity needs and supplies of the future.

Part of the problem is that right now we actually have enough electricity to meet demand in the Northwest but excess green power produced here can't just be sent back east.

That's because the electrical grid in the Western United States has little connection to the rest of the country.
What was that about unintended consequences? Promoting clean energy has to look at the whole system and not just a generator here and a generator there...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on November 6, 2008 11:02 AM.

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