Press Release

May 2, 2011

Markey to Chu: Don't Water Down Pacific NW Wind Energy

Wind Facilities May Shut Down During High Water Runoff Periods; Markey Asks Chu to Study Alternatives

WASHINGTON (May 3, 2011) – When the water is flowing from excessive mountain runoff in the Pacific Northwest, that’s when the wind may be told to stop. In response to controversial plans by the Bonneville Power Administration to shut down wind energy facilities without fully doing the same for traditional forms of energy or by not optimizing the electrical grid’s capacity during times of increased hydropower, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today asked Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to study alternative ways to deliver reliable power to Northwest U.S. homes and businesses without harming the growing wind energy industry.

“These infrequent times of high runoff and low energy demand shouldn’t water down the growth of wind energy in the Pacific Northwest,” said Rep. Markey, who is the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over Bonneville and other federal power marketing administrations. “We should shut down polluting sources of energy and manage our grid more effectively before we start punishing clean and reliable sources of electricity.” 

The current plan from the BPA “would shut down the region’s wind power facilities during times of high runoff at the region’s dams and low electricity demand in the West. While these high wind/high water events occur relatively infrequently, this action, if implemented, would economically impact current facilities and could lead to the cancellation of future wind projects in the region,” the letter states.

Rep. Markey’s letter asks Secretary Chu to study ways to improve this policy, encouraging DOE to “work with BPA to consider all potential alternatives to address high-runoff scenarios including: (1) the displacement of thermal electricity generation in the West, (2) managing the transmission grid and generation dispatch more effectively and efficiently,  (3) better weather forecasting techniques and (4) evaluation of options for exporting to other regions the excess power generated during such high-runoff/high wind scenarios.”

The full letter is available HERE.