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Operating Renewable Energy Not Simple
electric200Operating Renewable Energy Not Simple

It is no big secret that wind velocity varies greatly from day-to-day, and on some days it even varies greatly hour to hour.  Recently, in the space of one hour, wind energy in the Pacific Northwest gained 1,000 megawatts, and less than one-hour later that same 1,000 megawatts of wind energy was lost because wind speed dropped. 

Keeping the grid mostly equal between energy demand and energy supply, in these circumstances, is no mean feat!  According to a recent edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, controllers of the grid in that part of the world quickly reduced the flow of water through the turbines on the Columbia River to pull generation off-line to make room for the wind.  And then, a short time later, they had to increase flows to generate more electricity when the wind subsided.

Similar challenges to those experienced in the Northwest happen in this part of the world also.  But while the challenges in the Northwest are centered on reducing impacts on fish, the challenges here are centered on cutting back and ramping up base-load power plants that are designed to operate at full capacity.  It is suspected that coal fired and natural gas base-load power plants are going to experience additional repair and maintenance expenses because of frequent adjustments of plant output to allow for renewable energy to be placed on the system. 

(Our thanks to Bob Graveline, North Dakota Utility Investors Association.)