Federal energy regulators told the Bonneville Power Administration Wednesday that it can no longer discriminate against wind farm owners by cutting off their transmission during periods of excess electricity generation in the region.
The decision is a rare defeat for the federal power marketing agency, which sells electricity generated at 31 federal hydroelectric projects in the region to 140 public utilities. BPA also controls three quarters of the high voltage transmission system in the Northwest.
During last spring's massive runoff, BPA adopted a policy of curtailing generation by wind farms in the region when there was too much power going into the grid, and substituting its own hydropower for free to satisfy those winds farms' contracts with customers.
BPA contended that it couldn't dial back hydroelectric generation because sending excess water over the dams' spillways rather than through turbines would create too much turbulence and violate dissolved gas limits established to protect salmon.