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BPA turns off NW wind turbines to make way for hydro power

Rick Bowmer
Wind turbines along the Columbia River Gorge near Goldendale, WA., May 12. The BPA shut down many Northwest turbines this week. A cold, wet spring in the headwaters of the Columbia Basin is sending downstream one of the largest spring flows in years.

Northwest dam operators turned wind turbines off on Tuesday – putting into practice, a policy established just last week.

Bonneville Power Administration officials say that high river levels forced them to turn the wind turbines off. Officials say that moderate winds could have produced up to 14-hundred megawatt hours of power, during the five-hour shut-off. BPA estimates it cost wind companies tens of thousands of dollars, mostly in the form of production tax incentives.

Federal officials say the alternative to shutting off wind power, is to spill lots of water over the dams, potentially hurting salmon. But Nicole Cordan with Save Our Wild Salmon says BPA could have prepared better for high spring water.

“So with some advanced planning, and better management, and better forecasting, we think we could’ve been in a better spot. And that’s what we’re hoping for, for the future.”

Wind energy producers have also been critical of the move.

But a group representing public power utilities says limiting wind was the right decision, under the circumstances.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Rob Manning has been both a reporter and an on-air host at OPB. Before that, he filled both roles with local community station KBOO and nationally with Free Speech Radio News. He's also published freelance print stories with Portland's alternative weekly newspaper Willamette Week and Planning Magazine. In 2007, Rob received two awards for investigative reporting from the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and he was part of the award-winning team responsible for OPB's "Hunger Series." His current beats range from education to the environment, sports to land-use planning, politics to housing.
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