Lawrence Solomon: Go fish — wind developers forced to shut down to protect salmon stocks

(May 19, 2011) Wind farms not only threaten the landscape, they also threaten marine life, as wind developers in Washington State just learned to their dismay. The Bonneville Power Authority, a major power utility in the Columbia River system, has ordered wind producers feeding unwanted power into its grid to shut down their operations to protect salmon stock.

Because the wind can’t be controlled, and can surge to dangerous levels that threaten the stability of the power grid, the Power Authority has needed to offset the power created during wind surges by spilling water from its hydroelectric dams. Only so much water can be spilled, however, without harming migrating salmon, which are protected by environmental laws.

In deciding whether to protect the fish or the wind developers, the Power Authority opted for the fish, with no compensation for the wind developers, who will lose fat tax and renewable energy credits worth up to $41 per MWh.

To see the periods during which wind surges exceed the Power Authority’s ability to curtail hydro electricity, click here.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers. LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

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