PORTLAND The Bonneville Power Administration in January said it delivered to customers more than 1,000 megawatts of wind power for the first time. While BPA called the moment a milestone in the effort to include more clean energy in its power supply, it is more symbolic, says energy expert Jeff Hammarlund.
“We are not the Saudi Arabia of wind,” says Hammarlund, president of the Northwest Energy and Environmental Strategies consulting firm and adjunct professor at Portland State University. “The potential in the Gorge alone is not that significant. However, our neighboring state of Montana does offer a huge opportunity for wind.” BPA is a nonprofit federal electric utility that harnesses the power of the Columbia River.
Still, Hammarlund says the milestone is significant because BPA has been a leader in wind development and in integrating it into its system. To date, BPA has connected 13 wind projects into the region’s transmission grid.
“There’s been virtually no leadership in the federal government [on renewables], so it’s come down to leadership by the utilities, state and local governments, the environmental community, and the wind developers themselves,” says Hammarlund.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council hopes for 5,000 megawatts of new wind power in the next few decades.
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