A week without wind shows the necessity of hydro power
The Northwest is now in our seventh day with virtually no wind energy. Hydro power is making up for virtually all of the energy gap.
During the last week, wind power supplied a maximum of 2 percent of energy on the BPA system. During a 26-hour period from November 2 to 3rd, wind energy supplied a maximum of 0.04 percent of electricity on the BPA system. Hydro supplied as much as 78 percent of the electricity during the past week.
Without hydro, the only alternative in the future would be dispatachable energy like natural gas. This is why even those who advocate destroying dams on the Snake and Columbia admit that CO2 emissions and costs would increase without their energy.
Some argue that building wind turbines in Montana could help reduce the impact when wind doesn’t blow in Washington state. This, however, means building multiple backup systems to produce the same amount of electricity, which increases costs but provides no additional environmental benefit.
Finally, there are some who argue that destroying the Snake River dams would create new jobs building wind turbines to replace the lost electricity. As this period without wind demonstrates, building more wind turbines in the same location simply increases the volatility of electricity generation. Promises that jobs lost after the dams are destroyed will be made up by building wind turbines are either disingenuous or dangerous.
California is finding out what happens if you don’t pay attention to maintaining the stability of the grid. Thanks to our hydro power, we aren’t facing that problem despite a week without wind energy.