Portland, Ore. – The Bonneville Power Administration is preparing to meet increased electricity demand as the region braces for temperatures nearing the century mark over the next three days. Power use by BPA customers rose to record highs nearly a year ago, when temperatures climbed above 100 degrees on Aug. 2, 2017. At that time, Northwest energy consumers used 8,226 megawatts. For reference, just one MW can power an estimated 700 Northwest homes; 1,200 MW can power an entire city the size of Seattle.
With the region again facing a potential multi-day summer heat wave, BPA is preparing for extremes. River system forecasters are in close contact with hydropower operators at Columbia and Snake river dams, which are part of the Federal Columbia River Power System. Forecasters are studying the water flows available for power generation and fish passage and comparing them to energy consumption models to meet all the uses of the river.
BPA’s preparedness steps range from working with federal dam operators to position water in reservoirs to meet the periods of greatest electric demand, to delaying certain maintenance activities. If non-critical, routine maintenance can be delayed for a few days or weeks, it increases system reliability during times of extreme weather conditions.
“We do everything we can to prepare for heatwaves,” said Kieran Connolly, BPA’s vice president of Generation Asset Management. “Right now we are in good condition with solid generating plant capacity and an adequate supply of water to generate electricity. While we can’t control all the variables, we have experienced people ready 24/7 to keep the system safe and reliable.”
The FCRPS is the largest source of clean, reliable power in the Northwest. The region heavily relies on the carefully synchronized operation of the 31 federal hydropower dams that make up the system, particularly during periods of extreme temperatures when demand soars.
“These iconic waterways are the backbone of the Northwest energy supply, fueling life as we know it,” said Janet Herrin, BPA’s chief operating officer. “The constantly flowing river and the technical expertise of the hydropower system operators afford the region such reliable energy that it can be easy to forget where it comes from. For our customers, 87 percent of every movie watched, load of laundry washed or electric vehicle and smart phone charged comes from renewable, reliable hydropower.”
Generating enough hydropower to meet increased demand is just the first step. Extreme weather can also stress BPA’s transmission system from higher electrical load and hotter ambient air. Coordinated hydro operations, combined with an integrated high-voltage transmission system, allows BPA to spread out the demand and use certain transmission paths more or less depending on the needs in various communities.
BPA encourages consumers to plug into their local utility provider for energy savings tips and information about heatwave preparations in their community. OPALCO website
The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale electricity from 31 federal dams and one nuclear plant to 143 electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA delivers power via more than 15,000 circuit miles of lines and 260 substations to 511 transmission customers. In all, BPA markets about a third of the electricity consumed in the Northwest and operates three-quarters of the region’s high-voltage transmission grid. BPA also funds one of the largest fish and wildlife programs in the world, and, with its partners, pursues cost-effective energy savings and operational solutions that help maintain affordable, reliable and carbon-free electric power for the Northwest. www.bpa.gov