The promotion and development of wind-generated electricity must be balanced with improving renewable hydroelectric power sources, former congressman Sid Morrison said Tuesday.
Morrison, a Lower Yakima Valley resident and chairman of the CWU Board of Trustees, addressed the CWU economic conference audience as chairman of Energy Northwest, a state joint operating agency that assists publicly-owned power utilities and sells power.
Morrison pointed out figures that show adding more wind turbines into the Pacific Northwest power grid isn’t the answer to stabilizing power costs for consumers.
He noted that power marketed by the federal Bonneville Power Administration costs public utilities buying it wholesale $28 per megawatt hour.
Electricity generated by wind costs about $70 per megawatt hour. Thus, state and federal mandates that utilities put in more renewable energy sources unreasonably drive up costs to the ratepayer, he said.
If the federal energy production tax credit continues into 2013, and more wind turbines are put up, the region is heading for an economic train wreck from the effect of climbing power rates, Morrison said.
He called for the revaluation of the use of wind turbines for renewable power resources.
In light of the Yakima Basin’s integrated water plan, Morrison called for the development of pump-storage projects that would increase hydropower but also use wind turbine power.
As an example, a reservoir, or a system of reservoirs, could be built at a higher elevation than the Columbia River, he said. Water could be pumped from the Columbia into a higher-elevation reservoir using wind power when there’s excess power in the Northwest system and the river is running high, he said.
When wind power is low in winter and other times, the reservoir water could be released to generate power when it is most needed and increase flows to help fish habitat.
Morrison said pump-storage systems have the potential to restore balance to the power outlook in the region, and hold down power costs with new power generation from hydro systems.
“Hydroelectric systems are and will always be a strong renewable energy resource that must be recognized as just as renewable as other sources,” Morrison said after the CWU conference.