When the Wind Doesn’t Blow

When the Wind Doesn’t Blow

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By John Hultquist,

A brief look at the electrical balancing by the Bonneville Power Administration from Oregon and Washington, Nov. 2018

We live in central Washington State where the mighty Columbia River flows south. Large dams, provide power and our house is 100% electric. Our electricity has not been off for more than 4 hours per event in 25 years. When wind towers were put up 15 miles away (trees block the view) we went for a tour. It is interesting, and I suggest anyone with the opportunity to go visit. The wind generated electricity goes past us toward western Washington.

The Columbia River, over millions of years, has created a deep canyon as mountains have risen and tall volcanoes have come and gone. Here the River flows westward, marking the Washington-Oregon boundary.


Source: NASA

The large gap in the landscape, to the Pacific Ocean, and the high ridges of the Columbia Gorge provide an excellent surface configuration for the development of strong winds and, therefore, the placement of wind turbines. This requires the atmosphere to cooperate, as it sometimes does, and sometimes doesn’t, as for instance this November.
A look at where wind towers are: This site is from 2014, but is a good description. The 4th photo is for a 50 mile-wide view of the region near the center of the NASA image (above).

Map tour by Roy L. Hales

Other suppliers in this region include a nuclear facility, natural gas, a tiny amount of solar, some coal and other thermal. The latter involves landfill gas, waste paper and wood industries, and perhaps others. There are 58 non-wind places generating electricity.

Addressing and marketing the output is the job of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The agency has a web page that shows sources and load. HERE

The total generation is always greater than the total BPA load because most of the time BPA is a net exporter of energy. There exists a ‘direct current’ (DC) transmission line to southern California, called Path 65. [45.596501, -121.117367]
A BPA chart shows 9.7% wind of a total system nameplate generation of 28,443 MW [18 Sept 2018], or ~2,760 MW. The graphics below show how well this has worked over the last 23 days. Note the lower (smaller) chart begins on Saturday, the 10th.

The green line near the bottom is for wind. On the 10th of November, the view enters with nearly zero wind. The line comes off of zero on the 12th, and there are spurts on Thurs & Fri of that week.
The top chart begins on the left where the other ends, 16/17 September. The green line hardly shows above the bottom of the chart until late on the 22nd. The image was taken at 10:55 PM, with wind now at about 2,000 MW.
The blue line is for hydro power. On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day in the USA, as all the turkeys and pies come out of ovens the load drops, as does generation of electricity from the dams. But the weather is changing, the wind is blowing, and the blades feel that force. The sustained winds are getting near 20 mph, gusts a little higher. Wind needs to be above 9 mph for the turbines to produce energy. Over the coming week this period of no-wind to low wind speed is likely to continue.

There appears to be a tug-of-war between a Low Pressure area off the coast of S. CA and a High Pressure area near the western Aleutian Islands. See: nullschool

When the atmosphere resolves this interplay, we’ll find out where wind turbines return to business.

Note: I am an interested observer of the things mentioned in this post. I am not qualified to answer technical questions, but those that are, please comment. Thanks.

 

 

Superforest,Climate Change

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