Wind Power to Supplement Energy Conservation

Any kind of crisis calls for a new plan, and the West Coast energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 spurred the Northwest Power and Conservation Council into action. The Council, which was created in 1980, has approved the fifth version of its Northwest Power Plan to help the region’s utilities and electricity consumers take steps in the future to avoid the shortages and high prices that characterized the energy crisis.

Energy conservation is a significant regional goal in the plan, but current and anticipated demand for power means that new energy plants can’t be ruled out completely. In the plan the Council recommends increasing the use of wind resources available in Oregon. There are already a few wind farm plans at different stages of development, and the Council stated there is a possibility of up to 5,000 MW of wind turbine capacity in the state beyond what is currently planned for. The Fifth Northwest Power Plan calls for the development of over 2,500 average MW of conservation over the next 20 years, which is the statutory length of the Council’s energy planning horizon. Converted to electricity, that is enough to power the city of Seattle for two years. “If we fail to achieve the conservation in the plan, the cost of electricity, and the risk of shortages and high prices would increase in the future. That’s because providing an equivalent amount of power from new generating plants would be more expensive and our demand for power would increase,” Danielson said. The plan also recommends gasified coal power plants with construction beginning as early as 2012. Because a number of new power plants fueled by natural gas were constructed in the Northwest in the wake of the energy crisis, and because the price of natural gas is volatile and difficult to predict, the Council does not anticipate that new gas-fired plants will be built until late in the 20-year planning period.

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