NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 8, 2010

Wind power is clean (i.e. carbon-free in its production), and this remains a large part of policymakers' attraction to it.  However, the negative aspects of wind power are apparent, yet often overlooked.  Ever-increasing wind generation will have a significant impact on the reliability and affordability of electricity in the Pacific Northwest that very well might outweigh any of the claimed environmental benefits, says the Cascade Policy Institute. 

Integration problem: 

  • The electricity grid must remain in perfect supply-and-demand equilibrium in order to guarantee that when a ratepayer flips a switch, a light turns on.
  • To prevent brownouts or overloads on the grid, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) -- the Pacific Northwest's federal power marketing authority -- must schedule energy production in advance.
  • These problems are exacerbated by the fact that BPA has to have a backup system, known as a balancing reserve capacity, equal to or greater than the wind power capacity utilized at any given time.
  • Because wind power is so unpredictable, every megawatt of wind power must be backed up by an equal amount of reliable energy in reserve to replace the energy lost when the wind dies down.
  • In Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, hydroelectric dams currently serve as the balancing reserve.  

Integration costs: 

  • In 2009, BPA requested that the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) allow an electricity rate increase to reflect the costs of integrating wind.
  • The new rate represents a doubling of wind integration costs, and this rate will continue to increase as more wind energy is added to the grid.
  • The rate increase proposed for 2011-2013 will raise the average household electricity bill $6.70 per month.  

Voluntary choice versus mandates: 

  • One of the main reasons why wind energy has expanded so quickly in Oregon is because the Oregon Legislature passed renewable energy mandates in 2007.
  • These mandates force utilities, and ultimately ratepayers, to purchase a certain percentage of renewable power by a certain year.
  • The main goal is to have 25 percent new renewable energy on the grid by 2025.
  • The mandates forcing all ratepayers to buy renewable energy creates artificial demand, causing a surge in wind farms popping up across Oregon and an increase in electricity costs. 

Source: Todd Wynn and Eric Lowe, "Think Twice: Why Wind Power Mandates Are Wrong for the Northwest," Cascade Policy Institute, June 8, 2010. 

For study: 


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