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Up in the AIR

John Lodahl held the torpedo-like instrument steady while Max Holder calibrated it from inside a metal-skinned microwave station on this cold, windswept hill north of Sunnyside. Satisfied with the readings, Lodahl climbed down from the top of the 30-foot tower on a recent morning, marking the end of a tour that has taken the pair from Astoria, Ore., at the mouth of the Columbia River, to the Horse Heaven Hills in Benton County over the past five weeks.

Anemometer measuring wind speeds to aid power forecasters trying to balance a 15,000-mile grid

RATTLESNAKE HILLS -- John Lodahl held the torpedo-like instrument steady while Max Holder calibrated it from inside a metal-skinned microwave station on this cold, windswept hill north of Sunnyside.

Satisfied with the readings, Lodahl climbed down from the top of the 30-foot tower on a recent morning, marking the end of a tour that has taken the pair from Astoria, Ore., at the mouth of the Columbia River, to the Horse Heaven Hills in Benton County over the past five weeks.

The $1,300 device is a sleek, black anemometer with a propeller at its nose to measure wind speeds.

It's an investment the Bonneville Power Administration believes will pay for itself many times over.

Connected to a data logger inside the building, the anemometer will transmit wind speeds in the blink of an eye to agency power forecasters in Portland.

"We will be able to look at this in real time, whatever it is doing," said Lodahl, a BPA instrumentation technician, based in Vancouver, Wash.

Better wind forecasting is critical to Bonneville, which has struggled to integrate wind power -- a highly variable power source --... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Anemometer measuring wind speeds to aid power forecasters trying to balance a 15,000-mile grid

RATTLESNAKE HILLS -- John Lodahl held the torpedo-like instrument steady while Max Holder calibrated it from inside a metal-skinned microwave station on this cold, windswept hill north of Sunnyside.

Satisfied with the readings, Lodahl climbed down from the top of the 30-foot tower on a recent morning, marking the end of a tour that has taken the pair from Astoria, Ore., at the mouth of the Columbia River, to the Horse Heaven Hills in Benton County over the past five weeks.

The $1,300 device is a sleek, black anemometer with a propeller at its nose to measure wind speeds.

It's an investment the Bonneville Power Administration believes will pay for itself many times over.

Connected to a data logger inside the building, the anemometer will transmit wind speeds in the blink of an eye to agency power forecasters in Portland.

"We will be able to look at this in real time, whatever it is doing," said Lodahl, a BPA instrumentation technician, based in Vancouver, Wash.

Better wind forecasting is critical to Bonneville, which has struggled to integrate wind power -- a highly variable power source -- into its 15,000-mile power grid.

Sudden increases in wind can spike power production. When winds die, power plummets, forcing system operators to draw more power from the 31 dams and one nuclear power plant.

To assure the system can keep the power supply in line with demand, more water is being kept behind dams in reserve.

But the ability to hold back water is being stretched to the limit in the face of requirements for protecting fish and meeting navigation and other needs in the Columbia River Basin.

Quickly ramping up hydropower production can harm fish and increases costs for power for both wind operators and ratepayers.

Fourteen anemometers are now scattered through the Columbia River Gorge, whose east end is home to most of the explosive growth of wind farms in the Pacific Northwest.

Previously, 6,000 megawatts was projected to be produced by 2023. The milemark is now considered just four years away. Already, 2,254 megawatts of wind power capacity are operating -- enough to power two cities the size of Seattle.

If Bonneville can more quickly estimate how much the wind is blowing and what the trend will be over the next two or three hours, power and hydro schedulers can more efficiently operate the system.

Lynn Baker, a Bonneville public affairs specialist, likened the network to an early warning system.

"We don't have a consistent pattern of wind," said Baker. "It would be helpful to have the best information we can have on what the wind is doing through the gorge out to Horse Heaven Hills so we can see it coming."

Lodahl said the prevailing wind through the gorge is from the west. But at times the winds reverse and blow from the east.

The Rattlesnake Hills site will tell Bonneville when that occurs.

Ironically, the Rattlesnake Hills site where the anemometer is installed is in a county where no wind farms are operating.

All around Yakima County, wind farms are sprouting. They exist in Benton, Kittitas and Klickitat counties.

That may be changing. Wind farm developers are testing the wind at four sites, two east of the BPA microwave station in the Rattlesnake Hills north of Sunnyside and two in the Horse Heaven Hills, south of Mabton.

Tyson Utt, project manager for Horizon, a Houston, Texas-based company, installed four wind-measuring devices on wheat land in the Horse Heaven Hills. Operating for a month, the devices will tell Horizon whether the area is suitable for a wind farm.

County approval to test the sites is good for three years. Utt said it is not certain how long the tests will be conducted.

"It is a matter of collecting the data," he said. "At this point, it's too early to tell."

Horizon built the Wild Horse wind farm north of Interstate 90 east of Ellensburg and sold the farm to Puget Sound Energy. Wild Horse has 127 wind turbines and a production capacity of 320 megawatts.

Horizon also has approval to build the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, a 65-turbine, 150 megawatt project north of Ellensburg.

One megawatt of electricity is enough to power about 300 homes for a year.

The activity has Yakima County commissioners thinking about how to respond should a wind farm application be filed.

Commission Chairman Rand Elliott said the county is considering establishing zones for wind farms, similar to areas where gravel mining is permitted.

Designating a wind overlay zone would streamline consideration of farms. A full environmental review would still be required for specific wind farm applications.

"I'm under the impression the only likely spot is in the south corner of the county," Elliott said. "There are so many other good sites in the region that people are flocking to. Yakima County is down the list by virtue of its geography."

Time will tell whether Elliott is right.


Source: http://www.yakima-herald.co...

OCT 2 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22454-up-in-the-air
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