Flipping the Switch: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Yes, we’ve poured billions of tax dollars subsidizing the building of massive wind farms throughout the Columbia River Gorge. And now the turbines are being turned off because they’re producing too much power. And we’re paying them to shut down!

Fox News reports:

Wind farms in the Pacific Northwest — built with government subsidies and maintained with tax credits for every megawatt produced — are now getting paid to shut down as the federal agency charged with managing the region’s electricity grid says there’s an oversupply of renewable power at certain times of the year.

The problem arose during the late spring and early summer last year. Rapid snow melt filled the Columbia River Basin. The water rushed through the 31 dams run by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency based in Portland, Ore., allowing for peak hydropower generation. At the very same time, the wind howled, leading to maximum wind power production.

Demand could not keep up with supply, so BPA shut down the wind farms for nearly 200 hours over 38 days… [Emphasis mine]

…Now, Bonneville is offering to compensate wind companies for half their lost revenue. The bill could reach up to $50 million a year.

The extra payout means energy users will eventually have to pay more. 

Of course they will. And most people aren’t happy with the solution. Even environmentalists think it’s a bad idea — not because of the waste of money, energy, or resources, you understand, but because it looks bad for business:

“It sends a very poor signal to the market about doing business in the Northwest,” said Rachel Shimshak, executive director of the Renewable Northwest Project. “We want the Northwest to be a good place to do business.”
Sadly, the Bonneville Power folks can’t really do anything about it. Why? (All together now…) Because of environmental regulations! Apparently shutting down the hydropower instead of the wind turbines is bad for the salmon in the river. Too much water over the dam is as bad for the fish as… well, supply your own bad pun here. 
I’d like to know why there isn’t a plan in place to handle the surplus energy that might be (and apparently has been) generated. Surely some of our tax dollars went to develop all sorts of contingencies about the combined power supply… and the best they could come up with was just turn it off? No way to divert the extra power to other areas of the region? Couldn’t we sell it to Canada? It’s not like we’d need to build a pipeline or anything.
In clean energy parlance, this is evidently a case of dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissy at Hot Air beat me to this by 10 minutes!  And he’s got video.

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