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Marketer sees way to reduce costs

PacifiCorp Power Marketing (PPM) in the US Northwest is betting that predictions of wind availability for the 263 MW Stateline wind farm straddling the Oregon and Washington border will reduce transmission imbalance costs and allow it to make up for deficits on windless days by supplying missing power from other generating plant it owns. PPM hired Seattle's 3TIER Environmental Forecast Group to help it schedule power from the wind farm on the next-hour, day-ahead markets.

"Our customers want renewable power that is as affordable as any other resource," says PPM's Terry Hudgens. "Our relationship with 3TIER, along with PPM's ability to fill in the gaps when the wind isn't blowing, allows PPM to manage this resource to deliver highly dependable wind power to our customers. These techniques will be an integral part of our activities."

3TIER's Ken Westrick says his company will use regional weather forecast models and improve these with site specific data to plot when and how winds will change. There is quite a bit of predictability in short term wind patterns, especially on an hourly scale, he says. Long term wind patterns, Westrick adds, are more predictable than hydroelectric operations, which represent over half of Northwest energy generation.

"There is a lot less uncertainty in wind and more volatility in hydro," he says. While wind generation facilities in the Northwest can expect diurnal winds that blow in the afternoons and through the night, especially during the summer, the hydro system relies on snowpack and rainfall, which vary from year to year. The Northwest suffered from drought in 2001 that reduced federal hydro capacity by 4000 MW.

Still, the water supply in the region is very predictable in the short term and together, says Westrick, wind and water can provide a reliable system. The hydro system can store water while wind farms are producing energy, he says, and as the wind dies down, "we can run hydro at a higher capacity -- like a battery," he says. "That way power traders and dam operators can use both systems to best utilise the resources."

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