United States

United States

Just like unwashed lettuce

PacifiCorp Power Marketing (PPM), the sales arm of US utility PacifiCorp and purchaser of the output from the huge Stateline wind project in the American Northwest (Windpower Monthly, February 2001), wants to buy a lot more wind. But to sell the power -- and make it more valuable -- the company is trying to change the way its customers think about the product.

While it is easy to market the electricity from a gas turbine, says Barrett Stambler of PPM, customers have notions about wind-generated electricity that need to be overcome. "This is the lowest cost electricity at the busbar you can buy today," Stambler says. "But it doesn't fit the profile most wholesale purchasers want to buy." Stambler -- holding aloft an uncut and unwashed head of lettuce at the American Wind Energy Association conference last month -- likens wind power to the ingredients in a salad. "It's green, it's good, but it's a pain to make into a salad," he says. "We've got to peel it, cut it and combine in croutons to serve the end user."

Wind power is always intermittent, says Stambler, but for the end user it doesn't have to be. PPM has been working to counter the notion among utility operations people that wind generation can swing from zero to 100 MW in a matter of seconds. "We've proved that's not true," Stambler says of the power marketer's efforts, along with others, to show there are minimal and predictable changes in wind power's output.

While PPM plans to offer wind power as a product identified by green tags -- something it will track for customers -- the company says the hardest task is shaping and firming power out of wind stations. It is toying with different ways to deal with that challenge, such as predicting wind on an hourly basis, purchasing control area services from transmission providers, offering variable and fixed prices and offering a percentage of a project. It can also hold in reserve a portion of the Klamath natural gas generating station in southern Oregon to back up wind if needed.

"Our value-added [service] is as a bridge between the developer and the market," says Jean Wilson of PPM. "Our intention is to sell to our customers wind power products from a portfolio of resources."

Stambler says PPM already has contracts for most of the output at Stateline. While these are mainly relatively short term deals, he says PPM continues to be "bullish on wind in the long term" and is looking for more projects that are as competitive as Stateline.

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