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Oregon Official: Gas-Fired Plants Needed to Balance Reliance on Wind

No new natural gas-fired generation had been built in the Pacific Northwest for four years when the Port Westward plant was developed northwest of Portland, OR, the head of the Oregon Energy Department, Michael Grainey, told an energy conference in Seattle Thursday. He noted that increased reliance on intermittent wind resources needs more gas (or considerably more wind) to "shape" future power loads to keep them in balance.

Portland General Electric broke ground in 2004 for the 400 MW Port Westward Power Plant, a gas-fired combined-cycle turbine. It was opened in 2007 as "the most efficient of its kind in the Pacific Northwest," according to the energy company.

"All of our development for the last few years has been building new wind power," Grainey said in response to questions at the "Buying and Selling Electric Power in the West" conference in Seattle sponsored by Law Seminars International. "We are seeing some wind sites where the wind operates at different times so there is the potential for taking wind to help shape other wind supplies. We recognize the need for gas-fired generation to provide this shaping."

Grainey said Oregon now spends $12 billion annually for energy, and that total has doubled in just four years. "Decisions we make in the state on energy impact everyone in the state and the larger region as a whole," he said, explaining why Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski late last year formed an energy policy advisory council as a body that would promote a public process for energy planning, something his department's biennial energy reports do not do.

Grainey nevertheless stressed his support for the state appealing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) latest reiteration of its conditioned approval of the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal along the Columbia River in Oregon. Later in the day's program a speaker from Puget Sound Energy, Tom DeBoer, the utility federal/state regulatory director, said he would urge the state not to appeal FERC's decision.

As part of a panel discussion on regional transmission, DeBoer stressed how natural gas and energy efficiency were really the utility's main alternatives for supplementing the growing reliance on wind-generated power.

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