In another example of natural gas-fired power generation helping smooth out intermittent wind-generated supplies, the federal Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and independent generator Calpine Corp. announced a new pilot project deal involving 75 MW of "generation flexibility" from a Calpine plant in Oregon.

As the operator of one of the nation's largest gas-fired power plant fleets, Calpine officials called the pilot project "as example of how natural gas generation will play a critical role in America's clean energy future."

With increased reliance of wind-produced power supplies, the variability of those supplies becomes more of an issue, and this new agreement with Calpine's Hermiston, OR, gas-fired generation plant is an attempt to mitigate the situation by helping maintain the balance BPA needs between supply and demand for power on its regional transmission system in the Pacific Northwest.

Under the agreement, when wind generators produce more electricity than was forecast, BPA can request that Calpine quickly reduce Hermiston's output to accommodate the added renewable-based supplies, a BPA spokesperson said. Calpine in turn will buy the excess power on BPA's system to fulfill its existing obligations to customers served by the 547 MW Hermiston generation plant.

As the Northwest's major public sector marketer/transporter of power, BPA noted that the pilot deal with Calpine "fits very nicely" with it overall strategy that calls for using nonfederal electric supplies to help support the region's growing mix of wind power.

The agreement also marks a move away from the historic reliance on the Northwest's vast federal hydroelectric system to provide quickly dispatched (within-hour) reserves for wind power, said Elliot Mainzer, BPA's executive vice president for corporate strategy. "As the amount of wind power increases, BPA has been looking at other sources to help reduce the balancing burden on the federal hydro system."

From Calpine's standpoint, its Trading Vice President Jeff Woodall cited the BPA agreement as an example of the power generator finding "innovative solutions" for its customers, particularly as it relates to what he called "the opportunities and challenges presented by integrating renewable resources into the power grid.

"By providing this flexibility product, we help BPA optimize use of its hydroelectric generation system, integrate [more] wind power, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

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