For one hour in early August, enough wind-generated energy flowed through the Bonneville Power Administration's grid to power Seattle and Portland.
BPA hailed the Aug. 6 event as a milestone that marked the first time its grid carried more than 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated power for more than 60 minutes. The wind-generated energy topped out at 2,089 megawatts at 6:19 p.m.
"It means we've got a whole lot of wind in our system," BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said.
The vast majority of the wind power was generated in eastern Washington and Oregon. In all, 22 wind farms, including the Nine Canyon farms above Kennewick, contributed to the record hour of wind-energy production. Six of those wind farms came online within the past year.
The wind farms BPA buys power from can generate up to 2,267 megawatts of energy. However, wind farms on average generate about a third of their capacity because of the unreliability of wind.
Johnson said the Aug. 6 milestone was not a surprise to BPA, which watched wind-generated energy flirt with the 2,000-megawatt mark for weeks.
"We totally saw this coming," he said. "It ramped up gradually to 2,000, which was good for us, and declined steadily."
An online chart showing BPA's use of wind-generated energy throughout the past week shows ebbs and flows, with wind energy climbing to between 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts in the morning and at night and dropping as low as 250 megawatts in the afternoon.
Johnson said sudden swings in wind energy are what cause headaches for BPA. If wind-generated energy suddenly increases dramatically, for example, energy generation at another source, such as a hydro plant, would need to be reduced to accommodate the wind.
"It's less about how much is generated and has more to do with how much (wind energy) can swing in an hour," Johnson said.
Although the wind energy generated Aug. 6 was not a surprise, Johnson said it boosted BPA's confidence that it can integrate more wind energy into its grid sooner.
"Two years ago, we thought we might see 6,000 megawatts of wind power in the Northwest by 2023," BPA Administrator Steve Wright said in a statement. "We now expect to see more than 6,000 megawatts of wind power in the BPA grid alone in the next five years."
Johnson said BPA is installing meteorological stations around Washington and Oregon to better monitor wind and track patterns.
"It should help us improve forecasting," Johnson said.