Hydropower is the renewable energy backbone of the Northwest—a reliable, flexible and stable foundation for the region’s increasingly clean, renewable energy mix. On its own, hydropower meets more than half of our region’s total energy needs. More than that, it facilitates our use of other renewable but more volatile energy sources, such as wind and solar.
Hydro Keeps the Lights On
This chart from the Bonneville Power Administration demonstrates how only hydropower is capable of meeting all of the Northwest’s energy needs on any given day. The yellow line represents load, or demand, over a seven-day period in late 2014. The blue line represents hydropower meeting or exceeding that demand during the same period. Wind and geothermal generation, in contrast, don’t come close to meeting the region’s energy needs.
Source: BPA Balancing Authority: Load and Total Wind, Hydro and Thermal Generation, Nov. 26-Dec. 23, 2014
In the Northwest, hydro is a tool used to back up wind and solar, which despite their advantages cannot provide hydro’s consistent, uninterrupted energy generation. Hydro generation is constant and can be quickly adjusted to follow changes in wind production.
Renewable Energy Backbone
The vast majority, about 90 percent, of the Northwest’s renewable energy comes from hydropower. All other renewables combined—wind, solar and geothermal—contribute the rest.
Source: 2015 PNUCC Northwest Regional Forecast (Average water conditions), NWRP
The Northwest is able to make use of those other sources and smoothly integrate them into the system that provides power to homes and businesses because of hydropower. When the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t out, hydropower is always there. Without the flexibility and operating reserves that dams supply, the region would lose a significant amount of its ability to deliver and integrate wind and solar energy to the power system.
Hydro: Most Practical Energy Source
Public opinion polling in the Northwest shows a strong majority of residents, 54 percent, identify hydropower as the region’s “most practical” resource for meeting electrical energy needs. Wind and solar trail behind at 15 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Source: Results from DHM Research polling, 2014.