Bonneville Power Administration: Hydropower Flows Here


On Friday, October 20, Energy Facility Siting Council Chair Barry Beyeler and Council member Betty Roppe joined with Oregon Department of Energy staff to tour the Bonneville Power Administration’s Ross Complex in Vancouver, Washington.

The Ross Complex is home to several important BPA facilities, including the Dittmer Control Center and advanced testing laboratories. After viewing the control center in action, the group was welcomed by engineers in the mechanical and electrical test laboratories on site. BPA engineers showed the ODOE team how they test new and old equipment, study emerging technologies, and ensure that vital infrastructure is ready to handle the Pacific Northwest’s rainy, snowy, hot, and windy weather.

Engineers demonstrated how they look at equipment that can handle high-voltage transmissions without creating a corona – an electrical discharge that sounds like loud buzzing power lines and produces a blue glow. In addition to interfering with radio or other transmissions, a corona is a sign that electricity is being wasted through the discharge instead of moving along the line to customers. The tour also got to see a man-made lightning demonstration!

BPA was established in 1937, and is a nonprofit federal power marketing administration serving the Pacific Northwest. That means that while BPA is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, it is also self-funded – covering its costs by selling its products and services, like power. BPA supplies electricity to many of Oregon’s consumer-owned utilities, such as municipal power suppliers, co-ops, and people’s utilities districts.

Most of BPA’s energy comes from renewable hydropower. Thirty-one federal hydroelectric projects in the region produce renewable energy for BPA’s service area, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and areas of Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Additional energy comes from the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant, coal-fired plants, and others. In addition to power production, BPA also manages more than 15,000 miles of transmission lines to move power throughout the region.

Learn more about the Bonneville Power Administration on their website, including current projects and initiatives.

Check out BPA’s rich history of serving the Pacific Northwest – they have some great vintage videos uploaded to YouTube.