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Hydroelectric Power In The United States

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) was established in 1937 under the auspices of FDR's "New Deal" intended to stimulate the Depression-era economy. The Administration operates a series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snakes Rivers primarily in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Today, the BPA produces nearly 1/3rd of all hydroelectric power in the United States. Much of this is exported to markets in California and the Southwest. Compared to wind and solar power, hydroelectric power experiences less hour-to-hour and day-to-day fluctuations and provides baseload power. However, over an extended period, droughts can significantly impact hydroelectric output, as was seen during the summer of 2015, resulting in an increase in Northwest natural gas demand to make up for the shortfall. The map below shows hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River basin, 75% of which are operated by the BPA.

Current BPA Hydroelectric Generation

Historical BPA Hydroelectric Output

BPA Hydroelectric Generation & Natural Gas Demand

Fluctuations in hydroelectric output, like nuclear generation, tends to have a smaller day-to-day variation than wind or solar generation, but variations tend to persist for a longer period of time. This results in a sustained period of increased or decreased temperature-independent natural gas demand.

Observed & Forecast Rainfall Across The Columbia River Drainage Basin

Columbia River Rainfall Statistics

Current Palmer Drought Index

The Columbia River & Snake River watershed includes most of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of western Montana and southern British Columbia. Coastal areas and particularly the west-facing slopes of the Cascades see heavier rainfall in excess of 50 inches of rain annually while areas in the rainshadow of the mountains east of the Cascades see much lower tallies, usually 10 inches to 25 inches per year. The data below shows observed and forecast rainfall for the Columbia River Basin, current drought levels, and live weather across the area based on radar imagery.

Radar: Mouth Of The Columbia River & Coastline

Radar: Headwaters Of The Columbia River

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