Bonneville Power Administration

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Map of BPA transmission lines at Bonneville Dam visitor's center

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is an American federal agency based in the Pacific Northwest. BPA was created by an act of Congress in 1937 to market electric power from the Bonneville Dam located on the Columbia River and to construct facilities necessary to transmit that power. Congress has since designated Bonneville to be the marketing agent for power from all of the federally owned hydroelectric projects in the Pacific Northwest. Bonneville, whose headquarters are located in Portland, Oregon, is one of four regional Federal power marketing agencies within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).


The power generated on BPA's grid is sold to public utilities, private utilities, and industry on the grid. The excess is sold to other grids in Canada, California and other regions. Because BPA is a public entity, it does not make a profit on power sales or from providing transmission services. BPA also coordinates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to regulate flow of water in the Columbia River and to carry out environmental projects such as salmon restoration.

Although BPA is part of the DOE, it is self-funded and covers its costs by selling its products and services at cost.[1] The BPA provides about 35% of the electricity used in the region.[1] BPA transmits and sells wholesale electricity in eight western states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.[1]

BPA now markets the electricity from thirty-one federal hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries, as well as from the Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear plant located on the Hanford Site in eastern Washington. BPA has more than 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of electrical lines and 300 substations in the Pacific Northwest and controls approximately 75 percent of the high-voltage (230 kV and higher) transmission capacity in the region.[1] BPA also maintains connection lines with other power grids in Canada (two BC Hydro AC 500 kV lines and several lower voltage lines). BPA's power grid is connected to the California high-voltage transmission system by Path 66, which consists of the two 500 kV AC lines of the Pacific AC Intertie, plus a third 500 kV AC line of the California-Oregon Transmission Project (COTP) (managed by the Balancing Authority of Northern California). Together these three lines are operated as the California-Oregon Intertie (COI) (managed by the California Independent System Operator). An additional DC +/- 500 kV line, the Pacific DC Intertie, links BPA's grid at the Celilo Converter Station near The Dalles, Oregon to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) grid 800 miles (1,300 km) away at the Sylmar Converter Station in Los Angeles. BPA uses helicopters to sling load maintenance workers inspecting and repairing power lines.[2]


BPA's first industrial sale was to Alcoa in January 1940, to provide 32,500 kilowatts of power.[3] This, and the following 162,500 kilowatt order, led to complaints of the Bonneville Power Act's anti-monopoly clause.[3] The cheap price of aluminum from Alcoa helped aluminum sales grow in the post-World War II market.[3] From 1961-1966, the administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration was Charles F. Luce.

To residents of the Pacific Northwest, the name "BPA" became a household word due to media surrounding Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Northwest Oregon State, which BPA and its Joint Council planned in 1968. Eventually operated by Portland General Electric, activists attempted to shut it down for thirteen years. Ballot measures to force shutdown were defeated, but after the plant's shutdown due to technical issues in 1992, BPA elected not to bring the plant back on-line. The plant's iconic, immense cooling tower was demolished in 2006 and is the subject of a film by artist Vanessa Renwick. BPA continues to pay debt service on bonds that were sold to build three nuclear plants, all in Washington state. Only Columbia Generating Station was completed. In 2003, BPA's debt on the planned nuclear plants totaled $6.2 billion.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d BPA Fast Facts - Fiscal Year 2006
  2. ^ Head, Elan. "On The Line: Training with BPA and Priority 1 Air Rescue" Vertical, 28 October 2014. Accessed: 30 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915-1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5. 
  4. ^ Northwest Council: "BPA History


External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "BPA Fast Facts - Fiscal Year 2006".