Hydropower
1:20 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

More snowpack means more electricity this summer

The Pacific Northwest has emerged from winter with an above average snowpack, and that's good news for the region's hydroelectric dams. Seattle City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco says, “The snowfall we have received in the mountains this winter was fantastic.”

The snowpack that feeds the Skagit Hydroelectric Project (including Diablo Dam, pictured above) is 19% above the 30 year average. Things are even better in the Pend Orielle River basin that feeds Boundary Dam in northeastern Washington; the snowpack there is 124% percent above the 30 year average.

The utility's hydroelectric projects result in surplus power which it can sell in the wholesale market, helping it keep prices low for retail customers. According to City Light, the average daytime price for a megawatt-hour of electricity in March was $20.60. That’s the lowest it’s been since 1999 and about half of the $40.31 price from a year ago. Nighttime prices averaged $11.98 per megawatt-hour, a record low since recordkeeping started in 1998.

City Light is the 10th largest public power agency in the United States, and in 2005 became the nation's first greenhouse gas neutral electric utility.