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Oregon Wind power entrepreneur readies turbine for market February 7, 2010

Filed under: Emerging Technology,Manufacturing,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:53 pm
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After three years in development, a sullied business partnership and a significant financial set back, a Coquille woman’s invention — a roof-mounted appliance that generates electricity from wind — will soon reach the market.

Mary Geddry, CEO of Coquille-based Rogue River Winds, said the ultra-efficient, low-profile, sturdy wind turbine with a built-in generator called the V-LIM, is generating interest.

She’s gearing up production. But don’t expect any local manufacturing jobs to spin out of it — at least not anytime soon.

“There just isn’t the infrastructure in Coos County at this time,” she said.

After attempts to get the V-LIM off the ground locally failed, Geddry relocated the project to Portland where a prototype was in the works, before she again relocated it to Cottage Grove where it was completed and may be manufactured.

She said some manufacturers in Alaska and the East Coast have expressed interest in producing it, as well.

So what is it exactly?

Owners of industrial and commercial facilities who want to scale back energy usage can affix the V-LIM atop roofs — where wind velocity is greatest — to generate power to pump back into the grid.

The V-LIM is said to be more efficient than traditional wind turbines in that it produces electricity in winds ranging from light breezes to Class 2 hurricanes, is silent and vibration free even in gusts up to 100 miles per hour. As wind speed increases, so does the turbine’s power output.

It has rapid response steering foils to direct the turbine to face oncoming wind, according to a press release.

It’s about three meters in diameter and is designed for commercial and industrial use.

The unit costs between $125,000 to $150,000.

The price could be split.

If several large facilities within proximity of each other purchase one, they could share the cost savings.

“Our goal actually is to implement them into a microgrid, because that is the most cost effective way to purchase and provide power,” Geddry said.

The V-LIM produces 25 kilowatts on average during wind bursts. Peak energy users can expect a return on investment, in consistently blustery regions, in about three years, Geddry said.

The product has garnered interest from a local nonprofit seeking a new location with plans for a energy-efficient facility.

“We’ve been following her project,” said Patricia Gouveia, director of energy services at Oregon Coast Community Action. “Primarily, we want to develop a sustainable campus and support Coos County businesses, so it seemed like a good match if we can make it happen.”

“For a nonprofit,” she added, “if we can get to the point where we can pay our own energy costs, that’s a huge savings for us.”

Gouveia said they’d seek grant money to fund a project.

From concept to finished product was bumpy road. Geddry had hopes originally to design and manufacture the units locally, creating jobs. But a business partnership with a local entrepreneur fell apart.

“It just wasn’t getting done,” she said of the project. “It wasn’t getting finished and I had to get it finished.”

According to Geddry, every part manufactured here had to be replaced. The turbine has been re-engineered completely, which tripled her original cost projection.

She said the move to Portland was necessary to stay within a budget and timeline.

Geddry, who crafted the unit’s aerodynamic design, recruited brain power from Portland State University to upgrade the efficiency of the mechanism with a high-bandwidth generator.

Electrical engineer and Coos County resident Dr. Stanley Marquiss came on board to design a “plug-in-play” feature, which allows the appliance to configure itself into a facility’s energy system automatically once it’s installed.

Before the V-LIM can officially go on the market, it needs to be certified with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energies Laboratory, a process that could take about six months. In the meantime, Geddry hopes to begin production to meet demand — which may come from the U.S. Department of Defense.

All military bases, Geddry said, must produce 25 percent of energy from alternative sources, such as wind, by 2025.

Talks with the DOD are preliminary at this point, she said, but supplying the government agency with the V-LIM has potential.

“It appears that they would be one of our biggest markets,” she said.

Nate Traylor, The World – http://www.theworldlink.com/articles/2010/02/06/business/winds_of_change_731.txt

 

Oregon Bill would classify burning garbage as renewable poweron

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy — nwrenewablenews @ 4:44 pm
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Garbage — it’s generated day after day, in ever increasing amounts, and Marion County wants it considered a renewable resource.

Under a bill being considered this session, the electricity created when the Brooks incinerator burns garbage would be classified as renewable.

It puts burning garbage for electricity in Marion County on par with turning turbines on a wind farm and capturing the sun’s power with solar panels.

The designation is coveted because Oregon requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2025.

“We want the classification in four more years when we have to go out and market the energy we get from garbage in the county,” said Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano. “I am banking that we will be able to sell it at a premium.”

Even though renewable energy advocates support the bill, they say that the inclusion of municipal solid waste is misguided.

“Just because we have a lot of garbage and we will continue to have a lot of garbage does not make it a renewable resource,” said Jeff Bissonette, a spokesman for the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon. “When we talk about renewable energy, we are usually talking about a fuel source that is naturally occurring and unlimited. If you think about wind, wind happens by itself, and the wind is going to blow long after we are on this planet.”

While not specifically named in the bill, the Covanta garbage incinerator at Brooks likely will be the only beneficiary of the bill’s solid-waste language.

The municipal solid waste language was included in the bill at the request of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

Courtney said it is typical to include municipal solid waste in renewable energy legislation that covers biomass, including wood waste.

Courtney’s adviser Phil Bentley said the waste-to-energy industry in Oregon is still in its infancy and that this legislation is not likely to create a rush in facility construction.

Courtney said the “significant restrictions” on a facility such as Covanta’s eases any concerns he has — particularly regarding air quality.

Covanta officials count more than 20 states that define municipal solid waste as renewable.

Of seven western states that also have a renewable energy standard, five states specifically exclude garbage burning, said Kip Pheil, a senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy.

Nevada allows it but doesn’t have any such facilities.

California’s law excludes municipal solid waste except for electricity generated from a single facility.

House Bill 3674 also allows the burning of wood waste to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.

The caveat is that the electricity generated from garbage or wood waste can’t be considered renewable until 2026 — a year after utilities must have25 percent of their energy from sources such as wind, solar and wave.

It’s still a boon to the Covanta garbage burner and wood waste facilities because utilities will have to maintain that 25 percent renewable energy load in the face of increasing electricity needs and population growth.

Utilities can “bank” the renewable energy as early as 2011 by purchasing a renewable energy certificate for the electricity.

The legislation is a revision of a 2009 bill that the governor vetoed last summer.

Renewable energy advocates and the governor are satisfied with the revised bill because it still means that about 1,800 average megawatts of new renewable energy — from traditional sources such as wind — will be developed for Oregon.

Beth Casper, Statesman Journal - http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100206/GREEN/2060328/1001/NEWS

 

Oregon’s Steens Mountain could soon have wind farms

Ruggedly beautiful Steens Mountain stands in an area of southeast Oregon so isolated that it’s barely changed since cattle king Pete French arrived in the late 1800s.

Coyotes yelp at sundown. Drivers are so few that they wave to each other as they pass. Campers, hunters and bird-watchers trek from across the state to breathe in the majestic emptiness and to gaze from the Steens summit across a seemingly endless tapestry of high desert and open range.

But soon, the scenery will change.

Harney County has cleared Columbia Energy Partners of Vancouver to build a wind farm on the mountain’s north slope. By year’s end, 415-foot turbines could start rising from the juniper and sagebrush, among thousands of towers that developers are stampeding to build across eastern Oregon.

In addition, Columbia Energy has two more wind projects in the works for the Steens slope, plus another for Riddle Mountain to the northeast. A Houston company is scouting 18,000 acres to the south for a wind farm in the Pueblo Mountains, and more could follow.

“There are a number of sites being prospected by developers,” said John Audley of Portland’s Renewable Northwest Project, a coalition of companies and groups that promotes renewable-energy projects. “These prospectors are like old gold miners.”

Aside from wind farms, thousands of acres on Steens Mountain are open to homebuilding.

“We counted over 90 sites that you could come in tomorrow and make application to put homes on,” said Steve Grasty, chairman of the Harney County commissioners. One landowner won clearance to build hundreds of homes near the Steens’ Fish Lake.

But while some environmentalists are dismayed by the prospect of development on Steens Mountain — even if it’s green-friendly wind turbines — county officials are thrilled.

“We have an opportunity to put a $1.25 billion investment into this community,” said Grasty, referring to the value of Columbia Energy’s four wind projects and an accompanying transmission line.

“Holy mackerel, and it is an environmentally sensitive way to do it.”

To outsiders, it may seem unthinkable to build on the flank of an Oregon treasure. But to Harney County, it’s simple math.

A century after the close of the Western frontier, the county retains its gun-rack rawness. Residents are self-reliant, a necessity in a county bigger than nine states but with just 7,700 residents.

But the economy, long struggling, has been trampled in the recent recession. December’s jobless rate nudged 18 percent (compared with 11 percent statewide), not far from 1980′s record 21.8 percent, said Jason Yohannan, a state labor economist in La Grande.

The demise of RV-maker Monaco Coach in 2008-09 left Harney County with no manufacturing, Yohannan said, a change from the late 1970s when more than 1,000 residents worked as loggers or in the old Edward Hines Lumber Co. sawmill.

Columbia Energy unfurls the promise of a new industry — and jobs: 150 during an estimated four years of construction, plus 50 to 75 for maintenance after that, said Chris Crowley, Columbia Energy’s president.

Audley said that’s hard to pass up. “There hasn’t been a significant economic investment in Harney County in a long time,” he said. “For better or worse, this is the only industry I know of that’s investing (an average of) $700 million (per wind project) in rural Oregon.”

Grasty said he’s not worried about losing tourism because of the wind turbines. County tourism has grown only 5 percent in 20 years, he said, and the wind farms will be contained.

“They are islands of private property in a sea of public land,” he said.

So far, only Columbia Energy’s first wind farm has been approved: the $300 million Echanis Wind Project, with 40 to 60 wind turbines across 10,000 acres. It’s expected to produce 104 megawatts, enough to power some 30,000 homes.
The project hinges on U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval of the transmission line, which has two possible configurations: a 29-mile line possibly paralleling an existing line that crosses the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge just northwest of Steens Mountain, and a 46-mile line across mostly private land. Crowley expects to gain approval in the fall and launch construction on Echanis soon after.

Columbia Energy recently shelved its West Ridge and East Ridge wind projects headed for the Steens’ north flank, in the face of opposition from the Audubon Society of Portland and the Oregon Natural Desert Association in Bend.

Liz Nysson, spokeswoman for the desert association, said visitors will be appalled to find “industrial-scale wind development” on the slopes of Steens Mountain. The Echanis project, she said, also will be built on habitat for falcons, golden eagles and sage grouse, which is being considered for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Bob Sallinger, the Portland Audubon Society’s conservation director, called the area “an incredibly valuable landscape from a wildlife standpoint.”

“We have a gold-rush mentality in this state about wind,” he said. “We could look back in 10 or 15 years and wish we had done it differently and more thoughtfully.”

Both groups also accuse Columbia Energy of dividing the Steens projects into three pieces of about 104 megawatts each to skirt the state scrutiny that kicks in for projects of 105 megawatts or more.

But Crowley insisted the projects are legitimately separate: “They are on separate pieces of property. They will have separate substations. They will have separate financing.”

He also said Columbia Energy won’t sit on the West and East Ridge projects for long. The company expects to begin construction on one in 2012 and the other in 2013, when it also plans to launch construction on the Riddle Mountain project. All three will be about the same size as Echanis.

Crowley marveled at the area’s wind power. During a 24-hour test Jan. 10, the company clocked an average wind speed on the Steens’ north side of 41 mph.

“There is nowhere else with a resource like this in Oregon,” he said.

Cattle rancher Hoyt Wilson, meanwhile, has mixed feelings about his decision to lease land to Columbia Energy for the Echanis project.

“It’s not something I’m looking forward to,” said Wilson, 67, as he stood in a chilly breeze last week outside the shop and office for his 28,000-acre Mann Lake Ranch.

He remembers when cattle ranching was lucrative. “It used to be a lot of fun to ranch,” he said. “All you had to worry about was Mother Nature.”

But environmental lawsuits have forced the BLM to cut back on the number of cattle and amount of time they can graze on federal lands, pinching him and other ranchers, he said.

“It does you no good if you can run 1,000 cows on your own land for nine months, but you can only run 500 on BLM land for three months,” Wilson said. In other words, what happens to the other 500 cattle? Cows need so much room to graze, that even ranchers with significant land holdings rely on leasing federal lands for part of the year.

Wilson also worried that, after he and his wife die, his son and two daughters wouldn’t be able to afford the taxes on a property worth $4 million but generating no more than $60,000 a year in revenue.

The Columbia Energy deal will enable the family to keep the ranch intact and in the family. In exchange for a 20-year lease, he’ll receive a percentage of the gross sales from the wind farm’s output — about $5,000 to $7,000 a year per turbine.

“Windmills came along,” he said, “and, yeah, that is the way to make a buck.”

The economy comes into play for housing development as well. Under Measure 37, passed by voters in 2004 (and later scaled back by Measure 49), landowners could seek to develop their land under the rules in place at the time of purchase, or be compensated by county government for their economic loss.

But in Harney County, compensation is all but out of the question.

In 2007, for example, landowner Dan Jordan of Burns won the right under Measure 37 to build 640 homes below Fish Lake, a popular recreation site on Steens Mountain’s west side, after the county concluded it could hardly afford to pay him $6.4 million. Grasty said those plans were later scaled way back, and so far, Jordan hasn’t built anything.

Still, those who love the Steens’ open vistas and assume that the mountain is protected as wilderness might be surprised to learn how much of it rests in private hands.

The BLM manages 428,000 acres, including the 170,000-acre Steens Mountain Wilderness Area, and the state administers 1,000 acres. But an additional 67,000 acres on and around the mountain are privately owned, and most of that is at low elevation suitable for homes.

The county’s land-use plan allows ranch or farm dwellings on tracts of at least 160 acres, said Grasty, the county chairman. Owners are expected to maintain some farming or ranching operations, but a local real estate broker, Randy Wilson, said keeping horses or a cow or two is enough.

Wilson, a broker with United Country-Clemens Real Estate in Hines and no relation to Hoyt Wilson, said he’s seeing interest among urbanites eager to escape to Harney County.

“Every week, I get people looking for property,” he said. “A lot of hunters, a lot of people looking to retire.” If they can get access to electricity and county approval to build on or near the mountain, he said, “people are going to jump all over it.”

John Witzel, an outfitter and former rancher who lives in Frenchglen just west of Steens Mountain, said he’s seen a marked shift in attitudes toward development.

Witzel, 51, and his wife, Cindy, were denied permission in 1997 to build 15 guest cabins and a 25-room lodge on the mountain’s west side. After they won Harney County approval to build a “career school” instead, the state Land Use Board of Appeals in 2001 overturned the decision.

“We couldn’t do that because of the viewshed,” Witzel said. “Things have changed, obviously.”

For hard-pressed ranchers, wind turbines are “a way to carry on and keep going,” he said. “I don’t think any of them want to look at windmills, but that’s the way it is.”

Richard Cockle – The Oregonianhttp://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/oregons_steens_mountain_could.html

 

OR Legislators rewrite state renewable energy tax break

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:24 pm
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A legislative panel has agreed to rewrite a tax break that has spurred alternative energy projects — but also has threatened to put a big hole in the state budget.

A compromise bill that sets limits on business energy tax credits, particularly for large wind projects, drew approval from all 10 members of the House Revenue Committee at 8 p.m. Friday. It heads for a House vote this week.

“I am brain-dead, and I am terrified there is something awful in here we have missed,” said Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, who sits on the committee.

“That being said, we will have a chance to correct anything we missed as it moves through the process. I would caution that I do not want to see major shifts in the policy ideas we have articulated here, because that will cause me unending heartburn. … This is the perfect thing to do tonight.”

The bill helps plug what has threatened to be an additional loss of $100 million to state tax coffers.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he was satisfied with what lawmakers did to limit the credits, which are subtracted directly from income taxes owed by businesses. He had vetoed a 2009 attempt to set limits.

“Every tax credit has a shelf life and should be routinely reviewed to ensure it is still necessary to achieve its primary objective,” he said in a statement after Friday’s vote.

The issue stems from lawmakers’ 2007 expansion of the business energy tax credit, which was created in 1979, from 35 percent to 50 percent of a project’s cost with a cap of $10 million per project.

To help balance the current budget and limit projected tax losses to about $120 million, lawmakers last year proposed some restrictions, including a cap of $3.5 million on larger projects.

Kulongoski vetoed the bill, and the tax loss was estimated at $143.8 million.

Lawmakers were told by their tax analysts Wednesday that under current law, overall credits would cost the state an estimated $235 million in this budget cycle — nearly $100 million more than Kulongoski’s figure, and nearly twice the amount lawmakers planned.

For wind-related projects, the Oregon Department of Energy last month listed 34 applications for tax credits since the 2007 expansion. At Kulongoski’s direction, the agency took steps to restrict the credits.

To Associated Press news executives in Oregon, including Statesman Journal editors, Kulongoski defended his veto last week as a way to encourage alternative-energy projects. But he also accepted some of the responsibility for the ballooning credits, as reported in news accounts last year.

“I still think it was the right decision,” he said. “But I should have been more careful.”

House Bill 3680, which blends provisions of the vetoed bill and recommendations from the Energy Department, would reduce those tax losses by $55 million in the current budget and $98 million in 2011-13.

In addition to limiting tax credits on wind projects larger than 10 megawatts that receive pre-certifications this year, in 2011 and 2012, the new bill will cap overall credits for renewable-energy projects at $300 million for the current budget cycle and$150 million in 2011-12.

It also proposes to stretch out to six years, instead of the current five years, tax credits for large renewable-energy projects exceeding$10 million.

“What happened with this credit gives us a cautionary tale that even good ideas need to be managed appropriately,” said Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis.

One of the concerns addressed in the new bill was the breaking up of large projects into several small projects for businesses to get additional credits. That practice will be curtailed by the bill.

Advocates for renewable energy had urged lawmakers not to be too restrictive.

“Oregon should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” wrote Matt Blevins, a vice president of M&R Strategic Services, working with Renewable Northwest Project, and a former lobbyist for the Oregon Environmental Council.

“It must uphold its commitment to projects that have received preliminary incentive certifications to provide certainty to the market and encourage additional investment in the state.”

Blevins’ comments were in a column posted on the BlueOregon Web site.

Other portions of the new bill extend the tax-credit program in the renewable-energy manufacturing sector, which has created an estimated 1,800 direct jobs since 2006 and thousands more indirect jobs. Those numbers are expected to double in the next two years.

Jon Bartholomew, a policy advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, urged more transparency for the applications for such tax credits.

“The public trust in our government and programs like the business energy tax credit is predicated on being able to see what is going on,” he said.

Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, said the bill achieves a balance.

“We are protecting job creation in this state and a clean-energy future for Oregon,” he said. “At the same time we are adding accountability, using taxpayers dollars wisely, and having the program meet standards that the people of Oregon expect from their state government.”

Peter Wong, Statesman Journal - http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100207/LEGISLATURE/2070348/1042/STATE

 

Gresham celebrates solar facility opening February 4, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Solar,Utility Companies — nwrenewablenews @ 5:02 pm

Gresham is celebrating its new claim to fame: Being home to the largest ground-mounted solar facility in the Pacific Northwest.

A grand opening of sorts is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, 20015 N.E. Sandy Blvd.

REC Solar Inc. installed the solar panels at no cost to local ratepayers. The panels cover an entire acre on the wastewater treatment plant’s southeast corner, which faces busy Sandy Boulevard.

The array is considered a benchmark project because while other municipal buildings have installed solar array projects, none are as large as Gresham’s, said Laura Bridges-Shepard, the city’s spokeswoman.

Seventy percent of the power used by Gresham’s wastewater facility is already considered sustainable — 50 percent is produced on site by converting methane gas into energy and another 20 percent is from wind power purchased from Portland General Electric.

The solar panels are expected to generate on average 8 percent of the plant’s annual electricity usage.

Gresham has entered into a 20-year power purchasing agreement with solar electricity company SunEdison, which owns, operates and maintains the solar array, valued at approximately $2 million. In return, the city is buying the power it generates.

Over the purchasing agreement’s 20 years, the cost savings to the city is estimated at $102,500.

Mara Stein, The Outlook - http://www.theoutlookonline.com/news/story.php?story_id=126516578157773100

 

Kulongoski, Oregon lawmakers seek to scale back energy tax credits

Big wind energy projects no longer need state incentives, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said today, as lawmakers explored a plan to rein in the soaring costs of Oregon’s tax breaks for green energy.

At a meeting with newspaper editors from across the state, Kulongoski said the $11 million in state tax credits routinely given to 10 megawatt-plus wind farms has “run its course.”

“Do they need the state to subsidize them? No,” Kulongoski said.

His comments came shortly after state officials released a revised price tag of the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit, which has grown at a brisk pace: $235 million for the current two-year budget cycle, growing to an estimated $374 million for 2011-13.

Those numbers are far higher than estimates from a year ago and have prompted a top-to-bottom review of the incentives. Legislators say the subsidies sap money from public schools and other state services.

At Kulongoski’s request, lawmakers in 2007 expanded the incentives to try to entice wind, solar and other green energy projects to set up shop in Oregon. Since then, the cost of the incentives has grown by 50 percent per year — faster than any other program in state government. Investigations by The Oregonian found that state officials intentionally downplayed cost estimates and that millions of dollars have been wasted on projects that went bankrupt or never performed as promised.

Jamie Francis/The Oregonian Turbines dominate the view at a Sherman County wind farm.Now lawmakers want to trim the program, and Kulongoski appears ready to dial it back as well.

“Any dollar spent on tax credits, whether it’s BETC or something else, is money that does not come into the general fund,” said Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, chairman of the House Revenue Committee.

Barnhart’s committee held a hearing on HB 3680, which proposes changes to the tax credits, including reducing incentives for wind projects and setting a limit on projects that would receive state assistance.

Under the current proposal, incentives for wind projects of more than 10 megawatts would be limited to $3.5 million; incentives for smaller wind projects would be limited to $2.5 million. A cap of $300 million would be placed on projects certified for tax credits in 2009-11, with $280 million already used.

If approved, the measures would save the state an estimated $53 million in the current budget and $97 million in the next two-year budget, according to Oregon Department of Energy director Mark Long.

“For the most part, the program has been very successful,” Long said. The financial limits, along with a host of changes designed to tighten the application and approval process, will help control costs of the incentives in coming years, he said.

The hearing was attended by an overflow crowd, mostly of renewable-energy developers and advocates. Many who testified credited the incentives with bringing new industry and jobs to Oregon, as well as increasing the amount of renewable energy produced in the state.

“Our fundamental message is, you don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Chris Taylor, chief development officer for Element Power, which works on solar and wind projects. Taylor said his company, headquartered in Portland, has hired 26 people since it opened last year.

Critics of the tax credits said the limits proposed Wednesday don’t go far enough. Jody Wiser, head of Oregon Tax Fairness, noted that with all the various incentives and tax breaks out there, people pay nothing — and sometimes get a windfall — when they install solar energy systems.

“Basically, we’re giving away solar panels,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense. They should have some skin in the game.”

Harry Esteve, The Oregonian - http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/02/kulongoski_lawmakers_agree_to.html

 

Conservation groups want Oregon to close wind energy permitting ‘loophole’ February 2, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:44 pm
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A coalition of environmental groups is asking Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Department of Energy to close what they say is a loophole in Oregon’s renewable energy siting regulations that allows wind projects to avoid strict review.

Under state rules, if a proposed project is under 105 megawatts in size it goes through the local county to secure its land use permit. Larger projects must pass review by the Oregon Energy Facilities Siting Council.

Environmental groups complain that some wind developers try to game the system by splitting large projects into several smaller and adjacent projects, each under 105 megawatts, to avoid state scrutiny. (One megawatt of installed wind capacity is enough to power about 250 to 300 homes.)

“I don’t think it’s a widespread abuse, but it is an abuse,” said Liz Nysson, Climate Change Coordinator for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, one of the groups, along with the Audubon Society of Portland and Defenders of Wildlife, that today filed a petition (PDF) with the state to review the rules.

“We support responsible renewable energy development in Oregon. But it’s imperative that industrial-scale facilities not be allowed to skirt the comprehensive, public review process that the council was created to achieve,” Nysson said.

The groups say the rules at the county level, where local officials are eager to draw the jobs and revenue wind projects can bring, can be more relaxed, putting wildlife and other resources as risk.

For instance, the state recommends against building a wind turbine within three miles of a breeding site for sage grouse, a bird that could soon be added to the list of endangered species.

At the county level, our recommendations are just that,” Christian Hagen, a grouse specialist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Oregonian last year.

The state, counties and wind industry have said they are working to create standardized review rules for renewable energy projects, mainly wind. And they argue the county land use process allows the public ample opportunity to review proposed projects.

“I find it surprising that these environmental groups are unwilling to work with rural counties,” said Harney County Judge Steve Grasty. ” We’d love to have a sit down with them on this.”

Grasty said the groups are aware that county planners across the state recently completed a year-long effort to craft suggested guidelines for local review of energy projects.

“If anything, I think the counties are more strict,” he said.

Matthew Preusch, The Oregonianhttp://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/conservation_groups_want_orego.html

 

 
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