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Tidal turbines off Marrowstone proceed toward permits November 9, 2009

25563aPlans are moving ahead to place a trio of underwater, tide-powered turbines on the sea floor one-third of a mile east of Marrowstone Island’s Nodule Point.

A briefing held Oct. 22 in Port Townsend for federal, state and local regulators revealed details of the pilot project, which is being managed by the U.S. Navy based on a direct multi-million-dollar appropriation inserted by a group of congressmen into the 2009 defense budget.

The trio of turbines, each resembling squat versions of Eastern Washington’s wind generators, would rise 36 feet up from the sea floor in 72 feet of water at a zero tide. The 4-ton turbines would be bolted to the three corners of a massive steel triangular platform that weighs some 40 tons.

Thanks to swift and consistent tidal ebbs and flows off east Marrowstone, the three uncovered blades on each unit would sweep through the seawater with a 16.4-foot diameter cycle at about 40 revolutions per minute – the tips moving 34 feet per second.

All three units are designed to swing 180 degrees when the tide shifts. The tidal current off Marrowstone is sufficient to power the turbines only for about six hours per day, according to reports.

Temporary project

The installation is designed to be a temporary pilot project to test the ability of the turbines to operate in a remote saltwater environment. The plan calls for the entire platform to be lifted from the sea floor within a year of installation. If permits and funding come through, the installation could happen over a three-week period in the early fall of 2011 or 2012.

Boaters would be warned away from the array by floating and lighted buoys that mark off a 1,300-foot by 1,300-foot surface area. Proponents say that in an existing experimental display of the underwater turbines in the East River off Manhattan in New York, fish tend to steer clear of the rotating turbines. However, an official said at the Oct. 22 briefing that it might be possible to brake the blades to a halt if marine mammals are detected in the area.

Power from the turbines would flow through a trio of cables to a junction box on the platform, and from there to a second junction box on the ocean floor about 140 feet beyond. From there, the steel-jacketed, 2-inch-diameter trunk cable would reach shore through a unique horizontal borehole that bypasses tidal zones and coastal zone disturbances.

The project, called the Navy Puget Sound Hydrokinetic Project (NPS-KHPS), is being managed by the Navy, thanks to the congressional appropriation that has already approved $2.4 million for what could be a $14 million total over five years, according to the Navy’s Mike McCallister, who led the briefing on Oct. 22. The Navy intends to bring the power ashore to Naval Magazine Indian Island.

Horizontal drilling
The power cable could come to Indian Island after coming ashore at an east Marrowstone park, and then be carried by overhead wires to the naval base with the cooperation of Puget Sound Energy. Or the cable could snake underwater for some four miles around the southern end of Marrowstone to the southern end of Indian Island near Oak Bay Park and come ashore directly. While discussion has taken place about the PSE option, no decisions have been made.

A unique technology called “horizontal directional drilling” is expected to minimize environmental impacts of bringing the power cable ashore. A borehole is drilled from the land that bends downward and then moves horizontally below the beach until it punches through into saltwater 60 to 90 feet below the intertidal zone. A flexible PVC pipe is placed in the borehole, and later the power cable is pulled through the pipe.

An on-shore vault is the landward anchor for the cable. When the power gets to Indian Island, a small monitoring station tracks the power, monitors the underwater location and controls the turbines.

The NPS-KHPS tidal generator proposal is a pilot project to demonstrate the underwater tidal technology in a remote saltwater environment. It is still in the preapplication phase under the National Environmental Protection Act, with the Navy as the lead agency.

Stacie Hoskins of the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, who attended the Oct. 22 briefing, said the county has no direct oversight over the project, as no county permits are needed. However the state Department of Ecology (DOE) is involved and is charged with ensuring that the project complies with county shorelines laws before issuing state permits.

Rebekah Padgett, federal permit manager with DOE, said her review would take county code into account. Other state and federal officials are looking at possible impacts on marine life, she said. Other key agencies are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

By Scott Wilson,The Leader –


‘Not in my backyard’ attitude ruins wind power prospects

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:32 pm
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If nine out of 10 Americans support wind development, why does it take over a million dollars and seven to 10 years just to assess the feasibility of a wind project?

Wind developers everywhere, from Nantucket, Mass. to our very own Walla Walla, Wash., are discovering that while the vast majority of Americans support the idea of wind development, there is no end to the litany of problems they come up with to stop wind projects proposed in their neighborhoods.

Currently wind energy is only 3% of the total electrical generation in the US. The Department of Energy predicts that we could reach 20% by 2030. If we’re ever going to reach that number, Americans need to start seeing wind turbines for what they are: signs of a cleaner and more equitable future. Now who wouldn’t want that in his or her backyard?

Right now, a lot of people. Environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr.’s opposition to the Cape Wind project near his family’s vacation home in Nantucket because it would “damage the view” is regarded by many as a classic case of NIMBYism.

This “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome is equally applicable to ranchers in Walla Walla who oppose the proposed wind project on Lincton mountain.

Although the project is still in the hypothetical phase, if sufficient wind is found, the Lincton mountain project could put up to 133 turbines on Lincton Mountain in the Blue Mountains, a location in Umatilla county a quick drive away from Whitman’s campus. Gaelectric Northwest, the company that is proposing the project, estimates that the project would could up to 50,000 homes.

According to Dr. Charles Shawley, Gaelectric’s  research and development expert, most of the ranchers in the area support the project. The majority of opponents live within city limits of Milton-Freewater or Walla Walla and do not own land that would be used for the project.

Whitman biology professor and rancher Delbert Hutchison, a landowner near a protected salmon stream below Lincton mountain, is one of the most surprising opponents to the proposed project. The main problem Professor Hutchison has with the project is that Gaelectric is an Irish-based company and will be likely selling the power to California. As  he put it “the primary benefits (money and energy) are going outside the area while the risks (e.g. damage to streams, etc) will stay here.”

According to Dr. Charles Shawley, Gaelectric’s  research and development expert, most of the major wind developers in the U.S. are foreign.

Although America has been called the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” due to our country’s incredible wind potential, a series of policies have led to great stagnation in the renewable energy sector.

In 1990, the U.S. had 75 percent of  wind power capacity worldwide. By 2003, the U.S. world share was reduced to 16 percent, as markets in Germany, Spain, Denmark, and even India surged due to active support by governments.

This dramatic reduction in the U.S. share comes from the combination of a repeal of government incentives for renewable energy with a plunge in gas prices, a $130 million decline in federal research spending on wind development and aging transmission lines. This deadly mix led to the bankruptcy of most of the American companies.

American wind energy is finally starting to get on its feet again, largely due to concern over climate change. As this industry re-emerges, we’re going to need as much public support as we can muster to catch up with the rest of the world.

Professor Hutchison and other opponents have also expressed concern over the ecological impacts of wind turbines, especially on the recently restored salmon streams.

While Hutchison agrees that his stance against the wind turbines is a classic NIMBY case, as a conservation biologist, he  knows the importance of reducing the impacts of climate change for ecosystem preservation. He finds it annoying that instead of addressing consumption, our society is simply moving towards finding ways to increase our energy outputs. As he wrote in an email “Here we are asking to put turbines in a pristine area that truly might impact streams and wildlife.  Is it worth it?”

Shawley assures that Gaelectric would complete a two-year ecosystem study before building the project, and then conduct ongoing environmental impact assessments once the project is built.

The economic facts are on wind energy’s side. Gaelectric developer Shawley said that although Gaelectric is an Irish company, all of the labor is sourced from the U.S., including the 20 jobs that the Lincton mountain project would create locally. Another major economic boon to the area is the annual payment landowners would receive for letting Gaelectric put turbines on their land. Umatilla county is one of the poorest counties in Oregon and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Although there are some legitimate concerns with the project,  staunch opponents need to think hard about the implications of opposing more renewable energy.  The alternative to meeting our growing energy demand—more coal and nuclear plants—will have to be sited in someone’s backyard too. Statistically, these mercury and radiation producing energy sources are far more likely to be placed in low-income communities where the locals’  protests are simply ignored.

By Lisa Curtis, The Pioneer –


Radar Ridge wind farm plan an uphill battle

A proposal to build the first wind farm in Western Washington may stall, and may even be doomed, because of concern turbine blades would kill members of an endangered bird species, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

“I’m just not feeling real confident that this is going to grab hold and move forward very fast,” said Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview. “There are key players who aren’t very supportive, and I think it’s going to hold this up. Is it going to kill it? I don’t know.”

Public-power developer Energy Northwest and four utility districts in Pacific, Grays Harbor, Clallam and Mason counties propose installing as many as 32 wind turbines on Radar Ridge in Pacific County. The wind farm would generate enough electricity for 18,000 homes and help the utilities meet a voter-approved mandate to invest in renewable energy. The towers, however, would be in the flight path of the federally protected marbled murrelet.

Consultants hired by Energy Northwest concluded recently that in a worst-case scenario a marbled murrelet would collide with a rotor about once every 18 months. Deaths could be further reduced by shutting down the towers during the breeding season, according to the report, which prompted the utilities to declare that their project would cause minor or insignificant harm to the species.

Another study commissioned by the state Department of Natural Resources made no attempt to pinpoint how many birds would be killed, but warned that some 87 marbled murrelets a year would fly through the wind farm and that the likelihood for deaths was high.

Spokesmen for the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the Endangered Species Act, said Wednesday their agencies will hire outside experts to review Energy Northwest’s study.

In the meantime, the utilities will host a series of public meetings this month on the project. The utilities say they want to collect comments and get ready to apply for a federal permit that would allow them to operate a wind farm that might occasionally kill a marbled murrelet.

The utilities also will need permission from the DNR, which owns Radar Ridge and would collect potentially lucrative lease payments from the utilities.

Takko and the area’s other two state legislators back the wind farm, but Takko said federal and state regulators are cool to the project and that the PUDs may have to “pull the plug” rather than continuing to spend money on what could be a dead-end. “I don’t think it’s time quite yet, but we’re getting close,” he said.

Grays Harbor PUD, the largest utility involved in the project, has no plans to pull out, utility spokeswoman Liz Anderson said. “We’re proceeding forward and hope to complete the project,” she said.

Although state and federal agencies haven’t rejected the project, they’ve warned the utilities that pursuing the wind farm won’t be quick, easy or cheap.

“We’ve never said Radar Ridge can’t be permitted. What we’ve said is, it’s going to be a real challenge,” Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Doug Zimmer said.

State Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said the PUDs should press ahead. “I think it’s worth it until they get some ‘hell, no,’ at some point,” he said.

Hatfield said the agencies would “look ridiculous” to the public if they stopped the project.

“I’m still pretty confident they’ll be able to move forward,” Hatfield said. “I have to be confident because I think commonsense will win out.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, has met with utility and government officials about the proposal, but he has neither endorsed nor opposed the project.

Baird said he would like to see the wind farm built, but not if it turns out to be “the world’s largest marbled murrelet blender.”

“From a wind-energy standpoint, the site has a lot of appeal,” Baird said Wednesday. “The challenge is that there is really a substantial difference in opinions about the potential risk to marbled murrelets.”

Hatfield criticized the DNR for deciding recently not to consider leasing state land for a wind farm in Skamania County because the project might harm spotted owls. The senator said the decision suggested the department will resist a wind farm on Radar Ridge. “I’m very disappointed with the new lands commissioner (Peter Goldmark) so far,” Hatfield said.

Goldmark “is committed to renewable energy, but the challenge is the Endangered Species Act,” DNR spokesman Aaron Toso said. “We need to be pragmatic about it, and it comes down to making sure we do no harm.”

The public meetings hosted by the utilities on the project will be Nov. 10 at Grays Harbor PUD in Hoquiam, Nov. 17 at Naselle High School, and Nov. 18 at Raymond High School. All of the meetings will be from 6 to 9 p.m.

By Don Jenkins, Daily News –


NW energy efficiency better in 2008, council says October 31, 2009

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Idaho,Montana,Oregon,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 5:46 pm

Improved energy efficiency reduced power demand by an amount equal to about 148,000 homes across the Northwest last year.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council said regional energy savings in 2008 were the best for any year since recordkeeping began 30 years ago.

The Portland-based council said that 2008 efficiency improvements conserved a total of 234 average megawatts of electricity – or the output of an average-size natural gas-fired power plant.

Nearly two-thirds of the energy savings was in homes, mostly from switching to compact fluorescent lights. Commercial buildings had the second-largest efficiency gains.

The council is an agency of the states of Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington created by Congress with the Northwest Power Act of 1980.

Associated Press –


Walla Walla colleges energize community solar project

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Solar,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 4:16 pm
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If representatives from each of Walla Walla’s three colleges have their way, the region will soon be transformed by an energy revolution. This, at least, is the hope of Walla Walla University physics professor Fred Liebrand. Liebrand is working on a community solar project which will unite Whitman, WWU and Walla Walla Community College in a venture to generate renewable energy.

“It just seemed like a very good idea that could help everyone,” said Liebrand. His idea is to solicit investments from community members and alumni of all three schools, which would be used to purchase a solar energy system.

“The idea is to allow people from the community in—people who couldn’t afford to put solar panels on their own homes,” said junior Nat Clarke, president of Whitman’s Campus Greens. Clarke is enthusiastic about the project and says Whitman only found out about it this fall.

“The school’s current involvement is cautiously interested but not actually engaged,” he said.

Clarke, along with Professor of Geology Bob Carson and the Whitman Conservation Committee, is in the process of determining how Whitman can become involved in the project.

Liebrand says that for both WWU and WWCC, the project would provide technical training for students who are studying engineering and other related fields. The goal of the project would be for students to do the actual system installation themselves.

“Whitman may rely more on the goodwill of its students,” he said, referring to the fact that Whitman has no technical programs. Nevertheless, he feels that installing a solar system would be a valuable experience for Whitman students.

“Knowing how things are put together is always valuable,” he said.

In addition to the logistical details, a major aspect of the project has been determining its financial viability. Installing a functional solar energy system is expensive, costing about $5,000 per kilowatt. One kilowatt will generate about $85 worth of energy in a year, so government incentives are key for the project to work.

Currently, the federal government will subsidize the installation of solar systems by giving a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of the entire system once it is installed. Washington also has a program in place to pay per kilowatt hour of energy generated. Community solar projects are eligible for double the rate residential projects can receive, and if the project uses solar panels made in Washington, the total incentive is up to $1.08 per kilowatt hour.

Though these incentives might seem high, Carson points out that it makes sense for the government to invest in solar energy.

“New power facilities are expensive, and we’re also getting clean air,” he said.

Carson said he’s communicating with the other colleges involved in the project to determine how they can move forward. The cooperation of local governments and utilities will be important, as will the participation of all three schools.

Whitman junior Ari Frink also sees an opportunity for the Network for Young Walla Walla to get involved in the project. The network was founded this year so that WWU, WWCC and Whitman students can work together on projects and share ideas.

“Once we find out what a solid role for the network could be within the solar project, I’ll bring it up,” he said.

Currently, the project’s future is still being determined. In spite of the logistical obstacles, Clarke believes the project can succeed.

“I’m really excited about this project,” he said. “If it gets through, it’s going to be the next big green thing on campus.”

By Rachel Alexander -


Mid-Columbia could be smart energy center

Filed under: Manufacturing,Renewable/Green Energy,Smart Grid,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 2:04 pm
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The Mid-Columbia’s future could be as a smart energy center, says the first public look at plans being developed by a coalition of area business leaders led by the Tri-City Development Council.

One opportunity to do that may be by launching a carbon-friendly project to reduce the 45,000 gallons of diesel that the Hanford vitrification plant could require per day when it begins treating radioactive waste, said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC vice president of Hanford programs.

He and Keith Klein, president of the Local Business Association, spoke about the new Smart Energy Initiative at the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.

Community leaders have long been concerned that the region’s economy relies on the Hanford nuclear reservation’s environmental cleanup. Now about 11,500 people are employed there. But as soon as 2015, when areas of the reservation are cleaned up, employment could start a long decline.

“In the meantime, we have an opportunity to rebrand ourselves,” Klein said.

A vision for the region’s future began to develop after DOE began discussing the idea of focusing more cleanup money on reducing the contaminated footprint of nuclear weapons sites across the nation.

Newly available land then could be turned into industrial parks to research and produce clean energy.

At Hanford, about 60 square miles of land would be available for an energy park, primarily in the southeast corner. Land likely would be leased rather than sold.

Since January, a coalition of local leaders in energy businesses, economic development, job training and education have been meeting to brainstorm strategies to develop the Mid-Columbia’s potential as a clean energy center.

The TRIDEC group is looking at three potential projects with different energy sources for the vitrification plant, Petersen said. While the group is not ready to discuss specifics, two projects would be carbon-neutral and the third would produce a smaller carbon footprint than the diesel fuel now planned to be used at the plant.

Under the current plan, the vitrification plant would use a combination of diesel fuel, which could peak at 45,000 gallons per day on cold winter days, and 70 megawatts of electrical power.

As the Smart Energy Initiative moves forward, TRIDEC will need to know what land and facilities DOE would be willing to make available for private use, Petersen said.

Among TRIDEC’s interests is pitching the 250,000-square-foot Fuels and Materials Examination Facility at Hanford for recycling nuclear fuel that has been used once at commercial power production plants.

TRIDEC and the coalition of business leaders also need some seed money and would like a better way to cut across all the DOE offices for the support they need. For instance, land managed by the DOE Office of Environmental Management is proposed for an energy park at Hanford, but the office can only spend money on Hanford cleanup.

But it’s not just the Hanford resources that would contribute toward making the Mid-Columbia a clean energy center. It already has an impressive energy infrastructure, Petersen said.

About 40 percent of Washington’s total power and 100 percent of its wind power is produced within 100 miles of the Tri-Cities, Petersen said. Power generation within 100 miles comes from wind, hydroelectricity, coal, natural gas and a nuclear plant, with biomass power being developed.

It also has the science and technology backbone needed to become a smart energy center, with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University-Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts Science and Engineering Laboratory and the Tri-Cities Research District.

The area has multiple energy companies ranging from Areva, which produces the nuclear fuel for 5 percent of the nation’s power supply, to companies focused on wind and solar energy.

By Annette Cary –


Teanaway Solar Farm plan draws heated opposition October 29, 2009

Call it a baptism of fire for David Bowen, a former Kittitas County commissioner and former county auditor now working for Puget Sound Energy, who was announced Wednesday as the president of the American Forest Land Co. (AFLC).

AFLC’s Wayne Schwandt, a principal in the company, announced Bowen’s hiring before a crowd of more than 100 people who were attending a meeting at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange on the Teanaway subarea plan. A subarea plan focuses developing a long-term plan that protects and promotes important characteristics of the study area and identifies future uses for most of the area.

Schwandt said Bowen would be the company’s spokesperson and a resource for those with questions or concerns. (Bowen can be reached at (509) 899-4950 with questions on the AFLC plan.)

By the time the three-hour meeting was over, Bowen had been scolded publicly by two audience members for taking a job with the company and his wife had risen to his defense after one particularly harsh attack.

There had been talk of lawsuits, accusations that three-ring binders related to a previous effort by the company to change the land use zoning had gone missing — and threats by an audience member that she would go to federal authorities regarding information on problems in the county.

It all added up to high drama, enough so that 83-year-old Violet Burke, who has lived in the Teanaway for 70 years, was fed up by the time the meeting ended.

“I hate seeing people degrade other people,” Burke said. “I don’t like seeing people get up and run other people down. It’s very upsetting.”

AFLC owns 46,851 of the 56,000 acres that are tentatively included in the subarea and is seeking to develop part of that. Bowen will assume his new position on Nov. 9 and become the company’s primary spokesman for the project.

The company’s move to alter the use of its land has been controversial, drawing increasingly vocal criticism from both local property owners, recreational users and conservation groups.

On Wednesday night, with Bowen seated a short distance behind him, Schwandt outlined the company’s vision for its Teanaway property.

He said the company has 39,744 acres in commercial forest land, 6,182 acres designated “forest and range 20 (acres)” and 932 acres designated “rural 3” (three-acre lots).

He told the audience the company wants to develop a “fully contained community” on some of the 6,688 acres in the “core area” of its holdings. That area currently includes commercial forest land, designated forest and range land and land designated rural 3.

He said the company hopes to do a “land exchange” in which designations on some areas would be exchanged to accommodate the development in the core area. The changes would not result in any loss of commercial forest acreage, he said, adding that at least 50 percent — at least 20,000 acres and possibly more — of the company’s commercial forest holdings would be given conservation status to provide perpetual protection for public use.

A “fully contained community,” he said, would be one which included places where people lived, worked, recreated and shopped. The term “fully contained community” does not mean a gated community, Schwandt has said. The proposed village would include affordable, moderate and high-end housing with single, multi-family and mixed-use units that would be home to a diverse population, he said. He said the proposed location within the AFLC holdings mean the village would not be visible to most residents of the area. It also would “be sensitive to the viewshed of the Stuarts” that current residents enjoy.

In past meetings, some critics have questioned the impact of any development on Teanaway Road. “We believe there’s a need for a second access,” Schwandt said. He said the company believes it has “several options” for that access. He also said a fully contained community would have residential, commercial and retail space and its own water system, sanitary waste treatment system and police, fire and emergency services. Initially, he said, those last three might be provided under contract with existing agencies until the community is able to sustain its own operations. He said the company would be looking for ways to contain water run off in the spring melt for use during low-water periods at other times of the year. Although he did not specify it during Wednesday’s meeting, he said earlier that day that the company owns water rights to 597 acre feet of water.

He said the company envisioned 250 acres to be used during “phase one” of the project. But he did not say how many housing units he expected to be built. He said the company is “absolutely committed to green energy.”

The vision Schwandt painted of the area’s possible future drew quick criticism.

“I find it implausible you’ve come this far in the development process and don’t have any idea (how many people will live there),” one man said.

Karl Forsgaard, an attorney with the Washington Forest Law Center, represents a host of conservation groups including the Sierra Club, Ridge, the North Cascades Conservancy, Kittitas County Conservation Coalition and the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, among others. He reiterated the growing opposition of conservation groups to development in the area and, as he did at a previous meeting, disputed company claims that the timber industry in this area is essentially dead forcing the company to seek other uses for the land.

Jim Halstrom, an Ellensburg area resident, said he and his wife were “more than a little incensed” by what had heard. He said Schwandt had offered very little substance.

“If approved, this development will justifiably be challenged in court,” said Halstrom, who works as a lobbyist. “I’ve never seen so much rhetoric and so many buzz words used to justify encroaching on natural resource land.” He accused AFLC of wanting to “exchange” land that had been decimated by inappropriate harvesting.

Kellie Connor, a Teanaway resident, also criticized the plan — and Bowen’s involvement.

“What golden carrot did they dangle in front of you to get you to cross to the dark side?” she said to Bowen, adding that she was “ashamed the county has let it go this far.”

But her words were nothing compared to Ellensburg’s Catherine Clerf who called it “totally unacceptable to stick a town in the middle of forest land of long-term significance.” Although Schwandt earlier had said that it had been only a year or a year and a half that the company had considered development, Clerf remained unconvinced. She said the company had most recently tried to get the land “de-designated” in 2006 and suggested the company had been planning development for some time.

AFLC has leased more than 900 acres of its Teanaway land to Teanaway Solar Reserve, LLC, a company that proposes to build a solar reserve on that land and Schwandt frequently references “green” energy. Some, including Clerf, believe it’s all part of a ruse. She called it AFLC’s “’get out of jail green’ card.”

At one point, she said she was fed up with Kittitas County. She threatened to “go to the feds” with “dirt” she said she has on the county.

She pointedly accused Bowen of selling out.

“I am outraged,” she told him saying she was guessing he was getting a quarter of million dollars to leave his job with Puget Sound Energy and become AFLC’s go-to man for the project.

Clerf spoke so long that Anna Nelson, the county’s lead planner on the subarea planning process told her she needed to conclude her remarks. Several audience members left during her comments.

Clerf’s remarks prompted Lisa Bowen, David Bowen’s wife, to step to the microphone.

In a calm but forceful tone, she told Clerf that her husband’s decision to take the job with AFLC was not based on finances but on his conviction that it was an opportunity to help the county move forward in the right way.

She urged Clerf and the rest of the audience to “keep an open mind and give it some time.”

But it is clear many feel there is no time for waiting.

Among them: Meg Myrhe, who stood up, held up a sheet of paper and invited others who share concerns about the proposed development to join her in fighting it.

“Let’s do it you guys — Team Teanaway,” she said. “Suncadia — shame on them. Teanaway? Shame on us!”

Clearly disappointed in the tone the meeting had taken, Burke paused on her way out. She said she is determined to do what Lisa Bowen had suggested: give it some time and keep an open mind.

“It’s food for thought,” she said. “I wrote it all down and I’m going to go home and talk it over with my son.”

By MARY SWIFT, Daily Record


Public comment periods wind down on wind farm

The public comment process is moving forward on several fronts toward determining whether the 1,432-megawatt Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project will be approved for Columbia and Garfield counties.

Puget Sound Energy Inc. proposes to independently build, own and operate the project, which includes approximately 795 turbine locations in an area of approximately 124,000 acres in Garfield and Columbia counties.

If permits are approved, construction on infrastructure in Garfield County is projected to begin in 2010, with towers installed in 2011.

A separate conditional use permit application is expected to be filed in Columbia County before the end of the year, with turbines expected to be installed in 2012, according to Anne Walsh, senior environmental/communications manager at PSE’s Dayton office.

The conditional use permit is the land use permit, and there are other permits to be obtained before construction can begin, Walsh said.

An open record public record hearing on the conditional use application will begin Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m. in the main building at the Garfield County Fairgrounds.

Deadline for written comments on the project’s application is Friday at 5 p.m. Comments should be submitted to Garfield County Planning at the county auditor’s office, P.O. Box 278, Pomeroy, WA 99347.

Written and oral comments may also be submitted at the hearing.

The hearing examiner will also hear an appeal of the final environmental impact statement filed by Tucannon River Valley landowners Richard and Vicki Ducharme.

The appeal is based on failure to consider reasonable alternatives, deferred environmental analysis, visual impacts, noise, mule deer habitat, project impacts area larger than project specific area, turbine setback, and failure to consider cumulative impacts.

To view documents related to the environmental impact statement and the conditional use permit, go to:, and click on “Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project — CUP #012609.”

In a related matter, comments on the proposal by Bonneville Power Administration to build a new 500/230 kilovolt substation along its two existing Little Goose-Lower Granite 500-kV transmission lines will be accepted through Nov. 16.

The new facility, called Central Ferry Substation, would require approximately 25 acres of land in Garfield County, west of State Route 127 and south of the Snake River. The substation would be located adjacent to the existing transmission line rights-of-way.

The proposal is in response by a request by Puget Sound Energy Inc. to interconnect up to 1,250 megawatts of electricity generated from PSE’s proposed Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project in Garfield and Columbia counties.

Comments on the proposal may be submitted to BPA online at, via mail to Bonneville Power Administration, Public Affairs — DKE-7, P.O. Box 14428, Portland, OR 97293-4428 or by fax to 503-230-3285.

More information about BPA’s proposed interconnection of the wind project is available by calling 800-622-4519, or visiting the BPA Web site:

By CARRIE CHICKEN, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin –


Richland gets look at ‘smart grid’ plan October 28, 2009

Filed under: Smart Grid,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 7:49 pm

A $20.8 million, eight-year plan for creating a “smart grid” electrical system in Richland was laid out for the city council at a meeting Tuesday.

Energy Services Director Ray Sieler said a smart grid would allow Richland’s Energy Services department to distribute power more efficiently and reliably, and beef up the availability of broadband communications in the city.

The plan includes installation of “smart” meters at all 24,500 homes and businesses in Richland, about 60 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the city, and other hardware, software and communications infrastructure.

The smart grid would be created in phases, with the first section being completed in north Richland where companies such as Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could reap the benefits, according to the plan.

The smart grid concept is intended to transform the power grid with new technology to reduce the cost of using and delivering electricity, integrate renewable energy such as wind and solar power, give consumers more control over their energy use and improve the efficiency of the entire grid system.

The system could be used to curtail energy consumption during periods of peak use. Combined with real-time pricing, it would enable consumers to use less energy as costs go up.

The system could communicate with appliances in homes to schedule tasks such as pumping water or thawing an ice box at times of less demand on the system.

The city had hoped to receive about $10 million in stimulus money from $3.3 billion set aside for Department of Energy smart grid technology development grants, but learned Tuesday that its application didn’t make the list.

By Michelle Dupler, Tricity Herald –


Washington receives $36M for Smart Grid from Feds October 27, 2009

Filed under: Smart Grid,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 8:43 pm

The money is slatted to go to two projects. One in Spokane and the other in Everett.

Here are the details so far:

Spokane – Avista Utilities
Implement a distribution management system, intelligent end devices, and a communication network to reduce distribution system loses, enable automatic restoration to customers during outages, and allow for the integration on-site generating resources. Will also benefit customers in ID. – $20,000,000

Everett – Snohomish County Public Utilities District
Install a smart grid framework on the utlity side, including a digital telecommunications network, substation automation and a robust distribution system infrastructure, that will allow enable the implementation of future smart grid technologies. – $15,825,817


Silicon Energy of Arlington crafts a sleeker kind of solar panel October 26, 2009

Filed under: Manufacturing,Solar,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that makes a product special.

When you stand beneath a solar panel built by Arlington’s Silicon Energy, you won’t see jumbled, ugly wires or opaque padding. You’ll see blue from the silicon cells and sunlight streaming through.

“It makes a better-looking product and a safer one,” said Gary Shaver, president and chief executive of Silicon Energy.

The state’s first solar panel manufacturer, Silicon Energy’s product just entered this market this summer, when the company received certification from Underwriters Laboratory for its solar modules. The UL’s stamp of approval means that Silicon Energy’s solar panels meet product safety and compliance guidelines.

The certification process took longer than Silicon Energy’s Shaver expected. But that’s not unheard of when you’re doing something different — like hiding the panel’s electrical gear in small, protected side panels and sandwiching silicon between supersturdy glass.

Silicon Energy’s product is more expensive than some on the market. The company promotes its solar modules as “beautiful, strong and durable.”

“We’re not a cheap product,” Shaver said.

Silicon Energy prices a 1.4 kilowatt panel between $11,000 and $14,000. But government incentives are making solar panels an attractive product for consumers, businesses and utilities.

The federal government offers a tax credit to consumers for up to 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs for a solar panel system. The state has a production incentive of 15 cents to 54 cents per kilowatt hour, with power produced from Washington-made products receiving the higher amount. And the state has made it easier for Silicon Energy to do business in Washington, offering a 43 percent reduction from the standard business and occupations tax rate for solar manufacturers. Additionally, local utilities, such as Snohomish County’s PUD, provide further incentives to consumers for solar power.

Silicon Energy designed its solar panels to withstand 125 pounds per square foot, making the product durable enough to endure high winds and heavy snows. The company’s solar panels can be used for canopies, carports and awnings, as well as more traditional roof installations or wall installations. Eight panels could provide 40 percent to 50 percent of a typical home’s electricity, Shaver said.

As a small start-up company, Silicon Energy is a little slow on the production side, but it’s picking up the pace, Shaver said. Together with its parent company, OutBack Power Systems, Silicon employs about 20 people. While the company is providing some jobs on the manufacturing side, Shaver sees his company helping to create green jobs on the installation and power distribution side of the industry. And that’s what drew kudos from Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., when Silicon Energy got the OK to start selling UL-certified products this summer.

“The certification again shows us that Washington leads the way in the clean energy economy,” Inslee said.

Despite the rain, Western Washington has an excellent climate for solar power production, Shaver said. It’s a popular misconception that solar panels work best in hot, dry sites.

“Our spring, summer and fall are spectacular for generating energy,” Shaver said.

By Michelle Dunlop, Herald Writer -


Teanaway Solar Reserve Promises to be good neighbor October 24, 2009

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Solar,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , ,

The Teanaway Solar Reserve (TSR) will be both an engine for economic growth and new jobs and a good neighbor, representatives of Teanaway Solar Reserve LLC, the company that plans to build the project, told about 60 people during a question-and-answer session at Walter Strom Middle School Thursday night.

Representatives said the Teanaway Solar Reserve will inject $97.5 million dollars into Kittitas County in the purchase of local goods and services during the three-year construction period according to an economic impact study released this week.

The total development cost is expected to run between $300 million and $350 million and will translate into annual sales tax revenues of $2.6 million a year during construction. Once the project is operational, it is expected to generate between $1.5 and $1.6 million every year in property tax revenues.

The project is expected to produce 225 jobs during the construction phase and 35 permanent jobs once it is operational.

The 75-megawatt reserve, planned for a site northeast of Cle Elum, is the largest photovoltaic solar project ever proposed for the Northwest and, if built on schedule, would be one of the largest operating in the world.

Those figures aside, community members had questions about issues ranging from visibility concerns and potential impact on wildlife to road use, water run-off concerns, why the company chose the Teanaway location in the first place and why the company is leasing the land for 20 years rather than buying it.

“It’s just a cash thing,” Howard Trott, managing partner for Teanaway Solar Reserve, LLC, said in response to the question about leasing instead of purchasing. He told the audience choosing a site came down to a number of factors. Among them: finding a site with adequate solar exposure and an owner willing to lease the land and the fact the location has power lines on it.

Water run-off has been an issue, one person said, asking how TSR planned to manage that. The company will maintain vegetation wherever it can and keep surfaces pervious to prevent problems with run-off, representatives said. One audience member questioned how the company would handle water needed to keep the surface of the panels clean. Trott said that the photovoltaic panels being used were not mirrored and were not expected to need regular cleaning with water. What water will be needed would be brought in with trucks, he said.

In terms of elk and other animal migration, TSR will work to mitigate impacts, he said. The reserve will not be fenced, except for about an acre that will house a substation.

“We have the good instinct that trying to keep deer and elk out of anything is usually a thankless job,” Trott said. Local residents who have historically enjoyed access to the area, whether for horseback riding or other recreation, won’t be prevented from doing so, he said. The reserve will have security on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TSR also is working to minimize visual impact, he told the audience.

Others wanted to know whether the company’s plan to have a manufacturing plant located in Cle Elum to assemble the 400,000 photovoltaic panels the project will require means the company would stay here once the project is complete.

“We do want to bring the jobs here. We want to leave the jobs here,” Trott told the audience. But he said the company that assembles the panels will be the party that determines how many jobs the project will create.

“What happens if you go broke?” one audience member asked.

Even if TSR decided not to extend its lease beyond 20 years, the company can’t just walk away from the site, representatives said.

There won’t be a situation where TSR just “leaves a graveyard up there,” said Nichole Seidell, project manager with CH2M Hill, an engineering and consulting firm working on the project. A decommissioning plan is required as part of the development agreement for the project, she said.

State Rep. Bill Hinkle, standing at the rear of the room, told the audience “normally there is a bond” to guarantee the site can’t just be abandoned.

One question Trott didn’t answer was exactly who the investors are behind the project. Most are from the West Coast, he said, calling them “quiet folks investing with the right ideas. These people are very private people who don’t need notoriety for doing these things” and who are backing the project “for the right reasons,” he said.

He said backers have no plans to just build the project and then sell it.

“This is a long-term thing, and we don’t intend to sell it,” he said.

After the meeting, Phil Hess, a professional forester who lives in the Teanaway area, approached Trott.

“I think a lot of people may have come thinking this is a bad idea and expecting to shoot it down,” he said. “I think they’re walking away thinking this is a good idea. It’s a win-win for the county. If you pull off the manufacturing plant, that’s a huge win for Cle Elum.

“What you’re doing is building a foundation of community support. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. The great thing is,” he told Trott, “you’re building it right from the start.”

By MARY SWIFT, Daily Record –


WSU gets $1M for transmission grid research and development October 23, 2009

Researchers from WSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture have been working on developing better power grid technology.

Sen. Patty Murray included $1 million for transmission grid research and development at WSU in the 2010 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.

The Senate passed the bill Oct. 15.

Eli Zupnick, Murray’s deputy press secretary, said he expects President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law soon.

“Our nation’s transmission system is badly aged and vulnerable to disruptions,” Zupnick said. “WSU researchers are working to develop faster, more advanced technologies that will ensure the stability of the power grid.” WSU’s specialty is creating computer and communication systems that allow the power grid to function in real time and increase efficiency, reliability and stability, said Anjan Bose, a co-principal investigator and Regents professor in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

The technology helps to avoid and anticipate major blackouts as well as incorporating renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, Bose said. The grant will be used to create a platform to simulate the behavior of the large grid to test the computer and control algorithms being developed for the smart grid.

“This platform should be running in about a year,” Bose said.

Other professors from the College of Engineering and Architecture, Dave Bakken, Carl Hauser and Mani Venkatasubramanian, will work with Bose as the other co-principal investigators for the transmission grid research and development.

Last year, the professors received a similar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and with a team of graduate students, research associates and postdoctoral fellows, they started researching and developing this summer, Bose said. They are having the first of many meetings with the DOE on Monday.

WSU has also been working with local companies like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. and Avista Corp. on similar projects.

Improving the electric grid to smart grid technology is a national focus, and an initiative for the smart grid was included in the $819 billion stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives on Jan. 28.

Avista has paired with other regional partners, such as Battelle, and proposed implementing smart grid technology through the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. The project would make Pullman the region’s first smart grid community to be followed by the rest of the Northwest. The companies hope to get matching stimulus money from the DOE to pay for the total implementation cost of $178 million.

If approved, this would create benefits for students as well as Avista customers, Avista spokesman Hugh Imhof said.

Avista customers’ rates would remain the same, but new technologies, like a smart-meter, would allow consumers to better control and cut down their usage and essentially save them money, Imhof said.

“People don’t realize how much they can save by making a few adjustments,” he said.

WSU is one of the multiple partners that would participate in the smart grid project for Pullman, and the university already has a lot of interaction with Avista, Imhof said.

Kerry Gugliotto, The Daily Evergreen


Plastic bottle recycling plant planned in St. Helens

Filed under: Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:17 am

Two plastic-industry veterans and the state’s bottle-handling cooperative Wednesday announced plans to build the Northwest’s first facility for recycling plastic water and pop bottles.

The $10-million complex, slated to begin operating in mid-2010 on four acres owned by the Port of St. Helens, was made possible by state legislation which set a 5-cent deposit on bottled-water containers that took effect in January, one of its backers said.

Before this year, said Tom Leaptrott,  the president of Quantum Leap Packaging in Vancouver, it wasn’t possible to collect enough recyclable bottles to supply a recycling facility in Oregon. Quantum is one of the partners in the new facility.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Leaptrott said. “We’re creating a commercially viable business, reducing Oregon’s carbon footprint and continuing Oregon’s tradition as a recycling innovator.”

Bottles made of PET, or polyethylene terephthalate,  are now collected at 3,000 grocery stores in the state by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which administers Oregon’s bottle bill. The cooperative, a partner in the new plant, now loads PET bottles into containers that are shipped to Asia.

The St. Helens plant, to employ 50 people, will clean and shred the containers for manufacture into new products in the United States.

The facility will replace some of the 300 jobs eliminated in St. Helens last fall by layoffs at paper mill owned by Boise Inc. “It’s a badly needed shot in the arm,” said Gerry Meyer, the Port of St. Helens executive director. The facility will get tax breaks because it is in an enterprise zone and the port is investing $1.5 million in infrastructure improvements, Meyer said

Denton Plastics Inc. of Gresham is a partner in the new project. With both Quantum and the recycling cooperative as partners, “we’ve created a dream team for PET recycling,” said company president Dennis Denton.

Plans for the 90,000-square-foot, two building complex call for rainwater harvesting, rooftop solar panels, special processes for saving water and space, and building materials made out of recycled products.

Initially plans call for the facility to wash and cut the bottles into flakes, which will be sold for re-use. Next, after one or two years, equipment will be installed to convert the flakes into pellets and sheets. Finally after three years, the plant will get equipment to directly vacuum-mold the sheets into products such as clamshell containers.

The amount of PET collected statewide is up from about 9 million pounds in 2008 to a projected 14 million pounds by the end of this year, said John Andersen, president of the recycling cooperative, which includes 65 Oregon beverage distributors. He said 20 million pounds of PET could be collected in Oregon next year.

“It’s a pretty cool deal,” he said of the new plant. “We’re coming together to solve a problem without government intervention.”

Jonathan Brinckman, The Oregonian -


Oregon is No. 4 in U.S. energy efficiency ranking, Washington No. 7

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Oregon,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:04 am

Oregon is one of the top five states to make energy efficiency a priority, according to a new 50-state scorecard on energy efficiency policies, programs and practices from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Oregon, which ranked fourth in the nation, is in the company of California, Massachusetts and Connecticut for doing things like having strict building energy codes and encouraging energy efficiency, such as combined heat and power systems.

“The governor is pleased with the ranking,” said Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s spokesman Rem Nivens. “He sees energy efficiency as the best way to reduce greenhouse gases and move toward energy independence.”

While Oregon’s overall score remained the same as last year, its state-to-state ranking dropped: from second in the nation last year.

The 2009 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard is the nonprofit’s third edition of its annual state-by-state ranking on the adoption and implementation of energy efficiency policies, which intends to recognize leadership among the states and identify best practices.

The scorecard examines six state energy efficiency policy areas: utility-sector and public benefits programs and policies; transportation polices; building energy codes; combined heat and power; state government initiatives; and appliance efficiency standards.

Oregon’s tax credits for electric vehicles — up to $1,500 for a hybrid — is one example of the incentives that were cited as reasons for the state’s high marks.

According to the scorecard, the 10 states doing the most to implement energy efficiency are: California; Massachusetts; Connecticut; Oregon; New York; Vermont; Washington state; Minnesota; Rhode Island; and Maine.

By Beth Casper,  Statesman Journal -


Wise energy use creates unique partnerships

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:00 am

At first blush, the Thurston County Economic Development Council and Thurston Climate Action Team might seem like strange bedfellows.

One group is in business to stimulate the local economy and the other was formed to fight global warming on the local level.

But the two groups have found common ground and a place to work together in the world of energy efficiency.

It makes perfect sense. Using energy wisely and efficiently is good for businesses, good for families and good for the community. Investing in energy conserving measures creates jobs, keeps more money circulating in the local economy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps utilities such as Puget Sound Energy reduce the need to invest in expensive new power plants, which are ultimately financed by ratepayers.

The climate action team partnered with the economic development council to apply for a federal stimulus grant of $1 million to stimulate investments in energy conservation for middle-income homeowners and small businesses. While all the details have yet to be hammered out, the program will offer technical assistance to help Thurston County businesses and residents navigate the sometimes confusing world of tax credits, rebates, utility programs and other avenues to get hooked up to energy improvement projects.

The climate action teams wants to make it easier for people to upgrade their home energy systems, which is a worthwhile goal. One way to accomplish this is to have neighborhood workshops on everything from how to get a home energy audit to how to connect with qualified contractors for such things as insulation, window and furnace upgrades. The program fits with the EDC mission of providing technical support for community-based projects that improve quality of life in South Sound.

Community members should look forward to more information on how to get involved in the Thurston County Energy Efficient Program, which should be up and running is the first six months of 2010.

The Olympian –


Arlington, Wash. firm leads way in solar panels

Filed under: Manufacturing,Solar,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 12:57 am
Tags: , ,

Sometimes it’s what you don’t see that makes a product special.

When you stand beneath a solar panel built by Arlington’s Silicon Energy, you won’t see jumbled, ugly wires or opaque padding. You’ll see blue from the silicon cells and sunlight streaming through.

“It makes a better looking product and a safer one,” said Gary Shaver, president and chief executive of Silicon Energy.

Silicon Energy, the state’s first solar-panel manufacturer, released the product to the market this summer, when the company received certification from Underwriters Laboratory for its solar modules. The UL’s stamp of approval means Silicon Energy’s solar panels meet product safety and compliance guidelines.

The certification process took longer than Silicon Energy’s Shaver expected. But that’s not unheard of when you’re doing something different — like hiding the panel’s electrical gear in small, protected side panels and sandwiching silicon between supersturdy glass.

Silicon Energy’s product is more expensive than some on the market. The company promotes its solar modules as “beautiful, strong and durable.”

“We’re not a cheap product,” Shaver said.

Silicon Energy prices a 1.4-kilowatt panel between $11,000 and $14,000. But government incentives are making solar panels an attractive product for consumers, businesses and utilities.

The federal government offers a tax credit to consumers for up to 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs for a solar panel system. The state has a production incentive of 15 to 54 cents per kilowatt hour, with power produced from Washington-made products receiving the higher amount. And the state has made it easier for Silicon Energy to do business in Washington, offering a 43 percent reduction from the standard business and occupations tax rate for solar manufacturers. Additionally, local utilities, such as Snohomish County’s PUD, provide further incentives to consumers for solar power.

Silicon Energy designed its solar panels to withstand 125 pounds per square foot, making the product durable enough to endure high winds and heavy snows. The company’s solar panels can be used for canopies, carports and awnings as well as more traditional roof installations or wall installations. Eight panels could provide 40 percent to 50 percent of a typical home’s electricity, Shaver said.

As a small start-up company, Silicon Energy is a little slow on the production side, but it’s picking up the pace, Shaver said. Together with its parent company, OutBack Power Systems, Silicon employs about 20 people. While the company is providing some jobs on the manufacturing side, Shaver sees his company helping to create green jobs on the installation and power distribution side of the industry. And that’s what drew kudos from Rep. Jay Inslee when Silicon Energy got the OK to start selling UL-certified products this summer.

“The certification again shows us that Washington leads the way in the clean-energy economy,” Inslee said.

Despite the rain, western Washington has an excellent climate for solar power production, Shaver said. It’s a popular misconception that solar panels work best in hot, dry sites.

“Our spring, summer and fall are spectacular for generating energy,” Shaver said.

By Michelle Dunlop, HeraldNet


Economic impact report on Teanaway Solar Reserve released

The proposed Teanaway Solar Reserve could increase tax revenue and create both primary and secondary jobs in Kittitas County, according to a just released economic impact analysis done for Teanaway Solar Reserve, LLC, the company planning the project.

The proposed project would be located on a leased 982-acre site four miles northeast of Cle Elum. About 500 acres of that site would be used for the solar reserve.

The analysis, done by CH2MHill, a Colorado-based internationally-known consulting and engineering firm, predicts the project could generate $2.6 million annually in sales tax revenue during construction, $2.1 million for the state and $487,500 for the county. Once it is operational, the estimate is that it would generate $34,160 annually in sales tax revenue for the state and $7,880 in annual sales tax revenue for the county.

However, the analysts indicate a question about whether solar equipment is included in a retail sales tax exemption approved by the legislature for renewable energy production equipment will affect how much, or if any, direct sales tax revenue the project would generate during construction. The legislation provides a 100 percent tax exemption from July of this year through June 30, 2011. Beginning July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2013, the exemption is equal to 75 percent of the state and local sales tax. The exemption expires in 2013.

According to the analysis, Kittitas County Assessor Marsha Weyand has said it is unclear whether solar equipment currently is included in the exemption. If it is, and if the project is completed within the appropriate time span, it is unlikely either the state or county would receive sales tax revenues on equipment during construction of the project.

The project, which backers currently estimate will cost $300 million to $350 million, would generate between $1.56 million to $1.82 million in annual property tax revenue once it is operational, according to the study.

Between $605,530 and $706,460 in property tax revenue would be raised for the state (depending on what the cost of the project turned out to be) once the project is operational. The project would generate an estimated $267,610 to $312,210 for the county in annual property taxes. As an example of local benefit, the analysts predicted annual property tax revenue of $263,680 to $307,630 for the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District.

Construction of the project is expected to take place over a two- to three-year period. On Tuesday, Howard Trott, managing director for Teanaway Solar Reserve, said if the project is done over two years the number of employees each year would increase from the figure cited in the three-year analysis.

Analysts predicted that “direct average employment” over three seven-month construction periods would be 225 employees including subcontractors plus an additional 563 employees in secondary jobs related to the project.

“Secondary income effects are things like you hire people and they go out to eat locally,” he said. That also increases sales tax revenue, he said.

Peak employment during construction could be as high as 450.

The construction phase would, directly or indirectly, generate about 789 jobs a year during a three-year construction period, according to the report.

An employment multiplier associated with construction employment is calculated to be 3.5, according to the report. It means that for every construction job created by the project more than two additional jobs would be created in a support capacity.

But once operational the plant isn’t expected to have a major impact in the area’s unemployment. Its total direct workforce is expected to be just five full-time staff according to the analysis.

However, the employment projections outlined in the economic impact analysis don’t include the potential of bringing a solar panel manufacturer to the Cle Elum area to assemble the 400,000 panels that would be used in the project. (Despite critics who suggest that manufacturer will move on once the project is completed, Trott has said previously that he hopes there will be incentives for the manufacturer to remain in the Upper County.)

According to the analysis, construction spending for the project will generate $44.75 million in direct income in Kittitas County. In addition, the study estimates that nearly $19.3 million in secondary income will be generated annually in the county. Once the project is operational, it will generate $2.4 million in operations and maintenance expenditures annually in Kittitas County, plus nearly $400,000 in secondary annual income for the county, the report estimates.

Backers had hoped to get Kittitas County’s approval of the proposed project by the end of this year or in early January.

That timeline has been moved back to provide more time to research and address environmental issues that have been raised regarding the project.

Even so, “we’re still confident we can meet the timeline even while we take time to address concerns,” Trott said this week.

The good news, Trott said, is that the project can be done in phases.

“We can turn on half the project which is probably what we will do. We don’t have to have it all done,” he said.

He knows many still question the cost of producing solar power but says many of the figures cited are based on “old data.”

By MARY SWIFT, Daiy Record


Behind closed doors: council ponders Desert Claim Wind Power Project

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, today resumes deliberations on whether to approve the 95-turbine, $330 million Desert Claim Wind Power Project proposed for eight miles northwest of Ellensburg.

EFSEC’s seven members were scheduled to gather again behind closed doors in Olympia at 1 p.m. today, according to EFSEC Manager Allen Fiksdal.

The council first began deliberations at a Sept. 22 session and since have been communicating among themselves via e-mail and telephone conversations.

It was earlier speculated that EFSEC members may reach consensus this month on whether to recommend approval of the wind farm to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who makes the final decision.

The project, planned to be located north of Smithson Road, is detailed in “thousands” of pages of testimony, hearing transcripts, letters, e-mails, reports, legal briefs and other documents, according to Fiksdal, which EFSEC members are now studying.

Fiksdal said the project’s final environmental impact statement, with its supplemental report, likely will be approved a few weeks before the council meets in an open, public session to make their decision.

According to the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, EFSEC members act as judges in a quasi-judicial process in making a decision on the wind farm proposed by the international wind development firm of enXco Inc. USA.

According to the act, EFSEC may deliberate in private and is not subject to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

The recommendation, once finalized, then goes to Gov. Gregoire who makes the final decision within 60 days of receiving the recommendation.

Meeting at 905 Plum St. in Olympia today, EFSEC members are charged with reaching consensus on the project, and then directing EFSEC’s administrative law judge to write up a draft order to reflect that consensus.

Fiksdal said the document then will be circulated among the members to make sure it accurately reflects the council’s direction on the project.

It’s likely EFSEC will set a public meeting in Ellensburg to take final, formal action on the draft order that will reflect its recommendation to the governor.

Fiksdal said EFSEC can continue today’s meeting to another date, or members can continue to work on the recommendation by communicating outside the closed-door meeting.

The recommendation also can contain a minority report if some EFSEC members have objections to parts or all of the recommendation and draft order.

Fiksdal said enXco previously has signed agreements with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and with the Counsel for the Environment on procedures and mitigation measures to lessen the environmental and visual impact of the wind farm and to monitor its operations.

EFSEC conducted a public hearing and a short adjudicative hearing on the 5,200-acre project on July 13 in Ellensburg.

In an earlier report, an economic study commissioned by Desert Claim concluded the wind farm will create an estimated 282 jobs and generate more than $33 million in economic activity throughout the state in the year it is constructed.

It also estimates that it will create 36 jobs and $6.2 million in annual economic activity statewide after wind farm operations begin.

Documents on the project can be accessed online at the EFSEC Web site:

By MIKE JOHNSTON, Daily Record –


PSE solar project to be completed in Wash. October 18, 2009

The 500 kilowatt solar-power system on Whisky Dick Mountain is scheduled to be completed in two to three weeks.

Contractors began Monday to install the final array of solar power panels near Puget Sound Energy’s Renewable Energy Center at the 3,500-foot level.

The array, when completed, will have the capacity to generate 50 kilowatts of electricity and be close to the center for visitor viewing. It includes 315 panels.

The first phase of the solar-power system, 2,408 photovoltaic panels, was completed in October 2007 near the 3,873-foot summit of Whisky Dick Mountain. That array has the capacity to generate 450 kilowatts.

The solar power component of the Wild Horse facility was earlier estimated to cost more than $4 million.

As for the Renewable Energy Center, now in its second year, it has attracted more than 19,300 visitors since April 1 and more than 235 groups.

The visitor and interpretive center closes Nov. 30.

By MIKE JOHNSTON. Daily Record -


New Wild Horse turbines energized in Wash.

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:32 pm
Tags: , ,

The 22 new turbines at the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility east of Ellensburg are up and running and are expected to begin putting power into the grid in about 45 days.

Officials of Puget Sound Energy, owner and operator of the renewable energy facility east of Ellensburg, indicated the 45-day target was an estimate that could change.

The additional turbines atop towers north of the existing 127-turbine wind farm were “energized” last week, said David Bowen, Puget Sound Energy’s municipal liaison manager for Central Washington.

Currently the new turbines, mostly spread on 1,260 acres north of the existing 8,600-acre wind farm, are in a testing and monitoring mode, Bowen said.

The 1,260 acres includes 960 acres purchased by PSE and the remainder are leased state lands, according to past announcements.

The estimated $100 million project to add the turbines began with road construction in April,  foundations of the towers were completed in May and June and towers, turbines, blades and other equipment began going up in July.

At the peak of work in late summer, it’s estimated more than 100 workers were at the expansion site on the north slopes of Whisky Dick Mountain 17 miles east of Ellensburg.

The added turbines bring the total towers to 149, raising the wind farm’s generating capacity from 229 megawatts to 273 megawatts.

Bowen said ongoing work to expand the onsite substation to handle the extra power load is estimated to be completed in about 45 days.

Work also is under way to rehabilitate areas disturbed by construction, including reseeding and putting in native plantings.

The wind farm project was initially approved by state and Kittitas County government for up to 158 turbines. The wind farm’s initial 127 turbines began full operation in December 2006. That initial project was estimated at $380 million.

By MIKE JOHNSTON, Daily Record


Klickitat County wind project gets $178M in expansion funding

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:27 pm
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A wind farm project near Goldendale in Klickitat County received $178 million in funds from Siemens Financial Services Inc. (SFS) to expand.

Windy Point Partners II LLC received the senior secured credit facility to buy more Siemens wind turbines and to recapitalize existing debt. Windy Point Partners is an affiliate of Cannon Power Corp. of San Diego, which is developing the project.

“Providing the funding for this major wind project’s expansion was particularly gratifying in that it allowed SFS to value-add Siemens technology to its financing solution and further underscores our overall commitment to support renewable energy,” said Roland Chalons-Browne, president and CEO of SFS Inc., in a statement.

Puget Sound Business Journal –


Brothers Turn Cow Manure into New Source of Electricity October 5, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Methane Digesters,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:08 pm
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Dairy cows make milk, and they make poop — 30 gallons a day. Now farmers can send the cow waste to machines that will convert it to electricity. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire will visit one of those electrical plants in Skagit County today (Monday).

Daryl Maas owns the plant with his brother Kevin.

Maas: “Doesn’t everyone always dream of working with manure their whole life?”

He says they got into renewable energy when they tried to build wind turbines on their grandfather’s farm. That didn’t work out. But they heard about machines called manure digesters. And they decided to get into it. He says the hardest part isn’t the smell. It’s convincing farmers that it’s a good idea.

Maas: “Farmers in Western Washington are just allergically scared of regulation, of environmental issues. And if they feel like getting involved in the project is gonna make their life more complicated and give them more scrutiny, that’s really tough for them.”

But Daryl and Kevin Maas convinced two farmers in Skagit County to pipe their manure to their new power plant. The digester extracts methane from the manure and burns it in a generator to make electricity. Daryl and his brother sell the electricity to Puget Sound Energy.

This is kind of gross, but what’s leftover are solids and liquids. Daryl and Kevin give them back to the farmers, because they can actually use them. Daryl says the solids are a good replacement for sawdust in cow bedding. That can save a farmer $10,000 to $15,000 a month. Farmers can use the liquid as fertilizer — and Daryl says it’s better than raw manure because it’s so thin it can run through a hose.

And to Daryl, the whole thing smells like money. He and his brother paid over $3 million to build the digester. But he says they’ll make the money back in six years. He plans to build three more in Western Washington.

Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News


State OKs Kittitas County ‘innovation zone’

Filed under: Manufacturing,Renewable/Green Energy,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 12:29 pm

Kittitas County has gained the status of a state-recognized Innovation Partnership Zone, and those organizing the effort say much more hard work is now needed to attract renewable energy companies, research firms and new jobs to the county.

A local public-private partnership, called the Central Washington Resource Energy Collaborative, was contacted Tuesday by state officials and informed the county has been officially designated as an Innovation Partnership Zone, or IPZ.

The approval of the collaborative’s application came from the state Department of Commerce, formally the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

Goal of the local partnership of university, government, economic development interests and power companies is to recruit renewable-power firms, projects and research to the county and operate a research and business development center, possibly at Bowers Field.

“They said we had a very strong application and were impressed with the quality of partnerships we had built,” said Ron Cridlebaugh, executive director of the Economic Development Group (EDG) of Kittitas County, one of the partner-groups. “Now we need to roll up our sleeves do the hard work to make our goals into reality.”

Other local partners are Kittitas County government, Central Washington University, Puget Sound Energy and the international wind-power development firm of enXco Inc.

In past comments, the local community partners indicated they have committed a total of $1.2 million in financial support and in-kind services during the next three years for the effort.

Gaining the state’s IPZ status helps give the county recognition as an area of emerging research and business in ongoing solar, wind and other renewable and resource-based power development.

The state zones are designed to stimulate industry “clusters of growth” within specific geographic areas, much like a research park, according to the local partnership.

Eleven other IPZs already exist in the state.

The partnership will meet this week to begin refining its goals and business plan, Cridlebaugh said, including specifying what exact areas of renewable energy research and business the partnership wants to cater to.

Cridlebaugh said the partnership is exploring using an existing, secured government loan and a grant to build a second, 10,000-square-foot multi-purpose industrial/business building at Bowers Field and use part of the facility for the renewable energy research and business development center.

He said the struggling economy put a hold on the immediate construction of the building because potential “anchor” business tenants were reluctant to sign leases in the current business climate.

Cridlebaugh said renewable energy firms, currently moving ahead in project development nationally, could be attracted to the facility and the county.

Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell on Tuesday said he was “absolutely thrilled” with this “first, essential yet momentous step” in gaining the IPZ status.

“Our (the partners’) motivation is to plan for a prosperous economic future for the county,” Jewell said. “We are going to take advantage of this and work to attract firms that support renewable energy services and professional research.”

Jewell said the partnership envisions the county becoming “the heartbeat of the Pacific Northwest, and even the nation, for renewable and resource-based energy technology development.”

He said the formation of the partnership and the IPZ approval in the span of about 90 days were “unprecedented” initial steps for the county to bring new, diversified business to the county.

CWU President James Gaudino, in a statement, said gaining IPZ status reflects the commitment of the different partners to work together.

“It’s my hope that (the) project will build on the already strong relationship between our community and the university,” Gaudino wrote. “I offer my congratulations to all involved in the application process, including our county government, business partners, university staff, and community leaders.

“It was a true team effort.”



Snohomish-based business converts landfill waste into electricity

Filed under: Biofuels,Landfill Gas,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 10:47 am
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After four years and only one contract, many companies would call it quits.

But Paul Tower kept his Snohomish-based business afloat. He took a second job. He wrote papers for engineering conferences. He waited.

Thirteen years and 167 projects later, Tower’s Applied Filter Technology is looking to expand at a time when few businesses are.

Applied Filter takes low-grade methane — from landfill waste, cow manure or municipal waste systems — and turns it into fuel to generate electricity.

“What we specialize in is getting the gas to a point where it can be used,” Tower said.

That technology is in demand as consumers increasingly demand cleaner sources of power and more environmentally friendly ways for dealing with waste. That’s why Applied Filter Technology recently won a $7 million contract to expand Klickitat County’s H.W. Hill Landfill Gas Power Plant.

The landfill, established in 1999, accepts tons of waste, with large quantities coming from King and Snohomish counties, said Darby Hanson, project engineer for the site.

“This landfill keeps growing all the time,” Hanson said.

The landfill’s existing waste-to-gas project, which has the capacity to produce roughly 10 megawatts of power, can’t keep up with the waste being sent there. The county, with the help of Applied Filter, plans to expand the plant’s capacity to about 37 megawatts.

“It’s enough to light thousands of homes in Washington,” Tower said.

Some of that electricity will flow back to Snohomish County as part of the PUD’s green power program.

Hanson liked Applied Filter’s bid because it came with a 10-year guarantee of producing electricity-grade gas, making Klickitat’s system easier and less expensive to operate. When the economy turns around, Hanson is confident that Klickitat will be able to find buyers for all the power that will be produced at the expanded site — at a profitable rate. The expansion is scheduled to be completed next summer.

For Tower’s Applied Filter, contracts like the one in Klickitat County translate into jobs. The company, which has a staff of five in Snohomish, will have 12 or 13 people working on the Klickitat project.

On a Friday afternoon in late September, Tower fields calls of interest from South Korea and France out of his Snohomish office and plans customer trips to Applied Filter Technology sites in California and the Midwest. Far from those lean early years, Applied Filter installs a project monthly on average. And demand doesn’t seem to be slowing, prompting Tower to consider expansion.

“I think people are changing their perspectives and want a better quality of life,” Tower said.

Despite a lack of consensus about the causes of global warming, the public generally supports efforts to reduce known contributors to global warming, Tower said. Applied Filter Technology helps isolate one of those known contributors — methane — and turns it into something useful.

“I think all of us as ratepayers believe an incremental step is better than no step,” he said.

That’s particularly true in the Pacific Northwest, where Tower located in 2000 from California. However, the Klickitat County project is Applied Filter’s only system in Washington. About two-thirds of Applied Filter Technology’s projects are in the United States, but the company has systems operating in Europe, the Pacific Rim and Canada.

Besides an increasing public demand for “green” products, Applied Filter’s business also benefited from declines in the costs to produce its systems. In the 13 years since the business sold that first system, costs have dropped about 40 percent, Tower said. The company has worked with a manufacturer in Iowa to standardize parts to help drive down costs.

As Applied Filter Technology has grown, so has its ability to help out prospective customers. The company can design, build and operate systems for municipalities, removing the major barriers: start-up and operating costs. Applied Filter owns and operates about 23 of the systems it has installed for municipalities.

That’s a long ways from Applied Filter’s beginnings. For Tower, the company’s success is hard to believe.

Back in 1996, “we were just trying to solve a problem for a customer,” he said.

Michelle Dunlop, HeraldNet


Skagit, Wash. manure-to-power plant on line September 25, 2009

It takes slightly more than three gallons of liquid cow manure to create one kilowatt-hour of electricity.

A lot of poop. A small amount of electricity. A big environmental boost to a dairy farmer.

A fledgling anaerobic manure digester is now running at roughly 80 percent capacity near Rexville in southwestern Skagit County. The plant produced its first power on Aug. 30 and will host Gov. Chris Gregoire at a ceremony next Monday.

The digester accepts the liquid manure in a big holding tank, where it gives off methane gas that is then burned to produce electricity.

It is the first or fourth of its kind in Washington – depending on how you catalog the device. Ferndale-based Andgar Corp. built all four.

Washington already has three conventional poop-to-methane-to-power digesters near Lynden, Monroe and Sunnyside. However, they essentially accept manure from one dairy farm each.

The Rexville operation – built and run by Farm Power – is different in a couple ways.

It is set up to accept manure from two or more dairy farms – enabling smaller operations to participate.

And it is designed to accept and extract methane from icky, slop-like wastes from seafood and chicken processing – as well as other food wastes. Farm Power had to get a bill passed in the Legislature this past spring to make combining the food and cattle wastes easier from a regulatory aspect.

Dairy farms produce huge amounts of manure that can ooze into groundwater and eventually into streams and rivers to cause pollution problems.

Farmers take many measures to deal with this problem, but digesters are a more cost-efficient way to tackle the matter, said Daryl Maas, one of two brothers behind the Rexville operation.

Kevin and Daryl Maas – who grew up around Skagit County dairy operations – saw Washington’s first digester built near Lynden in 2004 and became fascinated by its potential.

But they saw that very few farmers could afford to build similar digesters, Daryl Maas said.

The brothers created Farm Power in 2007, which raised $3.5 million – including $1 million in federal and state grants – to build the Rexville facility that is currently taking manure from two nearby dairy farms. The site has the capability to expand to accept manure from additional farms.

At full capacity, the Rexville site can handle 55,000 gallons of liquid manure a day. That translates to 750 kilowatt-hours – enough to power about 500 homes.

That’s one-tenth of 1 percent of the roughly 500,000 homes served by Puget Sound Energy (PSE).

The Rexville facility adds to what PSE can offer in “Green Power,” a program in which utility customers can request to have their electricity partly or totally supplied by renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass facilities.

Roughly 24,000 of PSE’s 1.1 million overall customers have signed up for Green Power sources, said utility spokesman Andy Wappler.

“Now farmers have a brand-new product to sell – renewable energy,” Wappler said. Maas said the brothers have three more digesters on the drawing board – two in Whatcom County and one near Enumclaw. They hope to build an average of one per year.

Meanwhile, Maas said the manure can be returned to the farmers in better shape after the methane is extracted.

The returned manure has its nutrients broken down, which makes it a better fertilizer. Without going through the digester, the same manure would take longer to break down into essential nutrients for fertilizer.

Also, the process produces a mulch that can be used for livestock bedding.

By JOHN STANG, Seattle Post Inteligencer –


Railroad helps build biofuel facility in Tri-Cities

Filed under: Biofuels,Manufacturing,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:33 pm
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A sister company of Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co. has signed an agreement with Gen-X Energy Group to build a new facility in Richland to make biofuel.

The new facility will sit on land owned by the sister company called 10 North Washington Avenue in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park, said Rydel Peterson, vice president of the short-line railroad company.

“We’ve agreed to work together to develop the property,” Peterson said, adding the details of the project including the size, cost and financing for the building are still being worked out.

The company 10 North Washington Avenue is owned by Peterson’s father, Randy, according to the state Secretary of State’s website.

The proposed plant also will include a facility to store raw materials and finished fuel, Rydel Peterson said.

Gen-X, which lost its Burbank biodiesel plant to a fire in early July, couldn’t be reached about the agreement. The company’s website says Gen-X is not going out of business and that it continues to produce and deliver certified biodiesel to its clients.

Gen-X will benefit from using the short-line service and access to both BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad, Peterson said.

For Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co., which previously transported raw materials to Gen-X’s Burbank plant, the new agreement is an extension of its old business relationship, Peterson said.

The talks between the two companies have been going on for a while now, he said. The move was partly prompted by his company’s ongoing legal battle with BNSF about track use rights on 16 miles of track extending from Kennewick to Richland.

The track is owned by the Port of Benton and leased to Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co. through 2032 for moving freight.

BNSF recently ended its partnership with the short-line railroad and began providing services directly to customers along the Richland track.

“We’ve lost about 40 percent of our revenue,” Peterson said. The company also laid off 17 of its 32 employees in the last three weeks, he said.

Pratik Joshi, Tricity Herald –


Wash. State lands commissioner wants to branch out to wind, biomass energy September 19, 2009

Filed under: Biomass,Washington,Wind,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 10:28 am
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Lumber prices have fallen with the economic recession, but state lands commissioner Peter Goldmark said this week that there is still plenty of economic value in state forests — and much of it is untapped.

Biomass growing on 2.1 million acres of state forests could be burned to generate electricity or converted to a liquid fuel called methanol, he said. Further, he endorsed the careful expansion of the state’s burgeoning wind energy business to the west side of the Cascades — provided the massive towers won’t imperil wildlife.

He’s less concerned about spoiling views with blades spinning 400 feet off the ground.

“We’re going to have to make compromises to achieve our goal of energy independence,” Goldmark said during a meeting with The Columbian’s editorial board on Tuesday.

State officials have delayed the granting of a lease proposed near Naselle, where public utility consortium Energy Northwest has proposed building Southwest Washington’s first wind farm on Radar Ridge. The presence of a threatened seabird, the marbled murrelet, prompted the state to put the lease on hold.

“Radar Ridge is one of the worst places to site a wind project,” he said.

Goldmark, a Democrat who defeated two-term incumbent commissioner Doug Sutherland last fall, said he actually camped out on the site to get a better sense of early-morning murrelet activity.

He spotted few birds. That might not be so surprising, considering that murrelets have dwindled nearly to the point of extinction.

“We all want to site these things,” he said, referring to wind farms. “We have to do it in a manner that doesn’t cause a conflict with endangered species.”

To avoid wildlife conflicts in the future, Goldmark has directed the state Department of Natural Resources to work with state and federal wildlife management agencies. He anticipates the work will result in a map that steers developers toward areas with plenty of wind, few endangered critters and easy access to electrical transmission lines.

“Nobody wins in court,” he said.

Wind is not the only renewable energy resource on state lands, he said.

Goldmark will sort through 30 proposals for two biomass pilot projects on state lands, one on the east and one on the west side of the Cascades. Goldmark, an Okanogan County rancher who earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of California at Berkeley, said he is especially intrigued by the possibility of turning logging slash into liquid fuel.

“I’m convinced that the technology exists,” he said. “Whether it’s commercially viable is another question.”

Although converting wood into liquid methanol is nothing new, it’s prohibitively expensive to transport logging slash, brush and dying trees out of remote forests to centralized plants. Instead, researchers at the University of Washington are working with a private-sector partner to develop truck-mounted mobile technology.

If it works, Goldmark said, the process could produce gallon of diesel fuel for every 25 pounds of dry pine or fir.

The Department of Natural Resources could play a major role in the development of mobile technology, he said. Because the state has such an ample supply of overstocked timber stands — especially on the east side of the Cascades, where insect infestations have raised the fire hazard — Goldmark said the state has no shortage of raw material. It’s preferable to convert it into fuel before it’s consumed in wildfires, he said.

“We can no longer stand by and watch our forests burn,” he said.

Erik Robinson, The Columbian


Bids to be requested for Forks, Wash. biomass boiler in October

Filed under: Biomass,Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 9:58 am

Quillayute Valley School District wants to make the Forks area greener — at least in terms of saving energy.

The district in October will put out to bid its biomass boiler, which would heat half of the middle school and the entire new high school once it is completed.

The biomass boiler — which would use chipped wood waste as fuel — is to be partially paid for through a $1 million grant approved by the state Legislature. The district is seeking an additional $500,000 through the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Construction should begin in November and the project should be completed in time to heat Forks Middle School by the end of 2010, Superintendent Diana Reaume said.

“This has been such a journey,” she said. “And we have had so much help from the community, and my staff has been fantastic.”

The design resembles a brick tower that harkens back to old-fashioned plants, Reaume said.

“The idea is to symbolically represent history while combining with the new green concepts and incorporating as much energy-saving concepts as possible,” she said.

“There will also be a learning theme throughout the building to teach about the wave of the future with green energy conservation resources, as well as some of the history of the area.”

The 50-foot tower will feature information on green energy to teach students and community members about the process and windows will give an outside glimpse of what the boiler looks like on the inside.

Reaume said that, as the first biomass boiler of such size at a school, it would be considered an “icon for the state,” as well as allowing the school to retire a diesel tank and one of its propane tanks.

“I cautiously estimate that we could save between $75,000 and $90,000 a year,” Reaume said.

“The reason I’m cautious is that the cost of the market for the chips fluctuates a great deal, and as this is the wave of the future for energy savings, it could drive the price up.”

The wood chips would be delivered to the school a couple times a week, Reaume said.

She said she hoped that local mills could supply it, but that the wood chips would have to be bid upon just as with any other district fuel.

“We are very hopeful that they will be able to, though,” she said.

Emissions controls

The boiler will have a variety of emissions control devices, Reaume said.

“The emissions standards in Washington are much higher than almost any other state,” she said.

“We’ve been working very closely with [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] to make sure we will meet those requirements.”

Reaume said that Bill Henderson, “our director of maintenance, has worked very hard to make sure everything on this will be working well.”

Rod Fleck, city attorney and planner for Forks, was instrumental in helping the school district acquire the original grant for the boiler, she said.

Paige Dickerson, Peninsula Daily News


Eastern Washington winds set to power Gig Harbor Peninsula September 17, 2009

The long, winding roads through Yakima and approaching Goldendale give way to wheat fields and the summer sun in Eastern Washington. And in a few months, the wind that powers through its valleys will boost the Gig Harbor Peninsula into the era of renewable energy.

It’s where the Harvest Wind project is located, some 260 miles from Gig Harbor. And it’s where 43 windmills – each larger than the length of a football field – are being erected high on a ridge overlooking the Columbia River.

As contractors from Lotus Works of Vancouver, Wash., worked with a large crane last Thursday to lift a 148-foot blade into its hub, Peninsula Light Company CEO Jafar Taghavi and Power Resources Director Ray Grinberg joined others with hard hats and construction vests on the site. They beamed at the $250 million project that will help PenLight reach 50 percent of the state’s renewable energy mandate by 2016.

“We see this as the first of several projects that we’ll need in the next 15 to 20 years to reach our goals,” Grinberg said.

Those goals are shared by statewide utilities which serve 25,000 people or more since voters passed Initiative 937 in 2006. It requires utilities to obtain 15 percent of their power resources from renewable sources – such as wind, solar, geothermal or biomass – by 2020, with an initial boost of 3 percent beginning in 2012 and 9 percent four years later.

Taghavi, who was hired by PenLight’s Board of Directors in 2007, said when Harvest Wind comes online, possibly as soon as December, it’ll be the first time in the company’s 85-year history that the cooperative will be generating its own power.

“We’ve always relied on big brother,” Taghavi said, referring to Bonneville Power Administration, from which PenLight buys the power that serves the peninsulas. “Business has changed.”

The giant towers are proof.

Accompanied by a two-man documentary film crew from North Woods Productions of Olalla, PenLight officials, including Marketing Director Jonathan White, toured the rolling hills and marveled at the sight of the off-white generators. They are part of the second wind farm in the area; the existing White Creek project, which came online in 2007, is twice the size of Harvest Wind.

Project Manager Ed Smith of Lotus Works said Harvest Wind’s 100-megawatt farm will produce enough electricity to power about 20,000 homes.

Each Siemens-manufactured turbine will generate about 2.3 megawatts and needs a 15 to 20 mph wind to reach its ideal production.

“We were aware of this project, and we did our due diligence to make sure it would serve our members’ needs,” Grinberg said.

Lee Test, an independent contractor who works as a consultant on the site, said the 260-foot towers are made in China and shipped to the states in three sections. When they are erected – and when one of the three blades is completely vertical – the structure is about 100 feet taller than the distance between the new Narrows bridge deck and one of its towers.

The windmill blades are shipped to Pasco by railroad from Iowa, and the nacelles, which generate the power, are made in Denmark, Test said.

BRIAN MCLEAN, The Peninsula Gateway -


BPA hopes meter will help manage wind farm power

Filed under: Bonneville Power,Macro Hydro,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 9:36 am
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Wind energy and hydropower have a see-saw-like relationship: When one goes up the other goes down. But the Bonneville Power Administration is hoping a small device that looks like a model rocket and weighs a few pounds can help ease the tricky synergy.

BPA on Wednesday installed an anemometer to help the power-marketing agency better forecast oncoming wind at the Horse Heaven substation just west of Paterson. The white device with a black propeller on its nose was attached to a bar extended outward about 6 feet off the top of the substation’s 70-foot communications tower.

The data it collects will be linked with 13 other anemometers scattered throughout the region to forecast approaching wind. If BPA has a tighter timeframe of when wind meets wind farms, it can be better prepared to handle the often-sudden influx of wind-generated energy.

Because wind is intermittent, it can be difficult for BPA to prepare for gusts that suddenly, and sometimes rapidly, send hundreds of megawatts of electricity onto the grid. In order to balance the flood of wind-generated electricity, BPA slows hydropower generation at dams.

That causes water to rise behind the dams, reducing the amount of power that can be generated. When the wind begins to wane, that water may have to be rapidly released to compensate for the drop in wind-generated energy.

It’s a balancing act that can be difficult to negotiate. “Basically, you have to spontaneously react to it,” said BPA spokeswoman Katie Pruder.

“We have to hold a large amount (of water) in reserve to be ready for the ups and downs.”

If BPA can better forecast and monitor wind, it should give operators and power schedulers more time to react to sudden surges and decreases of wind-generated electricity. That would allow BPA to store less water, which should result in more hydroelectricity production.

“If we hold less water in reserve, (more energy) can be sold on the open market, which can lower rates,” Pruder said.

John Lodahl, who climbed the 70-foot tower Wednesday and installed the anemometer, said the wind meters eventually will allow BPA to receive updates on wind conditions every two seconds, or nearly in real time. “It’s going to take (the data) and actually plot the wind,” he said.

It took Lodahl about an hour to install the meter on the communication tower, which sat inside the fenced-off substation, where between 115,000 and 230,000 volts of electricity surge through tall lines and a constantly humming transformer. He was helped by Max Holder. With Holder on the ground and Lodahl perched atop the tower, the pair used an antiquated technique to install 21st-century technology by working a pulley system to move bars, tools, clamps and the anemometer to the top of the tower.

Inside the substation’s lone building, Holder installed a data logger, which will relay the information gathered by the anemometer to a central BPA database. Pruder said BPA employees then will use the data to determine how much power will be needed for the next energy load and where that energy will come from. It’s during this process that BPA encounters large swings of unanticipated wind energy, which causes employees to scramble to adjust the hydropower system accordingly.

Pruder said the anemometers and the accompanying data logger system should be fully functional by September 2010. BPA currently has more than 2,200 megawatts of wind energy connected to its grid, although usually just a fraction of that is generated at any given time. On Aug. 6, more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy pulsed through BPA’s grid, which set a record. Typically, wind energy is generated at about a third of its capacity.

An average megawatt can power about 700 homes annually in the Northwest.

DREW FOSTER; Tri-City Herald –


Wind farm planned in southwest Washington September 12, 2009

A New York based energy company has a $250 million plan to harvest the wind west of Chehalis, near Doty (DOH’-tee).

EverPower hopes to build as many as 50 turbines – up to 330 feet tall – on a remote ridge on Weyerhaeuser property near the border of Lewis and Grays Harbor counties.

KELA reports the Coyote Crest Wind Park could be operating in 2012, generating enough electricity to power 25,000 homes.

The Associsted Press –


Smart grid to get testest in Spokane/Pullman Area & Salem, OR in NW September 9, 2009

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Oregon,Smart Grid,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 5:52 pm

Researchers across the Northwest have demonstrated that new technology can help manage electricity use. Now they’re betting they’ll get the same results with new experiments and show the whole country how it’s done.

Twelve utilities in five states – including Avista Utilities and Inland Power and Light Co. in Spokane – have signed on to a proposal to test the so-called smart power grid under the direction of Battelle, the company that operates the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland. Battelle has applied for federal stimulus money.

The term “smart grid” has come to include any improvements in the way energy is transmitted, stored and consumed. And the federal Department of Energy has taken proposals from utilities across the country wanting to demonstrate their smart-grid projects.

Carl Imhoff, a research director with Battelle, said that the regional reach of this proposal, with participants from Wyoming to Oregon, makes it stand out. “It’s cutting across a layer of the utility system that has not been done as aggressively,” he said.

“Using 12 different entities like this is a very compelling and bold experiment.”

As far as experiments go, this one isn’t as experimental as some; researchers are confident the grid will benefit from more smarts. But directions from the Department of Energy are clear: The goal isn’t to see whether proposed changes will improve the nation’s electrical system, but how those changes will improve the system.

The Northwest has a natural advantage in this area. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory already tested smart-grid technology in a 2006-2007 study in Washington and Oregon. The Bonneville Power Administration participated in that study, and would take part in the proposed project as well.

That earlier study, also paid for by the Energy Department, showed that customers shift their energy use to times when there’s less stress on the grid if it saves them money. Another piece of the same study showed that a utility can use specially designed appliances to flatten peaks in electricity demand.

Battelle’s $178 million plan would build on that earlier study. “That was just 120 homes,” Imhoff said. “We’re extending that to up to 60,000 units participating, not just 120.”

Participating utilities would maintain test sites, working on various pieces of the smart grid.

Inland Power’s project will be in the Airway Heights area, and Avista’s will be in Pullman, Wash.

Portland General Electric, which managed smart appliances in the earlier study, would run a project in Salem.

The project serves as a microcosm of the bigger smart grid effort, said Mark Osborn, the utility’s distributed resources manager. PGE would mix various power generation and storage systems to shift electricity where it’s needed.

That’s essential for an electrical system dominated by renewable energy sources. Wind and solar power aren’t always available, so emphasis is placed on storage and smart transmission, Osborn said.

The project will incorporate better transmission lines, high-tech meters, smart appliances, battery storage, diesel generators – basically everything available, Osborn said. “We did a few pilots here and there with appliances and battery technology. But we need to integrate them in one location where they’re all functioning together.”

What PGE proposes to do with its Salem customers, Battelle would do with the whole region, Imhoff said. Officials there expect to learn by the end of the year whether their proposal was accepted.

“The group felt this would offer the most compelling test of what the smart grid would be to consumers and utilities in the region,” he said. “There have been a number of one-off things, smart meters (etc.), but the group felt the next level of investigation is to evaluate the true benefit of orchestrating a broad number of concepts at all the levels of the power system.”

Justin Carinci, Daily Journal of Commerce -


State OKs fewer wind turbines for Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project

A state energy council, before the Labor Day weekend, formally approved the downsizing of the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project proposed by Horizon Wind Energy in Kittitas County.

Major construction on the wind farm is planned to start in early spring 2010.

Allen Fiksdal, manager of the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, said Horizon officials indicate preliminary road work will take place this fall.

Approved Sept. 1 by EFSEC was reducing the maximum number of turbines around the edge of the $220 million to $250 million project from 65 to 52 at a site 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg.

Fiksdal also said approved were approximate locations for the fewer turbines. The project continues to have a maximum generation capacity of 100 megawatts.

He said EFSEC OK’d a change in the location of the wind farm’s operations and maintenance facility to a point farther away from U.S. Highway 97, thus lessening its visual impact. The project plans turbines on ridges on both sides of the highway.

Fiksdal said the project area, with the changes, goes down from about 5,600 acres to 5,416 acres.

The updated turbine locations and other project documents are available online at:, click on Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project. Changes are under “Exhibit no. 1.”

Horizon officials have indicated that the type of turbines to be used generate more power and allow the project to maintain its maximum 100-megawatt operational goal with fewer turbines.

EFSEC is allowing the company to put up turbines with towers at a maximum 410 feet, from tip of a vertically extended turbine blade to the ground.

Minimum setbacks are to be the distance equal to four times the height from blade tip to the ground.

MIKE JOHNSTON, Daily Record -


Public Forum to explore tidal energy issues in Wash.

Filed under: Utility Companies,Washington,Wave/Tidal Power — nwrenewablenews @ 5:38 pm
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Scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Labs at Sequim Bay will speak at the meeting of the Island County Marine Resources Committee at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the Island County Commissioners’ hearing room, 6th and Main streets, Coupeville. The public is invited.

Speakers will be Dr. Andrea Copping and Simon Geerlofs.

Snohomish Public Utility District is preparing to test several tidal energy generators within the next two years in deep waters about half- mile offshore from Fort Casey.

Tidal and wave energy are known to be far more predictable than wind or solar power, officials agree. They might one day provide an important part of the Northwest’s portfolio of clean, renewable energy, bringing green jobs and economic development to Washington. But questions remain about the potential effects on marine mammals, salmon and fragile ecosystems.

The Pacific Northwest National Lab is engaged in research to avoid and mitigate environmental effects in Puget Sound and the outer coast. It is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory system. The Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sequim Bay is the DOE’s only marine laboratory.

Whidbey Examiner -


Wash. Energy lab will study producing hydrokenetic power September 5, 2009

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., will receive more than $6.8 million over three years to advance the production of energy from ocean waves and moving rivers.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy will pay for a project that examines the environmental impacts of marine and hydrokinetic power. Marine power includes power harnessed from the flux of ocean tides and waves, while hydrokinetic refers to power generated from flowing freshwater without dams.

The project will examine the risks that the power generation techniques pose for the environment and wildlife, conduct laboratory and field experiments to further investigate certain risks, and predict the long-term impact of full-scale energy installations.

Some of the issues include how fish and marine mammals are directly affected by water power devices, including induced electromagnetic fields, noise and blade strike. Researchers will examine whether producing these kinds of power could create “dead zones” by interfering with the ocean’s circulation and nutrient patterns.

Staff from PNNL’s offices in Seattle, Portland, Richland and Sequim, Wash., will work together on the project. The study will be done in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Pacific Energy Ventures, an Oregon renewable energy consulting firm, will take part in the project as well.

Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian –


Proposed Wind Power Project Deemed Safe for Wildlife

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:55 pm
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A draft conservation plan and independent study results assessing potential impacts on marbled murrelets at a proposed wind power project near Naselle, Wash. will be submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service this week.

The draft conservation plan, prepared by nationally recognized experts, concluded the proposed Radar Ridge Wind Project would have minor or insignificant impacts on marbled murrelets, and other wildlife populations in the area. The murrelet is an endangered species listed as threatened.

“We are pleased the independent studies confirmed that the development of Radar Ridge is very unlikely to significantly impact murrelets and other species in the area,” said Matt Samuelson, Radar Ridge participants committee chair. “Wisely developed wind projects can provide clean energy and drive our economy while caring for the environment.”

Development of the Radar Ridge project is being considered by four western Washington public utility districts: Clallam County PUD No. 1, Grays Harbor PUD No. 1, Pacific County PUD No. 2, and Mason County PUD No. 3, in conjunction with Energy Northwest, a consortium of 27 Washington State public power providers.

The independent studies, on which the draft conservation plan is based, were prepared by Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc. and Hamer Environmental, nationally recognized as a marbled murrelet expert. The findings indicate the proposed project site has low passage rates over the ridge top for all bird and bat species, including birds of prey, migratory birds and the marbled murrelet. The study was conducted in consultation with state and federal wildlife agencies and their published guidelines.

The study’s specific findings included:

  • Conservative estimates indicate less than one marbled murrelet would be harmed each year as a direct result of the Radar Ridge project.
  • Surveys of marbled murrelet flight patterns show very low activity through areas over the ridge top near the proposed wind turbine locations. Even so, a high proportion of the passage rates were at an elevation higher than the wind turbine blades.
  • Habitat at the site is unsuitable for marbled murrelet nesting because of past and present forest management practices and land use, which resulted in no old-growth forest in the project area.
  • Adequate buffer exists between the project area and potentially active marbled murrelet nesting habitat nearby. The coexistence of the project within the marbled murrelet conservation zone should not significantly hinder conservation and recovery.

The project, proposed on Washington State Department of Natural Resources land, could generate up to 82 megawatts of electricity; enough energy to power approximately 18,000 homes. It is expected to consist of up to 32 wind turbines on towers no taller than approximately 262 feet.

The site is on State Trust land, meaning that revenue from the project will help pay for construction of public schools, universities, and other state institutions, and fund county services.

Radar Ridge is slated to be the first large-scale wind project in western Washington. The site has existing nearby electricity transmission lines with adequate available capacity to support the project. The location will also ease some aspects of electricity transmission congestion caused by increased renewable energy flowing from eastern Washington wind resources to the western side of the state.

The project is also favored for its “winter peaking” potential because it is expected to produce the majority of its power in the winter months when the participating utilities need it most.

“The participants remain fully committed to obtaining all required environmental permits in consultation with the appropriate agencies to ensure the project is developed in a manner protective of the environment,” said Samuelson.

The not-for-profit utility group is pursuing the project to help meet renewable energy mandates imposed on Washington’s PUDs by Initiative 937 in 2006. They estimate the project may begin operations as early as late fall 2011.



Chinese company to open Solar R&D facility in Richland, Wash.

Filed under: Solar,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 12:49 pm
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A Chinese company is opening a research and development center in Richland to tap into the technical expertise available in the area.

GCL Solar recently leased about 10,000 square feet in a building that houses Tetra Tech on Columbia Point Drive.

GCL Solar is a subsidiary of GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd., which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of polysilicon for the solar industry.

The space is being remodeled and should be ready in the next few months, said Russ Hamilton, vice president of technology and chief technology officer for GCL-Poly, who until recently worked for REC Silicon in Moses Lake, another leading global player in the silicon industry.

Hamilton said he plans to hire 30 to 40 engineers along with support staff to run the Richland center. At least half will be hired before the year ends, he said.

The Richland facility will help to develop better, cost-effective methods for silica processing and production, Hamilton said. Silicon is used to manufacture semi-conductors and solar wafers, which are used to make solar cells and photovoltaic solar panels.

After the company develops the right technology, it’ll focus on producing solar wafers in China, Hamilton said.

Researchers in Richland will work closely with other company researchers in China to help identify the technologies the company wants to get involved in, he said, adding that he expects to farm out some lab projects like simulation of chemical processes to local scientists.

“We’re excited to have them,” said Richland Mayor John Fox. It helps diversify the technology mix in the Tri-Cities, he said.

The new center also will help highlight the area and what it has to offer internationally, Fox said.

Richland may provide some infrastructure help to the company, Hamilton said. But that wasn’t the reason the company is coming to the city, he clarified. The company explored various options within the Tri-Cities before finding what it thought was the best fit for its needs, Hamilton said. Being located in an area that offers a high quality of life will help the company recruit the best talents, he said. “We can’t wait to get started.”

Pratik Joshi, TriCity Herald -


Navy, Snohomish Co. PUD discuss tidal energy projects September 3, 2009

Local residents last week had their first opportunity to ask questions about two renewable-energy pilot projects planned for the waters of Admiralty Inlet.

Officials from the Snohomish County Public Utility District and the Navy discussed their plans to harness tidal energy off Whidbey and Marrowstone islands at an event hosted by the Island County Economic Development Council, the Island County Marine Resources Committee and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton.

The two projects have very different goals.

The Navy’s purpose is to comply with a renewable-energy mandate from Congress with a research project that will end with the removal of the underwater turbines after one year. Snohomish PUD is hoping its exploration of the potential of tidal energy in Admiralty Inlet will lead to a long-term – and lucrative – power-generation project.

“These are the ‘Kitty Hawk’ days of tidal energy,” said Craig Collar, the PUD’s senior energy resource development manager.

The PUD is studying how well the turbines perform, the economic feasibility of tidal power and how the turbines might affect the marine environment.

Snohomish PUD plans to install two turbines made by Ireland-based OpenHydro about 220 feet below the surface about a half-mile southwest of Admiralty Head. At peak performance, each unit is expected to produce about 600 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power about 500 homes.

Collar said the OpenHydro turbine is considered one of the most environmentally friendly designs on the market, as it is lubricated with salt water rather than a petroleum-based product, has a closed-fin design that prevents marine life from being harmed by spinning blades, and at 400 tons, the turbine’s weight anchors it to the sea floor, so no underwater drilling would be required.

“They are designed to be completely removable,” he said.

Island County Commissioner Angie Homola asked Collar how many turbines would be needed to match the approximately 100 megawatts produced by their Henry Jackson Dam facility in Snohomish County’s Sultan River basin.

Collar said the current tidal-energy project involves just two OpenHydro turbines. The PUD would need to install between 150 and 200 turbines to produce the same amount of power generated by the dam, he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Collar said that even if the pilot project yields promising results, he doubted the PUD would install any more than 100 turbines in Admiralty Inlet. And if it did, it would be done gradually, in phases, with the first batch of about 20 turbines installed no sooner than 2019.

“This could never be done any way but incrementally,” he said.

Howard Garrett, president of Orca Network, asked the presenters how much underwater noise the turbines would generate and whether a large number of turbines could slow tidal flow.

Scientists at the University of Washington’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center are trying to answer some of those questions.

Brian Polagye, a tidal expert and research assistant professor, said that while the impact of just a few machines would be unnoticeable, models have suggested that 100 machines could slow tidal flow by up to 1 percent.

“That’s measurable, but it’s not clear what the effects will be,” he said.

Another unidentified questioner asked what kind of land-based infrastructure would be needed to support the turbines. Collar said there wouldn’t be much as far as the pilot project is concerned, but if a major build-out takes place, the story might be different. He did not offer specifics.

As for the Navy’s plans, Brian Cable, a mechanical engineer at Naval Facilities Engineering Command, said Navy officials have focused their attention on two locations just off the east shore of Marrowstone Island.

Congress provided $5.6 million for the Navy research project. Research gathered could yield information about tidal energy that could eventually allow some bases to generate their own power.

“Energy independence on a Navy base is a security factor that is important,” Cable said.

The Navy will also be installing a different type of turbine than the OpenHydro design. Instead, they will be using turbines built by U.S. based Verdant Power. Closely resembling wind turbines, Verdant Power’s design uses a tri-frame platform. Like the OpenHydro model, it uses weight to anchor it to the sea floor.

The Navy plans to install two platforms and a total of six turbines that will power one building and the lights in a parking lot at the Navy’s ammunition depot on Indian Island, which is just southeast of Port Townsend. Each turbine supplies up 40 kilowatts of electricity.

Before either pilot project can move forward, the agencies need to complete an extensive permitting process.

The Navy must adhere to the requirements outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act, while Snohomish PUD must obtain federal, state and local permits. Both agencies hope to have their projects under way by 2011.

Justin Burnett, Whidbey Examiner


WWU Gets Grant To Convert Cow Manure To Fuel

Western Washington University’s Vehicle Research Institute has been awarded a $500,000 grant for turning cow manure into clean-burning bio-methane for vehicles.

Part of the funding from the Department of Energy will go toward placing new engines in three buses used by Bellingham’s Bellair Charters.

Not only will the busses produce a fraction of the CO2, but they are also using a renewable resource made from cow manure, which would ordinarily just add its greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, according to VRI Director Eric Leonhardt.

The bio-methane used to power the buses comes from a dairy digester at the Vander Haak Dairy in Lynden.

Manure is put into the digester, which separates the solids from the gases, Leonhardt explained.

The gases are then run through a “scrubber,” to make them clean and ready to burn in a combustion engine.

Leonhardt said Whatcom County cows alone could produce enough bio-methane to run every car, truck, bus and piece of farm equipment in the county.

Tracy Ellis, KGMI (AM)


NW power panel: Save juice, build fewer plants

A committee that guides the Bonneville Power Administration has called for buying more compact fluorescent light bulbs and building fewer carbon-emitting power plants in the Pacific Northwest.

The panel said energy efficiency in homes, businesses and factories could offset most of the demand for increased power supplies in the four-state region for two decades.

The plan submitted Thursday by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council said natural gas plants and wind energy could take care of the rest of the demand, and it did not envision new coal-fired plants.

The council said demand is expected to rise at a rate of 1.2 percent a year for the two decades beginning next year.

It said it had identified enough potential in efficient use of power to account for 85 percent of that increased demand.

An aggressive plan for efficiency is the “most cost-effective and least-risky resource available,” the council said in a statement.

“The average cost of the efficiency is half the cost of new power plants,” it said.

The council of eight members from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington sets policy for the federal Bonneville Power Administration.

Using hydropower and a nuclear plant, the BPA is the region’s largest supplier of electricity, and its executives are required to act consistently with the council’s 20-year plans.

The plans aren’t binding on investor-owned utilities, but “I think you will find that they look at it as a bit of a blueprint,” said Bill Booth of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, chairman of the council.

Conservation groups said the council had exercised leadership in setting high goals for energy efficiency but fallen short of what it could have done: outline a plan to wean the region off coal-fired electricity.

Associated Press –


Company plans biomass power project in Longview, Wash. August 28, 2009

A company that had planned to build an ethanol manufacturing plant in Longview now wants to build a facility that would burn wood waste to produce electricity.

Vancouver, Wash.-based Northwest Renewable estimates the $72.5 million biomass plant will create up to 400 construction jobs and up to 70 permanent positions. The Daily News of Longview reports that the company hopes to start construction next year. It says the proposed 24-megawatt plant would burn wood chips and other waste to generate steam, which would then drive a turbine to make electricity.

Northwest Renewable originally planned to make corn-based ethanol at the Longview site, starting in June 2008. But poor economic conditions in the alternative fuels industry kept the 31-acre site idle.

The Daily News –


Spotted owls block Skamania wind farm expansion in Wash. August 24, 2009

Plans for a wind farm on some state land in Skamania County are on hold because it’s spotted owl habitat.

The Department of Natural Resources is no longer considering leasing 2,560 acres to the SDS Lumber Co. for possible future expansion of the proposed Whistling Ridge Energy Project.

The Vancouver Columbian reports the state is required to manage the second-growth forest, with scattered old-growth trees, as a spotted owl emphasis area.

Bingen-based SDS Lumber has applied for a permit to build a 42-turbine wind farm on a logged-over ridge it owns near Underwood. It approached DNR officials about expanding the proposed Whistling Ridge project onto adjacent state land.

The DNR currently has 24 active wind power leases.

The Olympian –


Review starts on Teanaway solar project in Wash. August 22, 2009

With the submission to Kittitas County on Tuesday of the permit application for the $300 million Teanaway Solar Reserve project begins a public review and permitting process that tentatively may end in December.

If there are no appeals or other actions that delay the orderly scrutiny of the proposed solar power plant, it’s possible a final decision by the county Board of Adjustment may come in November or December, according to county Community Development Services officials.

County Planner Dan Valoff said the tentative December review completion date is just that, tentative, and could change due to a number of factors.

Valoff shared a general outline of the process to be used to publicly review the project that proponents say will be the world’s largest solar power plant, with 400,000 photovoltaic panels, when completed on a 145-acre site four miles northeast of Cle Elum.

Daily Record –


Washington’s woody debris shows promise for clean fuels, report says August 21, 2009

Filed under: Biomass,Washington,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 10:11 am

A University of Washington report says woody biomass may be the state’s best opportunity to develop biofuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report by the UW School of Forest Resources say woody biomass is the most abundant and sustainable state resource that can be converted into liquid fuels to replace gasoline and diesel.

Woody biomass is the residue left after tree harvesting, forest thinning or the manufacturing of wood products.

The report says 11 million dry tons of forest biomass could be available for energy production. That’s about two-thirds of what’s available annually in the state.

The Washington Legislature had asked researchers to look into the potential of wood as a renewable energy source.

The Oregonian –


Huge Solar Farm Gets Sunny Welcome In Cle Elum, Wash. August 20, 2009

The private company proposing the region’s largest solar power plant got a sunny welcome at its first public presentation of the idea.

Earlier Wedsnesday, about 50 residents of central Washington’s Kittitas County asked questions of Teanaway Solar Reserve managing partner Howard Trott.

Trott told his audience that the 400,000 panels he wants to install in a forest clear-cut will be well hidden.

Howard Trott: “It doesn’t produce green house emissions. It’s sustainable. It’s low maintenance, silent, offers a low visibility profile, and produces power even on cloudy days.”

Trott said his company submitted a development application to the county Tuesday.

Locals who came to the solar company’s briefing seemed most interested in the jobs the project might bring.

The 145-acre installation is billed as generating enough electricity to power 45,000 homes.

OPB News –


Giant Central Wash. $300M solar plant moves ahead August 19, 2009

Backers of one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic plants say they’re moving ahead to build their facility near Cle Elum in central Washington.

Teanaway Solar Reserve LLC officials said they’ve submitted a permit application to Kittitas County to build a 75-megawatt plant that will include 400,000 solar panels on 400 acres of former logging land. They’re estimating the overall private investment into the plant will be more than $300 million.

The project, they said, will create up to 225 “family-wage” jobs every year during the plant’s three-year construction period. The plant is expected to employ 35 people after it’s built.

“The Teanaway Solar Reserve (is) an example of the ideal 21st century business — one that benefits individuals, the community and the planet at the same time,” said Howard Trott, managing director, in a statement.

The permit application contains “hundreds of pages necessary for county land use and environmental review,” Teanaway officials said in a statement. When complete, the project would provide enough energy for about 45,000 homes, they said.

Puget Sound Business Journal –


New Energy management degree offered at Wash. CC August 18, 2009

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 11:22 pm
Tags: , ,

Edmonds Community College is offering a new two-year energy management degree that will give graduates the expertise to turn energy wasters into energy savers and the know-how to help make our region more energy efficient, according to a press release.

The degree teaches skills suited for people currently working in the industry, seeking entry-level work in the field, or taking on new responsibilities in energy efficiency at their workplace.

Students will learn about where the region’s energy comes from, its uses and how to monitor energy programs. They will train to manage and account for energy use as well as to lead projects, analyze data and create reports.

Employers hiring workers trained in energy conservation are utilities, large corporations and businesses that install energy-saving equipment, including lighting and HVAC contractors, “green” builders, weatherization manufacturing and sales businesses and solar power system services.

Most classes for the energy management degree are offered evenings and online. Certificates are also available that can be completed in six months or less.

Students can become certified as a residential energy auditor, commercial lighting auditor, energy accounting specialist, or energy efficiency technician. Each certificate counts toward the two-year associate of technical arts degree in energy management, which transfers to Central Washington University.

The Enterprise Newspapers -


Obama move to cut wave power funding upsets NW advocates May 30, 2009

The Obama administration has proposed a 25 percent cut in the research and development budget for one of the most promising renewable energy sources in the Northwest – wave and tidal power.

At the same time the White House sought an 82 percent increase in solar power research funding, a 36 percent increase in wind power funding and a 14 percent increase in geothermal funding. But it looked to cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million.

The decision to cut funding came only weeks after the Interior Department suggested that wave power could emerge as the leading offshore energy source in the Northwest and at a time when efforts to develop tidal power in Puget Sound are attracting national and international attention.

By some estimates, wave and tidal power could eventually meet 10 percent of the nation’s electricity demand, about the same as hydropower currently delivers. Some experts have estimated that if only 0.2 percent of energy in ocean waves could be harnessed, the power produced would be enough to supply the entire world.

In addition to Puget Sound and the Northwest coast, tidal and wave generators have been installed, planned or talked about in New York’s East River, in Maine, Alaska, off Atlantic City, N.J., and Hawaii. However, they’d generate only small amounts of power.

The Europeans are leaders when it comes to tidal and wave energy, with projects considered, planned or installed in Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland and Norway. There have also been discussions about projects in South Korea, the Philippines, India and Canada’s Maritime provinces.

The proposed cut, part of the president’s budget submitted to Congress, has disappointed Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“Wave and tidal power holds great promise in helping to meet America’s long-term energy needs,” Murray said, adding that Washington state is a leader in its development. “It’s time for the Department of Energy to focus on this potential. But playing budget games won’t get the work done.”

Murray’s staff said that while $16.8 billion in the recently passed stimulus bill is reserved for renewable energy and energy efficiency, none of it is earmarked for wave and tidal power.

Energy Department spokesman Tom Welch, however, said the Obama administration is asking for 10 times more for tidal and wave power than the Bush administration did.

“The trend line is up,” Welch said. “The department is collaborating with industry, regulators and other stakeholders to develop water resources, including conventional hydro.”

Murray sees it differently. Congress appropriated $40 million for the current year, so the Obama administration proposal actually would cut funding by a fourth.

Utility officials involved in developing tidal energy sources said the administration’s approach was shortsighted.

“We need all the tools in the tool belt,” said Steve Klein, general manager of the Snohomish County Public Utility District. “It’s dangerous to anoint certain sources and ignore others.”

The Snohomish PUD could have a pilot plant using three tidal generators installed on a seabed in Puget Sound in 2011. The tidal generators, built by an Irish company, are 50 feet tall and can spin either way depending on the direction of the tides. The units will be submerged, with 80 feet of clearance from their tops to the water’s surface. They’ll be placed outside of shipping channels and ferry routes.

The pilot plant is expected to produce one megawatt of electricity, or enough to power about 700 homes. If the pilot plant proves successful, the utility would consider installing a project that powered 10,000 homes.

“A lot of people are watching us,” Klein said.

The Navy, under pressure from Congress to generate 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, will install a pilot tidal generating project in Puget Sound near Port Townsend next year.

In Washington state, law requires that the larger utilities obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The law sets up interim targets of 3 percent by 2012 and 9 percent by 2016.

Most of the attention so far has focused on developing large wind farms east of the Cascade Mountains. Because wind blows intermittently, however, the region also needs a more reliable source of alternative energy. Tidal and wave fit that need. Also, at least with tidal, the generators would be closer to population centers than the wind turbines in eastern Washington.

“The potential is significant and (tidal and wave) could accomplish a large fraction of the renewable energy portfolio for the state,” said Charles Brandt, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s marine sciences lab in Sequim.



Clark County, WA wind farm on hold May 27, 2009

A potential wind farm envisioned straddling a ridgeline near Larch Mountain in east Clark County has been put on hold.

The state Department of Natural Resources, anticipating a boom in wind energy development spilling across the west side of the Cascades, wants more information before it considers leasing western state forests to wind farmers.

Jane Chavey, a DNR spokeswoman in Olympia, said the agency wants to understand how skyscraper-high wind turbines might affect northern spotted owls or coastal birds such as marbled murrelets. State and federal biologists added that fish and wildlife concerns are much more pronounced in the varied landscapes of western Washington than on the dry-land wheat farms that characterize much of Eastern Washington.

“We want to make sure we go into this with a very well-thought-out approach,” Chavey said.

The delay follows a report last month of a golden eagle’s collision with a wind tower southeast of Goldendale in the Columbia River Gorge, believed to be the first known casualty of an eagle killed by a wind turbine in Washington.

EnXco Inc., doing business as Evergreen Wind Power Partners, expressed interest last year in leasing 5,400 acres of DNR land in a remote area of east Clark County near Larch Mountain.

A second company, Horizon Wind Energy, subsequently expressed interest in the site.

State officials began preparing a preliminary environmental review followed by an auction similar to a timber sale.

At the time, state lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland had been encouraging wind energy companies to take a look at state timberland as a way for the state to wring extra value from those lands while boosting the development of renewable energy. The state has long been involved in leasing out state pasture land in Eastern Washington for wind towers, and the two-term Republican saw opportunities to do the same on DNR-owned forests.

Sutherland was defeated for re-election last fall by Democrat Peter Goldmark.

Chavey emphasized that the change in leadership had nothing to do with the DNR’s taking a step back to consider leasing westside forests for wind turbines.

“We’re becoming more aware of the subtleties we’ll need to deal with on the west side,” she said.

In arid Eastern Washington, erecting wind turbines amid open pastures and wheat fields is a relatively straightforward proposition.

Now imagine trying to haul 400-foot-tall wind turbines through thick evergreen forests crisscrossed by fish-bearing streams. Constructing access roads would be an expensive and, potentially, an environmentally destructive proposition.

“These aren’t like logging roads to get those blades in there,” said Jim Michaels, a biologist consulting with the DNR for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Olympia. “They’re greater than 40 feet in width, almost like a superhighway.”

Once in place, the turbines run the risk of sharing space with a diversity of wildlife that mirrors the varied westside terrain — creatures living on inland bays, coastal beaches, lakes, rivers, streams and myriad kinds of forests. Wind turbines spin at about 180 mph, and the associated concrete pads, roads and transmission lines also present issues for terrestrial creatures.

State authorities are trying to put together a map showing areas that would be better for wind turbines than others.

Federal officials credited the DNR with getting ahead of the curve.

“Normally, we don’t hear about these things until an applicant has sunk quite a bit of money into it,” Michaels said. “It doesn’t take long to wrap up a couple of million dollars in a site.”

Agency spokesman Doug Zimmer added: “A lot of times, by talking to us early, we can find ways to say, ‘If you move two miles down this ridge, life will be better for everybody.'”

Erik Robinson, The Columbian



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