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NorthWestern Energy’s bills reach Gov. Desk in Mont. March 25, 2009

The state’s largest electric-and-gas utility is rolling its agenda through the Legislature — an agenda it says will lead to lower energy bills and more “green” power for consumers.

“What we’re trying to do is protect ratepayers from big costs,” says John Fitzpatrick, NorthWestern Energy’s lead lobbyist in the halls of the Capitol. “(And) we’re not looking at any coal. It’s all renewable power.”

Yet critics of the company say NorthWestern’s agenda is more about ensuring it owns the means of power production, which is a new revenue stream for the company, and undercutting competing, independent generators.

“They want to kill any generation capacity that they don’t own,” says Rep. Brady Wiseman, D-Bozeman. “They don’t speak for consumers. They speak for their stockholders.”

Developers of small, independent power projects, particularly wind, also say NorthWestern wants to cut them out of the picture, by changing laws encouraging the purchase of renewable power from these types of projects.

“If they want to be honest about it, they should just seek a repeal of the (renewable-power standards), because that’s what we’ll have in practice if they get their way,” says Suzanne Bessette, a Helena attorney representing small power producers.

Two bills changing Montana’s renewable-power requirements for utilities have passed the Legislature and await Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s signature, and another is before the Senate, having passed the House.

Current law requires NorthWestern to buy a minimum amount of power from small “community” green-power projects by 2010. The two laws that have passed extend the deadline to 2012 and increase the size of projects that would qualify.

The third measure, House Bill 343, says NorthWestern can own the community projects. Together, the three bills would allow NorthWestern to develop or purchase a 25-megawatt renewable project, rather than buying the power from smaller, independent projects. The company says the larger project would produce cheaper power.

Rep. Art Noonan, D-Butte, is sponsoring HB343 and chairing the House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee. He’s supportive of NorthWestern, whose Montana headquarters are in Butte.

Noonan said he wants NorthWestern to be successful in rebuilding itself as a utility that owns its power plants and sells to consumers, like the old Montana Power Co. In the wake of the 1997 deregulation law, MPC sold off its assets and became NorthWestern, which owned no power production and must buy most power on the open market for consumers.

“I would rather have a solid company in Butte that I could look at and regulate, than a thousand little rancher-corporations all owning a few windmills,” he said. “I just won’t apologize in this session for wanting to assist NorthWestern in becoming a strong, viable corporation in our economy.

“I believe that this company wants to provide good, cheap power to the state of Montana and rebuild what once was the glory of Montana Power Co.”

Noonan supports another bill that is bitterly opposed by renewable-power producers.

Senate Bill 403, which faces a vote in Noonan’s committee Wednesday, would allow NorthWestern to get renewable power “credit” by purchasing power from the small producers, but without buying the producers’ green-power credits that certify the purchase.

Fitzpatrick says SB403 would save consumers money, because those credits may cost as much as 50 percent more than the power itself.

Bessette says those numbers are wildly inflated, and even if NorthWestern must buy the credits from her clients, the price for their power would be no more than what the utility’s customers now pay.

Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad and a member of the House Energy Committee, says some of NorthWestern’s initiatives make sense. He says allowing the company to own larger, renewable projects could cut costs for consumers as well as help NorthWestern’s bottom line.

He has voted for most of NorthWestern’s initiatives, but says he worries that the company may make it too difficult for independent projects to provide power to NW customers — power that sometimes may be cheaper than a company development.

“(Their bills) are always framed as being good for the consumer,” he said. “But you have to make sure that when NorthWestern makes that argument, that the consumer interests and shareholder interests really are aligned.”

Fitzpatrick says the more NorthWestern can build its own plants and get them in the “rate base,” which means consumers pay the costs of projects but get first dibs on the power, the more customers will see cheaper costs in the long run.

“The full advantage of rate-basing is you lock in the capital cost over the life of the entity,” he said. “The capital cost of the project remains stable, and it stabilizes rates long-term.”

Wiseman says that argument doesn’t apply to every project, and that NorthWestern wants to squash anything that gets in its way of owning and producing as much generation as possible.

“We voted to let them own generation (in 2007), but we did not vote to give them the power to squeeze everybody else out, which is what they’re doing,” he said. “They’ve got everything they’ve asked for. They’ve rolled us on everything.”

By MIKE DENNISON, IR State Bureau – http://www.helenair.com/articles/2009/03/25/state/80st_090325_energy.txt

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Below are links from previous NW Renewable News posts related to Northwestern Energy’s and their ‘campaign’ to destroy small/medium scale renewable energy development in Montana:

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/bill-introduced-in-montana-aimed-at-killing-off-renewable-energy-projects/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/mont-wind-producers-push-bill-to-press-utility-to-incorporate-their-power/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/northwestern-energy-still-trying-to-squash-wind-power-in-mont/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/mont-senate-endorses-renewable-status-for-hydroelectric-dams/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/new-northwestern-energy-bill-could-outlaw-renewable-development-in-mont/

 

Hearing Scheduled for Proposed Wolverine Canyon Farm in Idaho

Attorneys representing Ridgeline Energy and groups opposed to the wind farm project in Wolverine Canyon in Bingham county will be in court Thursday afternoon.

The purpose of the hearing is to hear arguments in regards to a motion for the court to extend its discovery period before allowing the project to move forward.

The motion was filed in November of last year by attorneys representing groups opposed to the proposed 150 turbine wind farm in Bingham County.

The project was originally approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission after months of heated debate. But that decision is being appealed.

This motion was filed to give opponents of the project extra time to look into two areas of concern, one being a potential conflict of interest with a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The other, that the public wasn’t given proper notice of hearings.

Both are issues opponents of the wind farm say need to be addressed.

Frank VanderSloot: “They either erred in judgement or they erred intentionally. Either way it should be unwound, but I think if something really crazy’s going on the public deserves to know that, too. We’re hoping the judge will allow discovery. That’s what we hope.”

Attorneys for Ridgeline say the Planning and Zoning Commission followed all the proper protocols and they hope to see this issue resolved soon.

Bill Kotowski, KPVI - http://www.kpvi.com/Global/story.asp?S=10072286&nav=menu546_1

 

Wind farm proposed near Helix, Ore.

Filed under: Green Jobs,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:14 pm
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The Helix area my have another wind farm on the horizon.

The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council is entertaining a proposal from Iberdrola Renewables Inc. to build the Helix Wind Power Facility.

The proposed facility will have a peak generating capacity of 102 megawatts and will be made up of up to 60 wind turbines. The exact type of wind turbine has not been determined yet, but they could either be 1.5 megawatt turbines or 3 megawatt turbines. Their hub height could be as tall as 80 to 100 meters, or 236 to 328 feet.

It will be located nine miles northwest of helix. Transmission lines will likely extend west and connect with either PacifiCorp lines or Bonneville Power Administration lines.

From March 10 to April 6, the council is taking public comment on the proposed facility. People

After reviewing the public comment the Oregon Department of Energy will issue a Draft Proposed Order. Once that’s out, it will schedule a public hearing, at which people will have another chance to comment in person or in writing.

In addition to the turbines themselves, the Helix Wind Power Facility will also have 16 miles of new roads, an operations building, a substation, two meteorological towers, 15 miles of above ground transmission line, 18 miles of collector lines – 5.4 miles of which would be above ground – and a communication system.

During construction there will also be a temporary concrete batch plant, two gravel quarries and roads may be made to fit large-load transport vehicles and their large turning radius.

For more information on the project, visit the EFSC Web site, at www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/SITING/index.shtml and click on the “facilities under review” link. On that next page either click on “Helix Wind Power Facility” or scroll down to the information.

The East Oregonian – http://www.eastoregonian.info/main.asp?SectionID=13&SubSectionID=48&ArticleID=90444&TM=40821.76


 

Washington’s Klickitat County getting Economic boost from Wind March 24, 2009

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:47 pm
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An electrician enlarged his shop. A fencing contractor is so busy he’s had to stop advertising. A former drywaller loves his new job stringing electrical cable up 200-foot ladders.

In rural Klickitat County, wind farm construction is driving new employment in a place that’s struggled for years after high-paying jobs in timber and aluminum dried up.

It’s not a wide-open boom, but it’s definitely helping, said Jim Allyn, owner of Allyn’s Building Supply, which recently saw a 20 percent spike in sales and was able to take on an extra worker.

The prevailing mentality: The wind blows anyway, it might as well blow money.

“There’s more than wind surfing on this stuff,” said Mike Canon, economic development director for Klickitat County.

No one knows exactly how many temporary construction jobs have been created, but if current plans are borne out, the wind farms will ultimately start an estimated 535 permanent jobs and generate nearly $15 million in annual property taxes.

The county is becoming the Northwest’s wind farm capital with 14 projects either built, under construction or in the planning process. Five are producing some level of electricity so far.

If all of them are built, they will have the capacity to produce 2,661 megawatts, enough to power potentially more than 1 million homes.

Windy Point and Windy Flats are the latest, and largest wind farms. Together, they will be one of the largest wind projects in the United States, according to developer Cannon Power Group of San Diego.

When complete next year, the wind farms will stretch across 26 continuous miles of ridgeline above the north shore of the Columbia River and have a capacity to generate 500 megawatts of electricity, enough for up to 250,000 homes.

The tips of the turbine blades soar 415 feet off the ground, creating an imposing view from the wheat farms and cattle ranches dotting the hills surrounding Goldendale, with a population of 3,715.

The company plans to sell some of that power to California and has signed letters-of-intent to do so.

But while the power heads south, the jobs are here and that’s a relief to a county with chronically high unemployment, 12.3 percent last month.

Construction work is done through a myriad of subcontractors, making exact employment statistics and wage information elusive, said Brandy Myers, the project administrator.

However, more than 150 workers are now building the two Cannon wind farms. Jobs range from clerical work to road and site excavation to wood framing to wiring. As many as half of the workers are from Klickitat County.

Some of the work is contracted to Goldendale firms, but the out-of-town companies also hire local workers, said Lucky Hoffman, director of engineering and construction for Cannon.

For example, Herling Construction Inc. of Cherry Valley, Calif., with a contract to build 20 miles of roads, has about 50 employees. About 75 percent are from Klickitat County, said Ron Goldade, a foreman.

Goldade, 58, has lived in Goldendale for 25 years. Once a production supervisor at nearby aluminum plants, he lost his job when the plants shut down in 2000.

“You take what skills you learned and you try to build the mousetrap all over again,” he said.

A short excavation stint at a nearby gas-fired power plant led him to Herling, a company that took him to projects all over the West before working on the wind farms near Goldendale. He previously helped the company with road construction on the White Creek Wind Farm, further east in the county near Bickleton.

The local contractors have picked up work, too. Pat Williams of Williams Electric was hired to wire the office and maintenance buildings at both Cannon sites. His staff rose to six employees for a time last year, while he added onto his shop in town and purchased a new bucket truck from a Goldendale dealership.

Cody Slater, owner of CRS Construction and Fencing, has been turning away work for six years since wind farms arrived in the area. Hired to erect fencing and install cattle guards at the Cannon wind farms, Slater has purchased $180,000 of new equipment, including a $73,000 excavator from The Dalles, Ore., about 35 miles away.

“For once, we’ve never had to hunt for work,” Slater says.

The con-struction causes a ripple effect in the area.

Some of the work requires specialists from Utah, Wyoming, Florida and Michigan, filling up the town’s three motels. Restaurants are busy.

Last year, Allyn’s Building Supply saw its highest sales ever.

However, its owner warns that it’s not a boom.

“Goldendale is never a boom or bust town,” Allyn said. “We just kind of rock along. We’ve always had high unemployment.”

Not everyone has shared in the prosperity.

Out-of-work trucker Christopher Hunt hasn’t found work at the wind farms and still drives a 1981 Datsun with sun visors falling off in his lap. He stays partially because he loves the 5-acre view property he purchased for $10,000 in the 1990s.

“You don’t come here because you want a good job, you come because it’s a nice area,” Hunt said.

Building wind farms takes a couple years. Running them, however, is expected to last at least 20 years.

That can mean local jobs, too.

Canon, the county’s economic development director, said wind farms create an average of one permanent job for every five megawatts. So far, the farms have brought 154 permanent positions, mostly technicians. Those jobs pay from $50,000 to $60,000 per year.

In The Dalles, Columbia Gorge Community College has launched one-year and two-year training programs in wind technology. And there’s talk about bringing a similar program to Yakima. There’s a plan to start surveying the labor needs of wind farm companies sometime next month, said David Gonzales, manager of the South Central Workforce Council.

Canon, no relation to the company, considers wind farms a savior from the decline of the timber and aluminum industries that propped up the area until about a decade ago.

“They lost the timber industry and the aluminum, all within a very short time,” Canon said. “That’s what this county is pulling itself out of with these wind farms.”

Even the project administrator for Windy Point and Windy Flats hopes to keep working in Goldendale after the wind farms are complete.

For at least one person, the wind farms have allowed a return home.

A native of Goldendale, Brandy Myers, 30, had been working at Hanford in a job that took her all over the country.

Now back in Golden-dale, she handles permits, contracts and other details for the wind farms. Her husband, Lonnie, works for an electrical contractor wiring the wind turbines.

The fourth-generation rancher grew up along rural Hoctor Road south of Goldendale. She and Lonnie now live in her own home along the street with their 8-month-old son, Rydell.

The turbines dominate their view to the south, providing a daily reminder of her “chance to move back.”

Yakima Herald-Republichttp://www.tri-cityherald.com/1154/story/518209.html

 

Wind power road show hits Pullman March 21, 2009

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:55 pm
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Using wind to power homes and businesses in the region is something the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association thinks is a great idea.

SWEDA held a meeting Thursday night in Pullman to discuss the possibilities of wind power in Whitman County.

“Tonight we had a meeting regarding the study that Entrix does on economic impacts of wind power developments and we had a meeting last night in Pomeroy on a similar topic and the study was about the impacts felt in Columbia County,” said economist for Entrix Consulting Barabara Wyse. “There are three wind energy projects in Columbia County so we studied the economic impacts that happened there and then looked at what might potentially happen in other counties in the region.”

Those impacts could be more jobs, lower taxes and increased revenue.

“It would depend on the size of the project, how similar the projects are to the projects in Columbia County, how transferable those results would be,” said Wyse.

Attendees asked questions about everything from whether the wind power companies would hire locally to if the wind turbines would interfere with TV signals.

“I think people are really interested because of the prospect of wind energy development coming to the area, are really interested in seeing what they can expect,” said Wyse. “So I think this gave people a flavor of the types of impacts that could be expected.”

By Stephanie Smith, KLEWTV.comhttp://www.klewtv.com/news/41604287.html

 

Seattle eyes small-Scale residential wind power March 16, 2009

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:20 pm
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The Seattle City Council may soon approve a plan allowing small wind turbines on top of local homes and businesses.

According to a report in the Seattle Times, the plan would allow windmills 15 feet above the height limit for commercial buildings, with a separate plan allowing 10-foot tall windmills on multifamily homes to be taken up this spring.

“We wanted to offer the opportunity for folks to experiment with these,” Bryan Stevens of the Seattle Department of Planning and Development told the newspaper.

The report also noted that the plan has drawn some criticism from those who fear that windmills could present a public safety hazard if they are not properly maintained over time. However, a number of other cities are using or are approving the use of small turbines, with a building at Boston’s airport that saves about $13,000 a year with them offered as an example.

If the plan does go forward, it may help Washington State continue to establish itself as one of the nation’s leaders in renewable energy development and production.

Washington Energy Services – http://www.washingtonenergy.com/articles/article/140/seattle-eyes-small-scale-wind-power

 

Wind Industry: Infighting stymies Feds off-Shore wind goals

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:18 pm
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While the Obama administration has touted offshore renewable energy development, a turf fight between two federal agencies has stymied the government’s ability to issue rules needed to approve wind energy projects off America’s coasts.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday the infighting has got to stop.

“It will be resolved,” Salazar said in response to questions about the dispute. “We will not let any of the jurisdictional turf battles of the past get in the way of our moving forward with the renewable energy agenda.”

The dispute, which dates to late 2007, pits the Interior Department against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over which entity should approve projects that use coastal waves and currents to produce power.

Offshore wind development has been entangled in the dispute because Interior’s Minerals Management Service does not want to separate wind projects from the tidal wave, or hydrokinetic power, programs – which FERC in turn has refused to surrender, according to several officials who have followed the dispute.

Interior and FERC are said to be close to agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that would delineate each organization’s involvement in the offshore renewable energy approval process.

Salazar has been vocal in his call for more aggressive development of renewable energy projects off the country’s coasts, especially off the northern and central Atlantic. He said the governors of New Jersey and Delaware have asked what is holding up the regulations and said projects off their coasts are ready to go.

Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of FERC, played down the interagency dispute and – like Salazar – said he was confident the problem will soon be worked out.

“It’s less of a dispute than people say it is,” insisted Wellinghoff in a brief interview, adding that he doubted it has stopped any wind projects.

“It has nothing to do with wind. It only has to do with our jurisdiction over hydrokinetic systems, whether they are on the Outer Continental Shelf or not,” said Wellinghoff. He said he saw no reason why the Minerals Management Service would insist on viewing the tidal wave and wind issues together.

Salazar over the past week met with Wellinghoff to try to work out a memorandum of understanding that could be issued as early as this week. Both men are expected to be asked about the disagreement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday.

“If we don’t resolve the jurisdictional issues between FERC and the Department of Interior, we are not going to be able to move forward in the development of our offshore renewable energy resources,” said Salazar.

Mike Olsen, an attorney who represents Deep Water Wind, a company that wants to build a 96-turbine wind farm off the New Jersey coast, calls the dispute a classic government turf battle.

“It’s two agencies both feeling each has specific authority and jurisdiction. Neither one wants to yield its authority or jurisdiction to the other,” said Olsen, who as a deputy assistant Interior secretary in the Bush administration observed the dispute first hand.

Interior waged “a full court press” to get the rules on offshore renewable energy development finalize last year, Olsen said, but the effort was thwarted by the lack of an agreement with FERC.

“From our perspective the rule was ready to go in November,” said Olsen. But despite involvement of the Bush White House, no memorandum of understanding on the jurisdiction issue could be hammered out between Interior and FERC.

With a new administration on the horizon “the battle was put on hold,” he said.

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press – http://www.bellinghamherald.com/politics/story/833417.html

 

Regulators rethinking Idaho Power’s green tag strategy

Filed under: Geothermal,Idaho,Utility Companies,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:11 pm
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State utility regulators say they will reconsider an order allowing Idaho Power Co., to hold on to its renewable energy credits.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission announced the decision Monday after some of the utility’s biggest industrial customers filed objections. Those customers say Idaho Power should sell the so-called green tags and use the proceeds to benefit customers.

The commission ruled in January that Idaho Power could hold on to the credits, valued late last year at $1.9 million.

Idaho Power is awarded the credits annually for the renewable power generated at its geothermal power plant in southern Idaho and its wind farm in eastern Oregon.

The utility sought to hold on to the credits to help offset future state or federal mandates requiring utilities to expand renewable energy portfolios.

The Associated Presshttp://www.theolympian.com/northwest/story/789331.html

 

New NorthWestern Energy Bill may crush Renewable development in Mont. March 15, 2009

Transforming Montana’s renewable energy law is the focus of two bills before lawmakers that have utilities lining up to counter claims that the changes will stall renewable project development in the state.

Senate Bill 403 aims to soften Montana’s renewable portfolio requirements for utilities. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelly Gebhardt, R-Roundup, is stoking deep-seated rancor between NorthWestern Energy and small power producers, with both sides claiming the other seeks unfair benefits.

At issue is an existing Montana law that requires public utilities to buy an increasing amount of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar or geothermal, stopping at a cap of 15 percent in 2015.

The battle being pitched between the utilities and small wind developers, such as Horseshoe Bend Wind Park near Great Falls, is playing out over what are known as renewable energy credits — often called RECs or ‘wrecks’ — which are certificates granted to developers for each megawatt of clean power generated.

To meet state rules, NorthWestern Energy and other utilities must purchase these RECs from developers in amounts matching the renewable energy they acquire to meet mandated portfolio requirements. They can also meet state standards just by buying RECs.

But under Gebhardt’s proposed measure, which has already passed the Senate, they could use renewable energy purchases alone to satisfy their quotas.

“The bill the way it’s written lets NorthWestern Energy take credit for the RECs that belong to the developers without paying for them and basically taints them in the process,” said Bill Pascoe, spokesman for Horseshoe Bend, during a Friday House committee hearing for the bill.

RECs can be sold in regional markets, but their popularity turns on confidence in their value. Opponents, including Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, say the proposed change to the state’s 2005 renewables law would erode the value of Montana RECs, since the credits could be tied to energy that has already been used by someone to meet portfolio requirements.

“Our concern is that by basically double-counting the RECs for both in-state use and out-of-state use you compromise the value of the REC,” said Paul Cartwright, energy adviser for the governor.

NorthWestern Energy, however, argues that a different kind of doubling up is going on.

“Essentially there is a double dipping,” said John Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the electric company. “The utility has to buy the qualifying facility power and then it has to buy the equivalent power to meet the renewable standard.”

Under federal law, NorthWestern and other utilities are required to purchase power from small renewable power producers, also known as qualifying facilities.

Since those purchases already required by the federal law cannot be used to meet the state standards, Fitzpatrick said, rate-payers are stuck holding a check of about $13.3 million a year. Under Gebhardt’s measure, the utility would be able to tally those purchases against the state quota.

“If this bill is defeated, those of you who vote against it can go out and say to your constituents ‘I voted for a lot higher rates for you’,” Fitzpatrick told the members of the House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

Along with changing the quota standards, lawmakers in the same committee are considering allowing hydroelectric dam upgrades to generate the same renewable energy credits as wind or solar energy.

Under Senate Bill 257, those credits would be available for upgrades completed since the end of 2004, including those at Kerr Dam southwest of Polson, and could be used by PPL Montana to meet its state-mandated renewable purchases.

“What could be more environmentally friendly than an upgrade at an existing facility that poses no environmental impacts?” David Hoffmann, spokesman for PPL said to the committee. A portion of the RECs generated — 22 percent — would also be donated to the low-income energy assistance fund by the utility.

But opponents argue that the measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, sets unfair rules for doling out the credits, even if hydroelectric should be included on the state’s renewables list. Since it would grant RECs for all of the power generated post-upgrade by a dam, instead of just the power associated with the upgrade, they say it would flood the state’s REC market.

“Passing this bill could very well mean that not a single additional new megawatt of renewable energy could be built in Montana,” said Chuck Magraw, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to the governor’s office, if the state’s renewable portfolio standards were left alone, they would generate demand for about 11,000 credits between now and 2014, but under the change proposed by Senate Bill 257, roughly 600,000 new RECs would be created immediately, all belonging to PPL Montana.

Both Senate Bills 403 and 257 have passed the Senate. If they pass out of the House energy committee, they will move to the full House for consideration.

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Below are links from previous NW Renewable News posts related to Northwestern Energy’s and their ‘campaign’ to destroy renewable energy development in Montana:

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/bill-introduced-in-montana-aimed-at-killing-off-renewable-energy-projects/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/mont-wind-producers-push-bill-to-press-utility-to-incorporate-their-power/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/northwestern-energy-still-trying-to-squash-wind-power-in-mont/

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/mont-senate-endorses-renewable-status-for-hydroelectric-dams/

 

E. Idaho man harnessing the wind in backyard

Filed under: Idaho,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 1:45 pm
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Vermon Esplin saw a display last fall of residential windmills while walking through the Eastern Idaho State Fair.

So he ordered two of them in October, and then waited for the back-ordered products to arrive while the untapped wind whipped past his home last fall.

“It drove me crazy, all that wind I missed,” Esplin told the Idaho State Journal.

Blackfoot-based Mountain View Wind Power installed the 33-foot residential windmills last month.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile,” he said. It’s basically an investment.”

He said it’s too early to know how much power the windmills are generating, but he said on a recent blustery day his electric meter had stopped.

“When the wind is really blowing, it’s a pretty good hum,” Esplin said of the two windmills.

He said the windmills will pay for themselves after seven years.

He is also getting a break due to the recent economic stimulus package that removed a $4,000 cap on how much could be deducted for installing such a system. A 30 percent cap on the overall cost remains, however.

Vermon said if the windmills generate more power than he can use, he can sell it to Idaho Power, which will pay him dollar for dollar. He said Rocky Mountain Power is currently paying 75 cents for a dollar’s worth of energy.

Called net metering, the process measures the electricity a homeowner’s system generates. Excess energy generated at a home is returned to the grid.

He said he first spoke with his neighbors to check if they would be bothered by the windmills.

“Most were very interested in doing it themselves,” Esplin said.

He said he wants to expand his system to capture energy from the sun and to be able to store energy.

“This is phase one,” he said. “The next is solar panels and batteries.”

He and his wife, Cara, both drive hybrid cars, though he said they’re not trying to make an environmental statement.

“We’re not the poster children,” he said. “We just like the cars.”

The Associated Presshttp://www.theolympian.com/northwest/story/788346.html

 

Puget Sound Energy plans wind farm in Idaho March 13, 2009

The company looking to create wind farms in Garfield County takes another step forward. Puget Sound Energy has signed a lease to open an office in Pomeroy.

PSE expects to occupy the office space, formerly used by the Associated Agency Group, later this spring. The facility is being refurbished in part with support from local Pomeroy businesses including Herres Enterprises LLC as general contractor and Flynn’s Electric, LLC as electrical subcontractor.

The company already has an office in Dayton.

The move is to help facilitate what is being called the Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project. The new office will oversee project planning, permitting and community relations in support of the project.

Last month the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association and Pomeroy Chamber of Commerce hosted am open house to talk about wind potential in the area.

PSE officials said the new office in Pomeroy will create new “green” jobs. The company already has a wind farm in Columbia County, the Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility.

The project proposed for Garfield County calls for approximately 800 Megawatts of wind energy generated by approximately 444 wind turbines.

“PSE’s new Pomeroy office is what ‘green jobs’ are all about, with Garfield County being at the forefront of greater energy independence for America and new economic opportunities,” said Stephanie Newberg, president of the Pomeroy Chamber of Commerce. “Opening an office, hiring people and producing clean energy are all good for the community, local businesses and the environment.”

“This is an exciting time for PSE and Pomeroy, with wind projects bringing a new source of income that is a great fit with agriculture,” said Jay Takemura, the utility’s newly named Project Coordinator. “As a long-time farmer myself, I know how important the revenue from wind power will be to local families and businesses, and how that cash-flow will help the community as a whole.”

Takemura will manage the utility’s Pomeroy office, and expects to be hiring an office assistant. Additionally, the office will be the workplace for other employees of PSE and of RES Americas involved in the Lower Snake River project.

In February 2009, the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association and Pomeroy Chamber of Commerce held a wind energy open house at the Pomeroy High School attended by some 150 area residents interested in learning about the economic impact of wind power.

The Lower Snake River project is designed to be built in phases, with construction on support infrastructure targeted to begin in 2010.

KlewTV.comhttp://www.klewtv.com/news/local/41120167.html

 

PGE Succesfully Raises Funds for Wind Farm Expansion March 12, 2009

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Utility Companies,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:05 am
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It only took Portland General Electric a week to raise $175.9 million.

The Portland-based electric utility (NYSE: POR) on Wednesday announced that it had completed its public offering of 12.4775 million shares of common stock at $14.10 per share. That included a 30-day option given to underwriters to buy up to an additional 1.6275 million shares to cover any over-allotments, all of which was exercised in full, the company said.

PGE announced March 4 that it would issue the shares. It set the price two days later.

Gross proceeds of the offering reached $175.9 million before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and other offering expenses.

The money will be used to repay most of its outstanding short-term debt and finance capital projects, such as the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm in Sherman County. The company had $203 million in short-term debt and $142 million in long-term debt as of Dec. 31, according to a regulatory filing. It has more than $5 billion in assets.

“We’re pursuing investment opportunities that support our core, vertically-integrated utility business and help meet the growing energy needs of our customers,” CEO Jim Piro said in a news release. “The economic environment is challenging and there is considerable uncertainty with respect to the capital markets. This equity issuance helps to ensure that we can continue our capital programs and maintain our strong credit ratings.”

PGE shares closed Wednesday down 2.5 percent to $16.41 per share. They rose slightly to $16.55 per share in after-hours trading.

Portland Business Journal – http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2009/03/09/daily30.html

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Click the link below for a previous NW Renewable News post on this subject:

http://nwrenewablenews.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/pge-raising-cash-for-wind-farm-expansion/

 

Wind farm developer unveils plans for Mont. March 8, 2009

Filed under: Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:57 pm
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Back in the early 1980s, commercial wind turbines — with their blades pushed to supersonic speeds — exploded near Livingston, creating a 600-foot-long debris trail along Interstate 90.

“We were going to show Montanans what was then state-of-art technology in operation,” Van Jamison said.

Wind technology has come a long way since then, and so has Jamison, who at that time headed the state Energy Division within the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which put up the four turbines.

Today, developers are erecting high-tech wind towers from Ethridge to Judith Gap, each capable of churning out enough electricity to supply 250 homes while withstanding the state’s fierce wind.

Instead of overseeing the state’s testing of developing technology, Jamison is now a key figure in private commercial wind development, but his no-nonsense view of the industry has remained as constant as the state’s wind.

“It’s a way for rural Montanans to reach into the pockets of rich Californians and bring home the money,” he said.

Gaelectric, an international renewable energy company with ambitious plans in Montana, including wind farms near Havre and Fort Benton, has opened an office on Central Avenue in Great Falls to serve as its exploration base. It recently announced the hiring of Jamison as its vice president of strategic operations for North America.

“He will play a key role in strategizing our asset base across Montana and the Northwest,” said Eamonn McGrath, president of Gaelectric North America Inc.

The job is the latest chapter in the 60-year-old Jamison’s long career, in which he watched the state’s wind industry progress from exploding turbines to exploding interest in development.

Illinois-based Invenergy opened the 135-megawatt Judith Gap plant in 2006. Then last fall, Spain-based NaturEner completed the first phase of a 210-megawatt wind farm south of Ethridge and north of Great Falls. Texas-based Horizon Energy is planning a phased 18,000-acre facility near Martinsdale, a project Jamison helped put together before joining Gaelectric.

“It’s pretty obvious Montana has been found,” Jamison said over the whistling wind at Gaelectric’s Frenchman’s Ridge site outside of Fort Benton.

Gaelectric is in various stages of developing wind farms near Fort Benton, Havre, Billings and Harlowton. If they’re built, the wind farms could produce a combined 951 megawatts of electricity. The company also is exploring construction of a plant where wind energy would be stored in the ground (see sidebar).

It’s an ambitious agenda, Jamison said, adding Gaelectric will need partners to complete it. But he notes that the company wouldn’t be in Montana if the market wasn’t attractive.

“The way you can tell if it’s promising or not is we’re still here,” Jamison said as a lone anemometer situated in a farm field collects wind speeds behind him.

Jamison said the sale of wind-powered electricity to out-of-state buyers will bring benefits in return, including increases in property taxes, wages and lease revenue for landowners.

He laments what he said is the state’s “export allergy,” a tendency to skeptically view out-of-state shipments of electricity even as beef and grain are routinely exported.

He’s a supporter of state Senate Bill 360, which would allow capacity to be increased within existing transmission rights-of-way without environmental review. The bill would lead to more renewable power being shipped to other states, he said.

Jamison said he’s a practical cheerleader of the industry, realizing that just because developers are exploring Montana doesn’t mean wind farms will get built.

“Even after you do due diligence, you may end up with a dry hole,” he said, comparing the business to oil and gas exploration.

At this stage, he views the sites where Gaelectric is exploring wind potential simply as “locations.”

In any legitimate project, wind speeds must be tested for at least a year — preferably three years —in order to get financing, he said.

“It’s an incredibly competitive business and the margins are very small,” Jamison said.

Differences of 1 to 2 mph in average annual wind speed can make or break a project, which he said typically cost $2 million per megawatt, putting the price tag of a 250-megawatt wind farm at about $500 million.

Before joining Gaelectric, Jamison was the founder and president of POWAIR, Inc., a wind development consulting company.

He’s worked on renewable energy issues for the U.S. Department of Energy, and, from 1983 to 1996, served as administrator of the old DNRC Energy Division.

Under Jamison’s watch, The energy office erected the 25-kilowatt turbines near Livingston as a demonstration project, figuring the area’s notorious wind would serve as an acid test of the equipment.

Jamison credits the lesson of the exploding turbines and others learned along the way for technical advancements that are leading to successful projects today. For example, it would take 60 of the old Livingston test towers to produce the same amount of power as a single 1.5-megawatt turbine at Judith Gap.

“It’s the mistakes that are raw material for improvements,” Jamison said.

Karl Puckett, Great Falls Tribunehttp://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20090308/NEWS01/903080301

 

ODFW concerned about proposed Crook County wind farm in Ore.

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:46 pm
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Officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are worried that a proposed Crook County wind farm could cause irreversible damage to a nearby sage grouse population.

At a recent Crook County Planning Department public hearing, officials from ODFW advised county officials of the biological risks that wind turbines may have in the proposed area.

While the potential impact of development in the area is still uncertain, officials said they would like to see a three-mile buffer around a sage grouse lek — where the birds strut during mating season.

But the developers of the wind farm said that buffer would destroy their project.

The Crook County Planning Department is scheduled to hold its second public hearing on the West Butte Wind Power Project on Wednesday. Since the project will generate fewer than 105 megawatts of power, the project only requires approval from the county.

“To be absolutely clear, in this process, ODFW serves as a natural resource adviser to the county’s Planning Commission, that’s all,” said Christian Hagen, the sage grouse conservation coordinator with ODFW. “We have no regulatory authority. We are advising them of what the biological risks are with this development.”

The estimated $220 million project would have 34 to 52 wind turbines, standing about 400 to 574 feet tall, that could generate enough electricity to power about 50,000 homes. The developers estimate it would also bring in about $1 million annually for the county in property taxes. The project would sit on a 10,000-acre ranch, but only occupy about 20 acres.

The sage grouse, a bird Hagen described as “one of the iconic species of the West,” is being considered for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Hagen said data from gas and oil exploration studies generally show that developing near sage grouse decreases their mating productivity. But since the West Butte Wind Power Project could be Central Oregon’s first commercial wind farm, Hagen said its effect on sage grouse is unknown.

“To the best of my knowledge, the development in Oregon (of wind farms) has largely occurred in wheat fields,” Hagen said. “So, we’re in a new era of development. … There are a lot of appealing aspects to having wind farms in the desert … but a lot of uncertainty of how species in these native habitats will respond.”

The project’s turbines would be placed at 5,000 to 5,800 feet in elevation on the ridges surrounding West Butte.

John Stahl, the developer of the West Butte Wind Power Project, said he is willing to work with ODFW to mitigate the impact on the sage grouse. But, he added, a three-mile buffer would “wipe out” the project.

“They came out with a blanket statement,” Stahl said of ODFW. “(The agency said,) the sage grouse were going to leave. The lek would be destroyed, and no sage grouse would be left on the property. … They have no knowledge that is going to happen. The lek could remain active. They are basing their scientific studies off oil, gas and coal studies, and that’s a different, noisier type of project. We don’t think that necessarily equates to wind.”

Heidi Bauer, with the Crook County Planning Department, said Wednesday’s meeting could be the final hearing where the Planning Commission takes public testimony. Bauer said she’s uncertain what the next step will be, but the commission could hold additional meetings to deliberate before making a decision.

Lauren Dake, Bend Bulletin - http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090306/NEWS0107/903060399/1009/NEWS01&nav_category=NEWS01

 

Wash. Wind farm would reportedly have big economic impact in Kittitas Co.

A proposed wind farm northwest of Ellensburg will contribute $17.3 million to the local economy during construction and $2.8 million every year it operates.

That’s what the proposed Desert Claim Wind Power Project will bring to Kittitas County, according to a Central Washington University economic impact report.

“It’s a good chunk of change,” said Richard Mack, a CWU economics professor and the lead author of the report.

The report also predicted the site will create 160 jobs during construction and 25 permanent jobs once it’s built, as well as $900,000 in local property taxes.

The study was commissioned by enXco, the California-based developer of the $330 million, 95-turbine Desert Claim. EnXco also owns the Goodnoe Hills wind farm in Klickitat County.

If permitted, Desert Claim will be the fourth wind power project destined for Kittitas County. It will cover 5,200 acres and generate 190 megawatts, enough to provide electricity to 57,000 homes. The company hopes to start construction in 2010.

Mack’s report, released Thursday evening, estimates the full range of economic impacts involving construction of the wind farm and its operation from year to year. The study is based on local economic conditions and formulas specific to wind farms that are recommended by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The 160 construction jobs would come at a great time for about 200 Kittitas County construction workers currently out of work, Mack said. The county had an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent at the end of January, Mack said, higher than the state and national averages.

More than half of those jobs — perhaps up to 60 percent or 70 percent — probably will be filled by local contractors, said David Steeb, the project director.

Much of the work at a wind farm is technical, but a lot of it involves roads, cement foundations and electrical equipment common to any construction site, Steeb said. This would be only bigger.

“There’s nothing really magical about it,” Steeb said.

Once the turbines are built, the facility will continue to support 25 new jobs, generating $986,000 of income per year, the study notes.

About half of those employees will work directly for enXco, doing everything from clerical duties to changing lubricants to cleaning the bugs off the turbine blades, Steeb said.

Average wages would be about $14.49 per hour for administrative employees, while technicians would make $20 per hour and managers $38.19 per hour.

The other half would show up in support businesses, such as hardware stores and local maintenance contractors, which would boost staffing levels to serve the wind farm.

In addition, the company would make about $600,000 annually in lease payments to landowners, the study said.

Ellensburg business leaders like the forecast.

“We’re excited,” said Marshall Madsen, president of the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce. “Let’s bring it on.”

Madsen said that when the Wild Horse Wind Farm was built east of Ellensburg in 2006, many construction workers stayed in local motels.

The state’s energy plant permitting process requires economic impact studies for the entire state. EnXco is working on one of those, Steeb said. Mack’s report was extra, Steeb said, to gauge the impact on just Kittitas County.

The company has been designing the project since 2001. It’s first application was rejected by Kittitas County commissioners nearly four years ago because the 350 turbine towers were too close to the homes of nonparticipating neighbors. That position was upheld by a Kittitas County Superior Court judge.

The company reapplied last month with the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council after redesigning the project with turbines farther away from most of the homes.

Ross Courtney, Yakima Heraldhttp://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2009/03/07/wind-farm-would-reportedly-had-big-economic-impact-in-kittitas-county

 

NV Energy offers incentives for renewable power March 5, 2009

Filed under: Farm/Ranch,Micro Hydro,Nevada,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 6:05 pm
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NV Energy Inc. is offering cash incentives to farmers and ranchers to offset the costs of installing wind or hydro power generating sources.

Officials say the new WindGenerations and HydroGenerations programs are an expansion of the company’s solar program that provides cash incentives to offset costs for installation of solar panels.

Similar incentives are already provided to all utility customers who install wind turbines.

Company officials say the rebates can offset up to 60 percent of the cost of the installed system.

HydroGenerations incentives for agricultural customers are paid by NV Energy according to the size of system installed.

Associated Press – http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/03/04/ap6126784.html

 

PGE raising cash for wind farm expansion

Filed under: Oregon,Utility Companies,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:37 pm
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If you can avoid it, you don’t go to the floundering equity markets right now to raise capital.

But Portland General Electric Co. needs the cash to fund the expansion of a wind farm. And after watching its share price dip to an all-time low on Wednesday, the state’s largest electric utility announced plans to issue 10.85 million new shares of its common stock.

PGE also expects to grant its underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 1.6275 million shares to cover any over-allotments.

The company said the proceeds would be used to reduce short term debt and fund the ongoing expansion of its Biglow Canyon wind farm in Sherman County. It expects to price the transaction tomorrow.

Depending on the size of the overallotment, the offering will expand PGE’s share base by between 17 and 20 percent, substantially diluting the company’s current share owners at a time when they have already seen the value of the company’s stock plummet by more than 40 percent since the beginning of September.

PGE’s shares finished regular trading Wednesday at 15.21, up 21 cents. But the stock dropped 9 percent to $13.79 in after-hours trading as investors discounted the dilution from the share offering.

At $13.79, PGE’s stock is trading at a 36 percent discount to its book value of $21.64 per share, which is a measure of the companies net asset value. Many companies are in similar situations as investors batter their share prices, but it makes an inopportune time to raise money.

PGE chief executive Jim Piro said its impossible to time the market, and given that the company had just announced its fourth quarter earnings and telegraphed its intention to issue shares, the timing was as good as could be expected.

“Given that economic times could get worse or better, we felt like this was the right time to go and pulled the trigger,” Piro said.

PGE has a capital expenditure plan of some $720 million this year, the largest in the company’s history, Piro said. The Biglow Canyon wind farm expansion will cost $750 million over the next two years, as PGE pushes to meet the state’s new renewable energy mandates.

PGE will fund a portion of those capital needs internally, but it also plans to issue additional debt this year. The company sold $130 million in bonds earlier this year, and intend to issue another $170 million in the second or third quarter depending on market conditions.

Piro said the company had adequate cash flow to continue paying its quarterly dividend of 24.5 cent per share.

PGE said the offering would be jointly managed by J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Barclays Capital Inc., Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC.

Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2009/03/pge_raising_cash_for_wind_farm.html

 

Vancouver school expanding to train for wind power jobs

Filed under: Green Jobs,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:16 pm
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A vocational school is trying to create a “win-win” situation in Vancouver after recognizing a need in the new “green collar” industry.

The plan is to open up a training institute in July at a new campus currently being finished in Vancouver, a move spurred by the combined demand from the wind power industry, the president’s renewable energy initiative and the region’s high unemployment rate.

If accredited, the new Northwest Renewable Energy Institute will train students to climb and maintain the growing number of electricity-generating wind turbines being built in our area and across the nation.

The institute is an offshoot of Vancouver’s International Air and Hospitality Academy, a vocational school which has been training students for three decades.

The school’s founder says he’s been working toward accrediting the new institute since last year and President Obama’s new initiatives have only made the need for the school even greater.

“In his stimulus package, [Obama] included investment tax credit for the wind turbines which is very important for this industry and we just think this is a good time to do that,” Academy founder Arch Miller said. “It doesn’t hurt, the fact that you’ve got 10 percent unemployment in this area.”

Miller said there is a shortage of people trained to maintain the towering wind turbines, which are quickly sprouting up in the West and across the nation.

A wind turbine maker has even donated a tower section to the school for training purposes.

The Renewable Energy Institute will operate at a site on Grand Boulevard in Vancouver.

It will also bring its own new jobs in the form of a staff of 19 that will teach and run the new school.

Not surprisingly, there’s been no shortage of applicants to run the school. So far, 30 people have applied for the open positions.

Each “class” at the new school will graduate 40 students who can expect to make between $36,000 and $68,000 per year once in the field.

There was no immediate word on how long the courses will take to complete.

Miller said they’ll make a final selection for staffing the school in the next week or two and then wait for accreditation approval.

By Bob Heye, KATU News- http://www.katu.com/news/40790487.html#idc-container

Click the link for a similar story about a new wind power training program in southern California: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090305/BIZ/903050314

 

Comment sought at pair of meetings on planned Wash. wind project March 4, 2009

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 11:46 am
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Public comment regarding the Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project will be taking during open house meetings Wednesday and Thursday. Comments received during the open house meetings will be used to guide the scope of an environmental impact statement for the wind energy project.

The wind energy project is proposed to cover approximately 94,900 acres in Garfield and Columbia Counties. The size of the project is an output of 1,250 megawatts, with 632 of those megawatts produced in Columbia County.

Applicants for the conditional use permit for the project in Garfield County is RES America Developments Inc., acting as Blue Sky LLC, and Puget Sound Energy Inc.

No applications have been filed in Columbia County.

The meeting Wednesday is at the Pomeroy high School, and the Thursday meeting is at the Seneca Building in Dayton.

Both meetings are from 5 to 8 p.m.

The 1,250-megawatt wind energy project is proposed to cover about 94,900 acres in Garfield and Columbia counties. The project includes four wind resource areas.

The Tucannon section is entirely in Columbia County, and lies south of the Tucannon River, and straddles U.S. Highway 12 north of Delaney Junction.

Oliphant Ridge lies in Columbia and Garfield Counties, south of U.S. Highway 12 from Delaney Junction running in and eastward direction.

Kuhl Ridge and Dutch Flat are in Garfield County. Kuhl Ridge lies east of the Columbia County line, and north of U.S. 12 to the outskirts of Pomeroy. Dutch Flat is the smallest section, and lies south of Pomeroy.

Complete legal notices are available in the current issues of the Dayton Chronicle and Pomeroy East Washingtonian.

The submitted conditional use permit application and supporting materials are available at the Garfield County Public Works Department, 300 19th St., Pomeroy Monday through Thursday between 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Public comments must be submitted in writing to Garfield County Engineer, Walter “Grant” Morgan at the public works department by 5 p.m. March 20.

Wind Resource Areas

Turbine numbers are approximate

Oliphant Ridge, 139 turbines, Garfield County; 65 turbines, Columbia County. Total: 204

Kuhl Ridge, 222 turbines, Garfield County.

Dutch Flat, 83 turbines, Garfield County.

Tucannon, 286 turbines, Columbia County.

Total turbines: 795

 

National: Wind-Power industry seeks trained workforce March 1, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:37 pm
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Reporting from California City, Calif. — One man in the classroom earned more than $100,000 framing tract homes during the building heyday. Another installed pools and piloted a backhoe. Behind him sat a young father who made a good living swinging a hammer in southern Utah.But that was before construction jobs vanished like a fast-moving dust storm in this blustery high desert. Hard times have brought them to a classroom in rural Kern County to learn a different trade. Tonight’s lesson: how to avoid death and dismemberment.

This is Wind Technology Boot Camp at Cerro Coso Community College, where eight weeks of study and $1,000 in tuition might lead to a job repairing mammoth wind turbines like the ones sprouting up across this region.The work requires smarts and stamina. It is potentially dangerous. Candidates need good knees, a cool head — and a stomach for heights.

“I’ve seen guys just freeze halfway up the tower,” said instructor Merritt Mays, a baby-faced former Marine, who at 29 is already a grizzled veteran in this young industry.

For those who can hack it, starting pay ranges from $15 to $20 an hour. Crack technicians can make six figures a year. Wind farms are hiring and probably will be for years to come. That’s luring hard hats like 49-year-old Chuck Patterson back to school, despite the inherent risks of working 300 feet in the air.”This is where the money’s going to be,” said the Ridgecrest, Calif., contractor, who likes the idea of a steady paycheck after years of construction boom and bust.

As in previous recessions, this economic downturn is boosting enrollment at community colleges and vocational schools. Classrooms are swelling with workers from hard-hit industries who are looking to change careers.

Educators say the difference this time is the surging interest in so-called green-collar jobs. President Obama wants to create 5 million of them over the next decade. What isn’t clear is how the U.S. is going to prepare this workforce.

Technical education for renewable-energy workers is scarce, particularly for the fast-growing wind industry. Only a handful of wind programs operate in community colleges. Cerro Coso filled the 15 slots in its boot camp within hours. The next course is already full.

The U.S. last year surpassed Germany as the world’s No. 1 wind-powered nation, with more than 25,000 megawatts in place. Wind could supply 20% of America’s electricity needs by 2030, up from less than 1% now, according to a recent Energy Department report.

California is the No. 3 wind state, behind Texas and Iowa. A slew of developments are in the pipeline, including in Kern County, where hundreds of turbines already dot the wind-swept ridges of the Tehachapi mountain range.

“This is going to be ground zero for alternative energy” in California, said Jim Fay, vice president of academic affairs at Cerro Coso Community College, which has five campuses in Kern County. “We have to prepare our students.”

The economic crisis has dampened growth in the renewable sector. But the U.S. wind industry is clamoring for skilled technicians to maintain the 30,000 wind turbines already in the ground. The best workers combine the knowledge of a top-flight mechanic with the endurance of an alpine mountaineer.

“It’s like [working on] a school bus on top of a really long pole,” said Bob Ward, a marketing manager for sensing and inspection technologies for General Electric Co., one of the world’s top turbine makers. “It’s complex. This isn’t some Jiffy Lube job.”

A typical 1.5-megawatt GE unit costs $2.5 million installed. It sits about 30 stories above the ground at the hub, where its three 100-foot-long blades connect to the tower.

Just behind the hub is the housing for the gearbox, drive train and other components. Think of this as the wind technician’s office. Except there’s no elevator. Reaching it means climbing rung by rung on a narrow steel ladder attached to the inside of the tower. An agile worker can do it in less than 10 minutes, several times a day.

“You earn every dollar you make in this industry. It’s plain hard work,” said Dan Templeton, program chairman for wind energy at Texas State Technical College West Texas.

Advice to hopefuls: Quit smoking. Lose that gut. And don’t try this with a hangover.

Technicians must be hyper-vigilant in an occupation that combines dizzying heights, tight spaces, high-voltage electricity and spinning metal.

Fatalities are rare but unspeakably gruesome.Workers have plunged to their deaths, been electrocuted and been ground to a pulp by rotating machinery.

Teaching students to respect these beasts is the job of wind instructors such as Mays, who grew up on a ranch in nearby Tehachapi.His employer, Airstreams, is a private wind-training firm working with Cerro Coso to put on the eight-week boot camp. On a recent evening, Mays lectured students on the importance of daily inspection of the safety harness, the lifeline that every wind technician straps on before climbing.

“This is what’s going to save your life, so you’d better be sure it’s working,” Mays said. “I don’t want to be the one to have to look your wife in the eye and tell her that you’re gone.”

The potential danger doesn’t appear to faze 18-year-old Shelby Young of California City, a dirt-bike rider and the only woman in the class.”I like the adrenaline rush,” she said.

Josh Gates’ biggest worry is supporting his family. The unemployed builder, 27, left his pregnant wife and young son in Greenville, Utah, to attend the class. He bunks in a friend’s motor home, making the long drive home every few weeks.

“It’s going to pay off in the end,” he said.

The near certainty of landing a job that pays well has students scampering for available training spots.

Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, N.M., launched its wind program last fall with 32 students. GE offered to hire every qualified graduate for three years, leading to a nationally televised news story. The school has since been flooded with hundreds of inquiries from across the country, spokesman John Yearout said. He’s scrambling to find another instructor.

It’s much the same at Iowa Lakes Community College, where wind students have “two to three job offers each” by the time they complete the two-year program, spokeswoman Angie DeJong said.

The school will admit 102 students this fall, up from the 72 it had planned to take, because of surging demand, she said. Inquiries come in daily from the jobless. On a recent morning it was an unemployed Nebraska engineer, then a Michigan autoworker.

“We’re seeing a lot of nontraditional students with families who have gotten laid off,” she said.

California’s community colleges are trying to get wind technicians into the workforce faster with the accelerated boot camp system. Cerro Coso and Shasta College in Redding are the first institutions out of the gate. More are on the way.

The goal is to have 50 schools around the state offering wind training within a few years, said Peter Davis, director of the community college system’s Advanced Transportation Technologies and Energy initiative.

That could prove a tall order considering California’s budget woes.

Students are jumping at the few seats available now. Laid-off house framer Shane Culleton of Rosamond, Calif., borrowed $1,000 from his mother-in-law to enroll in the Cerro Coso boot camp. The 29-year-old father of three is so confident that he’ll find a job that he vowed to sell his beloved motorcycle if he fails.

“It’s going to be a while before construction comes back,” he said. “I’ve got to do something.”

 

Wind Tech: Dutch Electricity System Can Cope With Large-Scale Wind Variations February 24, 2009

Filed under: Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 1:13 pm
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Research by TU Delft shows that Dutch power stations are able to cope at any time in the future with variations in demand for electricity and supply of wind power, as long as use is made of up-to-date wind forecasts. PhD candidate Bart Ummels also demonstrates that there is no need for energy storage facilities. Ummels will receive his PhD on this topic on Thursday 26 February.

Wind is variable and can only partially be predicted. The large-scale use of wind power in the electricity system is therefore tricky. PhD candidate Bart Ummels MSc. investigated the consequences of using a substantial amount of wind power within the Dutch electricity system. He used simulation models, such as those developed by transmission system operator TenneT, to pinpoint potential problems (and solutions).

His results indicate that wind power requires greater flexibility from existing power stations. Sometimes larger reserves are needed, but more frequently power stations will have to decrease production in order to make room for wind-generated power. It is therefore essential to continually recalculate the commitment of power stations using the latest wind forecasts. This reduces potential forecast errors and enables wind power to be integrated more efficiently.

Ummels looked at wind power up to 12 GW, 8 GW of which at sea, which is enough to meet about one third of the Netherlands’ demand for electricity. Dutch power stations are able to cope at any time in the future with variations in demand for electricity and supply of wind power, as long as use is made of up-to-date, improved wind forecasts. It is TenneT’s task to integrate large-scale wind power into the electricity grid. Lex Hartman, TenneT’s Director of Corporate Development:  “in a joint effort, TU Delft and TenneT further developed the simulation model that can be used to study the integration of large-scale wind power. The results show that in the Netherlands we can integrate between 4 GW and 10 GW into the grid without needing any additional measures.

Surpluses

Ummels: ‘Instead of the common question ‘What do we do when the wind isn’t blowing?’, the more relevant question is ‘Where do we put all the electricity if it is very windy at night?’. This is because, for instance, a coal-fired power station cannot simply be turned off. One solution is provided by the international trade in electricity, because other countries often can use the surplus. Moreover, a broadening of the ‘opening hours’ of the international electricity market benefits wind power. At the moment, utilities determine one day ahead how much electricity they intend to purchase or sell abroad. Wind power can be better used if the time difference between the trade and the wind forecast is smaller.’

No energy storage

Ummels’ research also demonstrates that energy storage is not required. The results indicate that the international electricity market is a promising and cheaper solution for the use of wind power.

Making power stations more flexible is also better than storage. The use of heating boilers, for instance, means that combined heat and power plants operate more flexibly, which can consequently free up capacity for wind power at night.

The use of wind power in the Dutch electricity system could lead to a reduction in production costs of EUR1.5 billion annually and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 19 million tons a year.

Science Daily – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223083344.htm

 

AWEA Wind Power Project Siting Workshop February 23, 2009

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:43 am
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Wind project siting issues span the entire range of project planning, construction and operation. Responsible siting of wind projects requires an understanding of interactions with permitting agencies, the public, wildlife, and surrounding land uses during each stage of a project. Please join us at the 2009 Siting Workshop to get the latest on relevant siting topics for the region.

Fee: $250-600 For More Information:
http://www.awea.org/events/projectsiting09/
conference@awea.org
(202) 383-2512

 

Update: Wind turbine prototype delayed by weather February 22, 2009

Filed under: Emerging Technology,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:58 pm
Tags: ,

doc499f721b5aa8c8440743431

Local entrepreneurs have pushed back until March the unveiling of a wind turbine prototype that they hope can operate in adverse weather conditions.

Rogue River Wind and Yaiyu Turbine Technologies have collaborated on a new kind of turbine that can be mounted on roof tops and work in gusty winds.

Their hope is to see the wind turbine installed on buildings up and down the coast, generating power locally instead of relying on distant utility companies for energy. By doing so, it will reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and create jobs for the area.

The last piece of the puzzle is a rotor that encircles the blades.

Ironically, part of the reason for the delays is due to the weather.

Mary Geddry, owner of Rogue River Wind, said that component is being crafted in Blaine, Wash., which got hit with some nasty weather in late December and early January.

“Part of their crew couldn’t get there for a while,” she said.

The other problem surfaced when they put an insulated adhesive on generators built into the turbine.
“It would make the coils overheat and reduced efficiency,” Geddry said.

They decided to go with ceramic coating instead, but first they had to remove the adhesive and test the conductivity of the stators. They passed the test and the only thing left is waiting for the arrival of the rotor, which is expected any day.

Once it is in, it will only be a matter of putting the pieces together. When it is assembled, possibly within the next two weeks, the team will test electrical components of the turbine before setting it up outside.

By Alexander Rich, The World (Coos Bay, OR) – http://www.theworldlink.com/articles/2009/02/21/news/doc499f721b5aa8c844074343.txt

Here is a previoius NW Renewable News post with more background on the turbine prototype.

 

NorthWestern Energy still trying to squash Wind Power in Mont.

Filed under: Montana,Utility Companies,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:47 pm
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Named after the tiny community in Northcentral Montana, the company specializes in small wind projects. Really small. The amount of electricity one of Two Dot’s wind farms produces is comparable to what a single large house uses in a year.

But small wind producers are facing big problems in Montana, Dogerom says, having to do with a big company – NorthWestern Energy.

The utility is required by federal law to buy electricity from providers like Two Dot Wind, but has some freedom when it comes to negotiating the terms of those sales. While the Public Service Commission mediates the negotiations, small companies like Two Dot Wind “are just getting stomped on,” Dogerom said, being forced into contracts that unfairly squeeze Two Dot’s bottom line. Or, in some cases, they are not getting contracts at all.

It seems NorthWestern doesn’t want their wind, he said.

Now, Dogerom is lobbying for lawmakers to find a fix for the problem. He has an ally in Rep. Brady Wiseman, a Bozeman Democrat who is sponsoring a couple of pieces of legislation that would ramp up small-scale energy production in the state.

Dogerom also has an ally in Public Service Commissioner John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway, who wants to know why there isn’t more wind being harnessed in Montana.

But he has one serious adversary: NorthWestern Energy, which is pushing back against legislative efforts to bolster small-scale energy production.

Which side wins will have serious implications for the profile of Montana’s energy future.

The bills

Wiseman is sponsoring two bills that would expand small-scale energy production in the state of Montana.

One would allow local governments to give residents loans for energy-efficiency improvements, including the addition of solar panels and wind turbines.

The other bill is aimed at helping out wind producers like Dogerom by having the government set a fixed price for how much the utility will pay for electricity generated by small producers.

Wiseman pitches the bills as steps toward giving Montana ownership of its power.

“It’s what people expect,” Wiseman said. “Because it is renewable and because it is distributed, not just in generation, but in ownership. We the people are going to have access to owning our own power generation.”

The lobby

John Fitzpatrick is NorthWestern Energy’s executive director of government affairs in Helena, and he is lobbying against both of Wiseman’s bills.

Wiseman’s loan idea, Fitzpatrick said, highlights the problem with small-scale production: It’s not economical for the average homeowner.

“Small-scale electric generation technology is not cost effective,” he said. “When individuals install it, it either has to be subsidized by the government or by the utility, or the individual has to be sufficiently wealthy to afford payback as long as 50 years.”

And he doesn’t mince words when describing Two Dot’s product.

“If this was a quality electric product, it should be able to be sold into the market to utility buyers. It is not quality electricity, so the utility is forced to buy it,” he said this week in an interview in the Capitol.

Both state and federal law require utilities like NorthWestern to buy power from small “qualified facilities” that produce renewable energy. That regulation is burdensome enough, Fitzpatrick said.

The problem with “QF” juice is that it is more expensive, he said. One of the reasons is the cost of keeping the electric grid stable as wind generators fire up and slow down with the gusts.

Every time NorthWestern buys “QF” power, it eats part of the extra cost and passes the rest onto its customers. Firtzgerald, who carries a photocopy of his own home energy bill to prove his point, said the extra cost to him in December was $2.39. Over the year, that surcharge n the difference between the price of “qualified” electricity and market price n costs Montanans more than $14 million.

So, when NorthWestern goes into negotiations with QF suppliers, it demands a price that won’t hurt customers, Fitzpatrick said.

Wiseman’s bill would make it so they can’t even do that, he said.

“Customers want cheap electricity. They want it there on a reliable basis,” he said.

Furthermore, Fitzpatrick said, the 2007 Legislature told the energy company to start producing its own electricity at a large scale, not to start buying piecemeal from tiny wind farms. (When Montana Power Co. was deregulated in the 1990s, it sold off its energy production assets; NorthWestern Energy is the restructured Montana Power).

The way to return Montana to the low prices it enjoyed before deregulation, Fitzpatrick said, is to move forward with large-scale projects, not subsidized small ones.

“A small group of legislators is trying to promote politically correct supply contracts to the detriment of the state policy that looks forward to a vertically integrated system,” he said.

The questions

Proponents of the Wiseman’s bills say NorthWestern isn’t being forthright with why it opposes the legislation.

Suzanne Bessette, a lobbyist for small wind producers like Two Dot, said what people’s energy bills don’t show is how much individual “qualified” producers are selling their energy for. Older contracts are expensive for the customer, but new contracts like the one Two Dot finally got from NorthWestern are on par with other sources of power.

As for stability concerns, Fitzpatrick is exaggerating the problem, Dogerom saidd. One of Two Dot’s projects puts as much power on the grid as a large house takes off it.

But to accept these critics’ arguments demands alternative motives for NorthWestern’s opposition to small-source energy production.

Vincent suggests NorthWestern is just bad at wind.

While the state is fifth in wind potential, it is 16th in how much wind energy is actually produced. The other two states where NorthWestern operations, Nebraska and South Dakota, also have far more wind potential than what is harnessed. Nebraska is sixth in potential and 18th in production. South Dakota is fourth in potential and 22nd in production.

“Something doesn’t pass the smell test here,” Vincent said.

But Wiseman says NorthWestern Energy’s opposition is less about wind energy and more about who is producing it.

“They will forbid anybody having energy production,” he said. “They are using all their political clout to stop distribution of energy they don’t run.”

Whatever the reason, for now, small energy producers are slow to get onto the grid. There are 45 contracts pending between small producers and NorthWestern Energy.

Dogerom said he doesn’t expect the bill to help the small producers to pass, but said he and the others had to do something.

“We had to introduce HB 491. We don’t think it’s going to pass, but we’re just getting stomped on,” he said.

Daniel Person, Bozeman Daily Chroniclehttp://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2009/02/22/news/70econ%20ii.txt

 

Business is booming for Mont. company catering to wind industry

Filed under: Green Jobs,Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:39 pm
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A hydraulic repair technician at Wind Turbine Tools in Lincoln, is responsible for making sure that the bolt tensioners and hydraulic pumps returned to the facility are tested for reliability before being sent back to the field. The multimillion-dollar Lincoln business is growing in spite of the global recession.

A hydraulic repair technician at Wind Turbine Tools in Lincoln, is responsible for making sure that the bolt tensioners and hydraulic pumps returned to the facility are tested for reliability before being sent back to the field. The multimillion-dollar Lincoln business is growing in spite of the global recession.

Cell phone coverage only recently came to this rural mountain community bordering some of Montana’s most famous wilderness areas.

The nearest airport is 62 miles away, and the anchor employers are a beef jerky plant and the U.S. Forest Service.

On a morning when everyone is home and tucked into their beds, 1,181 people live here.

This is a beautiful spot on the globe, but for all its scenic splendor and off-the-beaten-path charm, Lincoln is an unlikely home for an international multimillion-dollar company on the verge of expansion.

Yet, this is exactly where you will find Wind Turbine Tools.

Headquartered in Lincoln, the company is a one-of-a-kind business on the leading edge of the booming world of wind technology.

Their purview? They buy American and European tools and sell them to the wind turbine industry throughout North America.

“What we do is supply tools and service the parts that make wind turbines work,” explained Jim Daugherty, who owns the company with his wife Linda.

“And we are busier than ever.”

Wind Turbine Tools is located in a wood-paneled building on Lincoln’s main drag that looks, inconveniently, like a Forest Service building.

Not a day goes by without several carloads stopping to ask about the famed 830-pound grizzly bear, the third-largest ever recorded in Montana, killed last year near Lincoln and stuffed for public display at the ranger district office in Lincoln.

That means WTT’s staff has to make time around their daily work – ordering and tracking products from places such as Germany and Denmark, e-mailing and phoning their international clientele, and shipping tools to customers across North America – to give directions to the big bear. (It’s just down the road.)

So, there’s some motivation to dress up WTT’s front lawn with a model wind turbine, said Ken Justus, the company’s chief financial officer. The building, now home to WTT’s state-of-the-art calibration lab and a 6,000-square-foot warehouse, once served as a storefront for a snowmobile dealership.

The irony isn’t lost on the Daughertys.

“It’s gone from an oil-based business to a wind business,” said Jim Daugherty. “I do think it’s a sign of the times – our need to move away from our dependency on oil.”

His business is the result of pure risk – a giant, nerve-wracking, calculated leap 10 years ago into a brand-new industry, Daugherty said.

He was in the right place at the right time, California in the early 1990s, when the wind industry was just taking flight in the United States.

At the time, Daugherty was selling industrial supply tools and got a call from a wind turbine maintenance company in California.

“They were having problems with some American-made tools. Torque wrenches weren’t standing up to the job,” he said. “They had failure and somebody was injured.”

With that information rattling around his head, Daugherty began doing some research.

He discovered European manufacturers like Stahlwille had been making precision wind turbine tools for decades, with tools calibrated to the highest standards and

35 percent lighter than their American counterparts.

A few phone calls later, Daugherty became a supplier of the specialized hard-working tools, and introduced them to the California wind turbine community.

“It was a huge success,” he said. “From that first wrench, we took on the whole line. And then others.”

Word spread throughout the emerging North American wind industry that Jim Daugherty was the tool guy.

“Safety is critically important in this industry,” Daugherty said. “Those blades are the length of a football field and turbine towers are 300 feet tall. Accidents in this business tend to be catastrophic. You don’t want a blade flinging off or having maintenance workers fall or get electrocuted.

“Light, smart tools that get the job done safely are essential, particularly for guys who are climbing a 300-foot tall tower.”

The business was changing in other ways, too. It moved to Lincoln in 2005 because of Linda Daugherty’s love for her home state and the need to be closer to her family in Missoula and Conrad.

The transition from Temecula, Calif., to Lincoln wasn’t all that difficult, Jim Daugherty said.

“Really, all we need is access to an airport, and we are about an hour from Great Falls, Missoula and Helena, so I have some choices,” he said. “And people who want to work.”

“One of the nice things about Lincoln is that it has a stable work force,” Linda Daugherty said, “and because so many jobs around here are seasonal, there are a lot of people who want the opportunity of a year-round job.”

Their small staff of six has grown to 31. Thanks to President Barack Obama’s alternative energy initiatives, they are already experiencing an increased demand for their services, and therefore, expect more growth in the future.

That growth stems from those early years in the tool trade, which helped forge important connections with leaders in the wind industry and with tool manufacturers in Europe, some of which have evolved into exclusive relationships.

As business expanded, Jim Daugherty filled another niche in the market.

European tools, considered the Cadillacs of the industry, must be recalibrated and regularly tested to ensure they are up to the prescribed work. Thus, Wind Turbine Tools’ calibration business, the servicing of the tools.

The work sounds rather mundane, Daugherty said, but consider the demands of the high-tech $6,000 tensioner pump he imports from a company in the United Kingdom.

It is responsible for screwing nuts onto the 33-foot-long bolts that are drilled into the ground to hold down a wind turbine’s foundation. Its specialty is stretching the giant bolts at a very precise pressure, measured at 22,750 pounds per square inch, so there is no play in the bolt that could cause the tower to tumble. As the tensioner pump stretches the bolt, it simultaneously puts the nut in place.

Each tower has a double ring of 200 bolts that need this work, Daugherty explained, and every nut and bolt is critical to securing the tower’s foundation.

“There’s no question this is dangerous work if tools fail or if they are used improperly,” Daugherty said, “particularly with the torque tools because of the tremendous pressure they are working at.”

“But the biggest challenge right now isn’t selling the equipment or finding a demand for it, it’s the lack of qualified people,” he said. “Quality technicians are hard to find that are trained properly.

“The good news is that I think there are several universities that are coming up with training programs.”

These are exciting, heady days, Daugherty said. The jobs of which he speaks – calibration experts and maintenance workers – are part of the little-known world of manpower behind the wind power industry. That’s the segment of industry Gov. Brian Schweitzer hopes will employ Montanans, said Greg Kegel, dean of the College of Technical Sciences at Montana State University-Northern.

Having recently landed a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, MSU is well positioned to fill the void and get Montanans trained for the high-paying work that has an annual base salary of around $45,000.

The school has several courses already up and running, and at the end of the month will have its first major planning meeting to discuss creation of a wind technician program.

It only makes sense, Kegel said. Just look at the latest industry statistics.

In 2008, the United States passed Germany to become the world leader in wind power installations, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Some

$47.5 billion was spent on the installation of that equipment, and more projects are in the pipeline.

In the U.S., the massive growth has meant creation of 35,000 new jobs in the wind energy market, bringing the total number of jobs to 85,000 in 2008.

“Right now, Montana ranks fifth in potential for wind power capacity,” Kegel said. “We have more wind turbines going in – 75 towers were just put in the Ethridge area near Shelby, 75 more are expected to go in this spring and there will be another 250 towers put in by Cut Bank.”

“All of this is very promising and I know there are more projects in the works,” he said. “It really looks like there is a growing need for trained people in this field and we are going to prepare for that.”

Wind Turbine Tools has stepped forward as a willing partner, and that is crucial to the program’s success, Kegel said.

“They bring all of their partnerships and linkages here, they are working with us to develop the curriculum and get our hands on the needed equipment,” he said. “It’s an ideal industry-university collaboration.

“We are really excited about this. It means jobs in a very clean business, the kind of business we would like to develop in this state.”

Recently, after dropping off a party of international business executives at the Missoula airport, Justus, the company’s chief financial officer, said the wind industry amazes him daily.

Recruited by the Daughertys to step away from his high-profile position at a Missoula bank, Justus uses the words “stunning,” “surprising” and “amazing” to describe his new career field.

Sometimes, he said, it’s moving so fast it’s downright overwhelming.

“It just incredible to witness the rapid growth in this industry, to see Jim and Linda Daugherty take their mom-and-pop business and grow it into a multimillion (dollar) company in just the past few years,” Justus said. “And that they chose to do it out of Lincoln.”

“The challenge isn’t being in a remote place,” he said. “It’s juggling the growth with multiple companies to get the products, and those companies are in different countries, with different time zones and trade in different currency.

“It’s everything really. Everything down to translations for instructions on how to use a pump to setting up meetings with people who are around the country and the world.”

“It’s an awesome challenge,” Justus said. “No matter where you are.”

By Betsy Cohencan, The Missoulian – http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/02/22/news/top/news01.txt

 

Federal tax credit gives boost to home wind turbine market February 21, 2009

Filed under: Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:22 pm
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Each rhythmic whir from the blades spinning 45 feet above Doug Auch’s snow-covered homestead moves him one step closer to energy self-reliance.

Auch’s Skystream 3.7 wind turbine knocks 40 percent to 50 percent off his monthly electric bill, a benefit he’s developing into a business opportunity as eastern South Dakota’s new Southwest Windpower dealer.

The former contractor hopes to persuade fellow residents to invest $12,000 to $18,000 in a residential wind turbine with the promise that it will eventually pay for itself.

And for the first time, Auch and his industry colleagues will have a silent partner — the federal government.

The $700 billion federal bailout of the nation’s financial sector established a residential wind investment tax credit of $1,000 per kilowatt of capacity, providing up to $4,000 in assistance.

“That speeds up the payback,” Auch said.

Residential wind energy systems — turbines producing up to 10 kilowatts of power — will never encompass a large chunk of the national energy picture, said Mike Bergey, president and co-founder of Norman-based Bergey Windpower Co.

But for homeowners, ranchers and small business owners, they provide a means to affordably generate their own clean power, Bergey said.

“They are pieces of the portfolio that we need to put together,” he said.

Ron Stimmel, the American Wind Energy Association’s small wind advocate, said about 1,500 residential wind turbines were sold in the United States last year, and the market has been growing at an annual rate of 14 percent to 25 percent during the past decade.

He expects at least 50 percent growth in 2009 as the industry continues to mature by developing more reliable designs and attracting more outside investment.

Doubling expected

The Washington-based organization had lobbied Congress for a straight 30 percent federal tax credit instead of one capped at $4,000, but Stimmel said the new incentive is a start.

“If we can get that expanded, we could see the industry double in a short period of time,” he said.

Stimmel said he expects strong growth in states with their own incentives, such as Oregon, California, Arizona, New York and New Jersey, as buyers can often benefit from both categories of credits.

Auch’s 2.4-kilowatt turbine on his acreage just outside Lesterville begins producing power in an 8 mph breeze and achieves full output in 29 mph winds.

The whir in a recent winter day’s 15-mph winds was audible but not distracting, and the wind association estimates that most modern residential turbines reach decibel levels no noisier than an average refrigerator.

The turbine continually sends performance stats to Auch’s laptop computer through a wireless connection, and a small inverter housed in the device converts the electricity from direct to alternating current so it can mesh with the power grid.

A special two-way meter provided by Auch’s energy co-op measures both the power he uses and the excess he produces.

BY DIRK LAMMERS, Associated Press Energy Writer – http://newsok.com/federal-tax-credit-gives-boost-to-home-wind-turbine-market/article/3347118

 

State pushes for construction of Martinsdale Wind Farm in Mont. February 20, 2009

Filed under: Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 6:05 pm
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The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is recommending that wind turbines be allowed on state land as part of what would be the largest privately owned wind farm in Montana.

The Martinsdale Wind Farm, proposed by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy, would be built on 18,000 acres of private and state land in Wheatland and Meagher counties five miles northeast of Martinsdale.

The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has released a draft environmental impact statement on the project for public comment, with comments being accepted until March 13.

A final decision will be made 30 days after the comment deadline on whether to allow the use of state-owned school trust land for either wind turbines or road and power easements — or both — to facilitate construction on the private land, said Clive Rooney, area manager of DNRC’s northeastern land office.

The DNRC’s preferred option is to allow Horizon to lease the land from the state and erect turbines on adjacent state lands. A second option allows only easements on public property.

The project is undergoing a state environmental study because 3,080 acres of the wind farm would fall on school trust land owned by the state, with the remaining 15,557 acres privately owned by the Martinsdale Hutterite Colony.

Wind farms sited entirely on private land can escape environmental review under the state’s Major Facilities Siting Act.

Up to seven turbines would be constructed on state land in the first phase of construction for the Martinsdale Wind Farm. That phase would bring in $36,750 to $42,913 in annual lease revenue to the state, Rooney said.

By KARL PUCKETT, Great Falls Tribune – http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20090220/NEWS01/902200324

 

BPA to build $246M transmission line to transport mostly wind

The Bonneville Power Administration plans to start building the McNary-John Day high-voltage transmission line, which would run through southern Benton County, this spring.

Construction on the $246 million project is expected to create about 700 jobs at its peak, BPA announced Thursday.

The decision to proceed with the project was based in part on increased BPA borrowing authority included in the federal stimulus bill signed this week by President Obama.

“BPA is moving quickly to put people to work,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement. “That’s because this funding gives BPA the room to breathe in these tough economic times and the certainty to move forward with new projects. It will also help to bring alternative sources of energy online throughout the Northwest.”

When construction is completed in late 2012, the line will allow BPA to provide transmission service for more than 870 megawatts of energy, including service for more than 700 megawatts of new wind energy.

The 500-kilovolt transmission line will start at the McNary Substation in Umatilla and cross the Columbia River just north of the substation into Washington. The line then would travel west for about 70 miles along the river through Benton and Klickitat counties before crossing the river again at John Day Dam to end at the John Day Substation.

The line will be built mostly in existing right of way.

An environmental study was done for the proposed 75-mile transmission line in 2002, but the project was put on hold because of changing energy market conditions.

Requests by new power generators to use the transmission system in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon led BPA to consider reviving the plan in 2008. The version of the plan that has been approved reduces the project’s transmission services from the 1,250 megawatts originally considered to 870 megawatts to match its planned use now, which is mostly for wind generation.

“We are not able to get much of the wind power on the grid because it’s old, needs to be rebuilt and does not go to the right places,” Murray said earlier as she worked to get the extra borrowing authority included in the economic stimulus bill and the bill approved.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $3.25 billion in borrowing authority for BPA from the U.S. Treasury Department for capital projects, such as modernizing the region’s power grid. BPA is the largest marketer of wholesale electricity in the Northwest.

“This project is a fine example of infrastructure spending that provides the most bang for the buck,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in a statement.

The additional borrowing capacity for BPA in the economic stimulus bill will allow a total of 4,700 megawatts of wind energy to come online and create 20,000 green jobs, Murray’s staff said.

The McNary-John Day transmission is one of four high-voltage transmission lines BPA has proposed to meet the region’s transmission needs. It’s the most “shovel-ready” of the projects, BPA said last month. Since then the agency has completed a supplemental environmental study to update the 2002 study.

Environmental studies on the other three transmission projects should begin soon, BPA said. Those studies could take 18 months to three years for each of the proposed lines, depending on their complexity.

By Annette Cary, Tri-City Heraldhttp://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/484899.html

 

Clean Energy Aspects of now signed recovery act February 18, 2009

President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on Tuesday and the measure includes US $16.8 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The funding is a nearly tenfold increase for EERE, which received $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2008.

The act also directs DOE to analyze the nation’s electrical grid to determine if significant potential sources of renewable energy are locked out of the electrical market by a lack of adequate transmission capacity. DOE must then provide recommendations for achieving adequate transmission capacity.

While the bulk of the new EERE funding is supporting direct grants and rebates, $2.5 billion will support EERE’s applied research, development and deployment activities, including $800 million for the Biomass Program, $400 million for the Geothermal Technologies Program, and $50 million for efforts to increase the energy efficiency of information and communications technologies.

An additional $400 million will support efforts to add electric technologies to vehicles. And separate from the EERE budget, $400 million will support the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), an agency to support innovative energy research, modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The economic stimulus act also stipulates that $5 billion will go towards the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the act also increases the eligible income level under the program, increases the funding assistance level to $6,500 per home, and allows new weatherization assistance for homes that were weatherized as recently as 1994.

A complementary measure in the act provides $4 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to rehabilitate and retrofit public housing, including increasing the energy efficiency of units, plus an additional $510 million to do the same for homes maintained by Native American housing programs. HUD will receive an additional $250 million to increase the energy efficiency of HUD-sponsored, low-income housing.

The act also directs $2 billion in EERE funds toward grants for the manufacturing of advanced battery systems and components within the United States, as well as the development of supporting software. The battery grants will support advanced lithium-ion batteries and hybrid electric systems. Another $300 million will support an Alternative Fueled Vehicles Pilot Grant Program, and an additional $300 million will support rebates for energy efficient appliances, while also supporting DOE’s efforts under the Energy Star Program.

The act also stipulates that $3.2 billion will go toward Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, which were established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but were not previously funded. The grants will go toward states, local governments and tribal governments to support the development of energy efficiency and conservation strategies and programs, including energy audit programs and projects to install fuel cells and solar, wind, and biomass power projects at government buildings. For background on the program, see pages 176-183 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The act also stipulates that $3.1 billion of EERE funds will go toward the State Energy Program for additional grants that don’t need to be matched with state funds, but the act only allows such grants for states that intend to adopt strict building energy codes and intend to provide utility incentives for energy efficiency measures. To help states implement the measures, a separate portion of the act allocates $500 million to the Department of Labor to prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Renewable Energy and Smart Grids

The act includes $6 billion to support loan guarantees for renewable energy and electric transmission technologies. The funds are expected to guarantee more than $60 billion in loans. The act requires the DOE Loan Guarantee Program to only make loan guarantees to projects that will start construction by September 30, 2011, and that involve renewable energy, electric transmission, or leading-edge biofuel technologies.

The act also directs DOE to analyze the nation’s electrical grid to determine if significant potential sources of renewable energy are locked out of the electrical market by a lack of adequate transmission capacity. DOE must then provide recommendations for achieving adequate transmission capacity. To help achieve those recommendations, the act includes a provision allowing the Western Area Power Administration to borrow up to $3.25 billion from the U.S. Treasury for transmission system upgrades, particularly for facilitating the delivery of power from renewable energy facilities.

In addition, the act provides $4.5 billion for the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability for activities to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, integrate demand-response equipment and analyze, develop and implement smart grid technologies. The funds will also support research in energy storage technologies, efforts to facilitate recovery from energy supply disruptions and efforts to enhance the security and reliability of the nation’s energy infrastructure. A complementary section of the act opens smart grid demonstration projects to electric systems in all areas of the country and establishes a smart grid information clearinghouse to share data from the demonstration projects.

Greener Federal Buildings and Fleets

Federal buildings and fleets will become greener under a measure of the new bill. The act provides $4.5 billion to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to convert federal buildings into high-performance green buildings, which generally combine energy efficiency and renewable energy production to minimize the energy use of the buildings. The act also directs $4 million toward the establishment of an Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings within the GSA. In addition, the act provides $100 million for the Energy Conservation Investment Program within the Department of Defense, as well as another $100 million for energy conservation and alternative energy projects at facilities of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

For federal vehicle fleets, the act provides $300 million to cover the costs of acquiring greener motor vehicles, including hybrids, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid vehicles, once they become commercially available. Buying plug-in hybrids could be an iffy proposition, however, as the funds must be spent by September 30, 2011.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits

The tax section of the act provides a three-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for most renewable energy facilities, while offering expansions on and alternatives for tax credits on renewable energy systems. The extension keeps the wind energy PTC in effect through 2012, while keeping the PTC alive for municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower, and biomass and geothermal energy facilities through 2013.

In addition, a two-year extension of the PTC for marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy systems will keep that tax credit in effect through 2013. The PTC provides a credit for every kilowatt-hour produced at new qualified facilities during the first 10 years of operation, provided the facilities are placed in service before the tax credit’s expiration date.

For 2008, biomass facilities fueled with dedicated energy crops (“closed-loop biomass”), as well as wind, solar, and geothermal energy facilities earned 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, while other qualified facilities earned 1 cent per kilowatt-hour.

Unfortunately, the current slump in business activity means that fewer businesses are seeking tax credits, which means that renewable energy producers are having trouble taking advantage of the PTC. With that in mind, the act also allows owners of non-solar renewable energy facilities to make an irrevocable election to earn a 30% investment credit rather than the PTC. The option remains in effect for the current period of the PTC, that is, through 2012 for wind energy facilities and through 2013 for other qualified renewable energy facilities.

Alternately, the facility owner could choose to receive a grant equal to 30% of the tax basis (that is, the reportable business investment) for the facility, so long as the facility is depreciable or amortizable. The grants are also available for renewable energy facilities that would normally earn a business energy credit of 10%-30%, including systems using fuel cells, solar energy, small wind turbines, geothermal energy, microturbines and combined heat and power (CHP) technologies.

To earn a grant, the facility must be placed in service in 2009 or 2010, or construction must begin in either of those years and must be completed prior to the termination of the PTC. For facilities that would normally earn a business tax credit, construction must be completed prior to 2017. The grants will be paid directly from the U.S. Treasury. A separate measure in the act removes limitations on the business credit based on how the systems are financed and also removes a business credit limit on small wind energy systems.

The stimulus bill also provides greater tax credits for clean energy projects at homes and businesses and for the manufacturers of clean energy technologies. For homeowners, the act increases a 10% tax credit for energy efficiency improvements to a 30% tax credit, eliminates caps for specific improvements (such as windows and furnaces), and instead establishes an aggregate cap of $1,500 for all improvements placed in service in 2009 and 2010 (except biomass systems, which must be placed in service after the act is enacted).

The act also tightens the energy efficiency requirements to meet current standards. For residential renewable energy systems, the act removes all caps on the tax credits, which equal 30% of the cost of qualified solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and fuel cell systems. The act also eliminates a reduction in credits for installations with subsidized financing.

For businesses and individuals buying electric vehicles, the act simplifies and expands the available tax credits. For electric low-speed vehicles, motorcycles, and three-wheeled vehicles, a 10% tax credit is available through 2011, with a cap of $2,500. For vehicles converted into qualified plug-in electric vehicles, a 10% tax credit is also available through 2011, with a cap of $4,000. And starting in 2010, full-scale commercial plug-in electric vehicles can earn a maximum tax credit of $7,500, depending on their battery capacity. The credit will phase out over a year for each manufacturer after they sell 200,000 plug-in vehicles.

The act also provides a bonus to homeowners or business owners installing clean fuel refueling systems at their homes or businesses. For businesses, the maximum credit for installing such refueling systems increases to $50,000 for most systems, up from $30,000, and it increases to $200,000 for hydrogen refueling stations. For homeowners, the credit is doubled from $1,000 to $2,000. Homeowners might install their own natural gas refueling system for a natural gas vehicle, or they might install recharging systems for plug-in electric vehicles. The credit is available through 2010 for most refueling systems and through 2014 for hydrogen refueling systems.

The economic stimulus act has also added a new tax credit to encourage investment in the manufacturing facilities that help make such clean energy projects possible. A new 30% investment tax credit is available for projects that establish, re-equip or expand manufacturing facilities for fuel cells, microturbines, renewable fuel refineries and blending facilities, energy saving technologies, smart grid technologies and solar, wind and geothermal technologies.

The credit also applies to the manufacture of plug-in electric vehicles and their electric components, such as battery packs, electric motors, generators and power control units. The credit may also be expanded in the future to include other energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Secretary of Treasury must establish a certification program within the next 180 days and may allocate up to $2.3 billion in tax credits.

Clean Energy Bonds Expanded

Two bonding mechanisms for financing renewable energy and energy efficiency systems have been expanded under the tax section of the act. The act authorizes the allocation of as much as $1.6 billion in new Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs), which are tax credit bonds for financing renewable energy projects. CREBs were previously limited to a maximum of $800 million. The act also authorizes the allocation of $2.4 billion in qualified energy conservation bonds, up from the current limit of $800 million. These tax credit bonds are allocated to states and large local governments to finance a variety of clean energy projects.

Unlike normal bonds that pay interest, tax credit bonds pay the bondholders by providing a credit against their federal income tax. In effect, the new tax credit bonds will provide interest-free financing for clean energy projects. But because the federal government essentially pays the interest via tax credits, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service must allocate such credits in advance. However, tax credit bonds require the investment of a bondholder that will benefit from the federal tax credits, and those investors may be hard to find during the current business downturn. To try to draw more investment, a separate measure in the tax bill will allow regulated investment companies to pass through to their shareholders the tax credits earned by such bonds. Yet another measure adds a prevailing wage requirement to projects financed with CREBs or energy conservation bonds.

RenewableEnergyNews.com – http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/02/clean-energy-aspects-of-the-american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act

 

Possible Wind Farm near Mabton, WA

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:53 pm
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Horizon Wind Energy wants to build towers 200 feet tall to test four sites near Mabton in the Horse Heaven Hills as potential wind farms. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the sites will be studied for up to three years. A public hearing on the county application is set for March 19 in Yakima City Hall. Horizon of Houston, Texas, is the firm pursuing the Kittitas Valley Wind Project near Ellensburg.

Associated Press -http://www.kapptv.com/news/?sect_rank=1&section_id=22&story_id=12461

 

Mont. Wind producers push bill to press utility to incorporate their power February 16, 2009

Filed under: Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:15 pm

In the minds of the public, Montana is awash in wind power projects – but a group of small power producers says it’s not so, and is pushing legislation it says will help make the perception a reality.

“(Montana is) missing the boat,” says Dana Dogterom, a partner in Two Dot Wind, which develops small wind power projects in rural central Montana. “At some point, we’re going to get so far behind, we’re not going to catch up.”

Dogterom and his colleagues are behind a bill they say will push NorthWestern Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, to follow state and federal law requiring it to buy electricity from small producers of “renewable” power, such as wind.

The utility, however, opposes the measure, saying power from the small projects is too costly.

“What they’re trying to do is tilt the balance, so we have to take more of (their) power, which is ultimately harmful to consumers,” says John Fitzpatrick, NorthWestern’s executive director of government affairs in Helena.

The power that NorthWestern would buy and is buying from smaller renewable power projects is folded into the electricity the utility sells to its 320,000 Montana customers.

At issue is House Bill 491, sponsored by Rep. Brady Wiseman, D-Bozeman.

Scheduled for a hearing Monday before the House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, HB491 says if NorthWestern or other utilities don’t follow the law or bargain with the projects in “good faith,” they can be sued and fined up to $1,000 per day of any violation.

It also spells out more starkly how NorthWestern must arrange a contract to buy power from these small producers.

“We’re trying to put some teeth into the law, so that the utilities negotiate in good faith,” Wiseman says.

State and federal law already says utilities must buy from small producers of renewable power, if the producers meet certain qualifications.

The problem, Dogterum and others say, is that NorthWestern repeatedly drags it feet on complying with this law and agreeing to contracts to buy the electricity. The delays are costly for small producers and the utility seems to be making no real effort to close the deals, producers and their representatives say.

“The purpose of our bill is to break the stalemate,” says Mike Uda, an attorney representing the small producers. “These guys are ready to go. They could put people to work.”

Uda estimates that about 15 smaller projects providing some 115 megawatts of power could be developed, if they could arrange contracts with NorthWestern. They include wind and hydro power.

Fitzpatrick says the reason the utility isn’t jumping to sign these contracts is because it thinks the power is too expensive.

“NorthWestern has nothing to gain or lose in a power supply contract arrangement, because all of the costs in such an arrangement are passed directly through to the consumers,” he says. “We’re acting on the consumers’ behalf. Our effort is to keep those favorable to consumers.”

Under available contract terms, some small power producers are getting paid as much as $100 per megawatt hour, Fitzpatrick says, or much higher than the approximate $60 that NorthWestern residential customers pay now.

Supporters of HB491 say this argument doesn’t hold water.

Of the few contracts that have been agreed to, some are tied to market rates, which have reached $100 per mwh in the past year, Uda says. But the average annual price last year was $57, according to the utility’s own figures, he says – less than what consumers are paying for their power from NorthWestern.

Wiseman, the bill’s sponsor, says NorthWestern wants to expand its ownership of power production, and therefore is resisting any purchases from independent projects.

“They want to shut everybody else out,” he says. “They only want (projects) in which they have equity.”

NorthWestern, the former Montana Power Co., got rid of all its power production in the 1990s, in the wake of the 1997 electric utility deregulation bill. After the passage of a bill in 2007 allowing it to get back into power plant ownership, NorthWestern has been looking to build or buy its own plants.

The state Public Service Commission has voted to oppose HB491 in its present form, but Commissioner John Vincent, D-Gallatin Gateway, said the panel may reconsider if some technical changes are made.

Vincent said he hopes the Legislature takes a “good, hard look at (the bill)” as something that could help promote small wind power projects in Montana.

“The reality is that we are moving toward an alternative energy future,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a vocal booster of wind power, also is keeping tabs on the measure, and may suggest some changes after discussing it with the PSC, said spokeswoman Sarah Elliott.

“Governor Schweitzer has long been an advocate of wind energy small and large,” she said. “The fact is Montana has gone from producing 1 megawatt of wind energy in 2004 to 271 megawatts of wind energy today, and all but two are small scale developments.”

Still, even at 271 megawatts, Montana is well behind states like Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington.

“If we could put a project up right now, we would,” says Dogterum, the developer. “But NorthWestern isn’t talking to us.”

By MIKE DENNISON, The Missoulian – http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/02/16/news/local/news03.txt

 

Small wind farms in Twin Falls County, ID going forward

Filed under: Idaho,Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:00 pm
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Wind-power projects in Twin Falls County seem to be moving forward after years of disputes and delays.

The Twin Falls County Planning and Zoning Commission approved additional time Thursday evening for five proposed wind farms to start construction, and approved a conditional-use permit for a sixth, brand-new project.

All of the farms are proposed for the Bell Rapids area in the northern tip of the county, where a couple of projects already sit, P&Z Director Bill Crafton said. If built, the area would hold about 63 wind-generation towers situated on a number of different farms.

The five delayed projects first applied for permits in 2005 and 2006, but ran into problems with Idaho Power, which was caught unprepared for an influx of wind projects and secured a ban on small-scale projects until it could study how to hook them into its system. One wind farmer even took Idaho Power in front of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to resolve a dispute over how much the company wanted to charge him to hook up to its system.

The smaller projects are located in a less-productive area than the massive China Mountain project near Rogerson, Crafton said. But they still seem to work out.

“They pay for themselves, but just barely.”

And the P&Z seemed supportive, if not still slightly naïve, of the projects on Thursday. Members approved a proposal by Tuana Springs Energy LLC that would essentially continue an existing site and run up to a minimum 300-meter setback from the Snake River Canyon.

Construction on the eight-turbine project could start in May, with the site functional in January, developer and owner Christi Ritchie said.

Armand Eckert asked the P&Z for an extension on a wind farm proposed by Magic Irrigators that fell victim to the scuffle with the utility. His group is still securing a new developer – it had to sue the old one to terminate their agreement, he said – but aims to have building permits in hand by the middle of next year.

His project and four others all agreed to various requirements to have building permits arranged – or at least check in with the P&Z – by May 2010. The commission requested the requirements to make sure that this time, the wind farms make progress.

Eagle attorney Peter Richardson, who presented the other four, said they were really one project split into pieces and that his clients plan to start construction in September. Things should work out this time, he said, because steel and concrete prices have dropped and backers have been able to meet with financiers.

Things aren’t perfect with Idaho Power, he noted. But they’re resolved to the point of progress – something that seemed true for every project discussed that evening.

“These arrangements with the power company are more akin to a shotgun wedding than a pleasant reunion,” Richardson said.

By Nate Poppino, Times-News (Magic Valley) – http://www.magicvalley.com/articles/2009/02/16/news/local_state/155221.txt

 

Wyo. and Mont. wind projects sail along

Filed under: Montana,Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 9:51 pm
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The recession may have taken the wind out of the sails of some wind energy projects around the nation, but that’s not the case in Wyoming and Montana.

Officials in both states say they have not heard of any wind projects being delayed. If there are projects being delayed, they say there are plenty of others still going forward.

The Anschutz Corp. is going ahead with plans to build 1,000 wind turbines near Rawlins in southern Wyoming as well as a $3 billion power line project to carry the electricity to the southwest United States.

Chantel McCormick of the Montana Department of Commerce’s Energy Promotion and Development Division says her office is tracking more than 50 wind projects in various stages of development.

LocalNews8.comhttp://www.localnews8.com/Global/story.asp?S=9852958&nav=menu554_2

 

Wind Turbine Maker Vestas considers shedding jobs February 11, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Manufacturing,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:56 pm

Wind – The turbine maker, expanding in Portland, says orders need to pick up.

Vestas Wind Systems AS, the world’s leading wind-turbine maker, may reduce jobs if the rate of new orders doesn’t improve in the next 11 weeks, Chief Executive Ditlev Engel said.

Orders from the U.S., the largest wind-turbine market, “came to a standstill” after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September tightened credit for wind-farm developers, Engel said Wednesday in New York after announcing that fourth-quarter profit doubled.

Denmark-based Vestas employs about 350 people at its six Portland locations. In December, the company announced plans for a $250 million office complex that would add about 650 jobs to its North American headquarters in the city.

The slump in U.S. orders left Vestas with a backlog of 5.2 billion euros, or $6.69 billion, about 75 percent of this year’s sales target of 7.2 billion euros, Engel said.

Last year’s backlog accounted for 80 percent of sales, he said. U.S. customers are waiting for the final version of wind-power incentives in the economic stimulus plan that may emerge next week, he said.

President Barack Obama has said he wants to double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. More incentives may follow in a comprehensive energy bill, Engel said.

“The political landscape for our industry has never been better,” Engel said. “The financing and banking climate has never been worse.”

The final stimulus bill probably will extend a federal tax credit for power production by wind turbines that would otherwise expire at year-end and guarantee as much as $90 billion in loans for renewable energy and new power lines needed to reach markets, Christine Tezak, a Washington, D.C.-based analyst for Stanford Group Co., wrote Wednesday in a note to clients.

Engel has resisted pressure to match job cuts this year by LM Glasfiber, the world’s biggest maker of wind-turbine blades, and the wind unit of Siemens AG, saying Vestas needs experienced employees to maintain quality. Reliability is crucial to buyers who expect turbines to run for 20 years, he said.

Vestas will maintain a hiring freeze until sales revive, he said. Staffing rose 36 percent, to 20,829 employees, in 2008.

“The U.S. has the best wind resources in the world,” Engel said. “When the banks do come back into the financing market, they will be looking for low-risk businesses, and wind is very low-risk.”

Fourth-quarter net income doubled to 316 million euros from a year earlier. That beat the 242 million euro median estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales rose 32 percent, to 2.48 billion euros.

Engel also maintained a 2009 capital spending plan of 1.2 billion euros that includes expanding its first U.S. manufacturing operation, which opened last year in Colorado.

That spending will be scaled back unless orders pick up, he said. He declined to say which operations or projects may be reduced or delayed.

Also Wednesday, Vestas announced a new, 3-megawatt turbine planned for shipment in 2010. It will be more economical than existing models in areas with low to moderate wind energy because it will be capable of generating power from wind as light as 6.7 mph compared with 11 mph for current designs, Engel said.

“We have no intention of lowering our prices,” he said.

Vestas also won’t attempt to compete with General Electric Co., the largest U.S.-based producer of electrical equipment including wind turbines, in financing wind-turbine projects, he said.

Jim Polson, The Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/business/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/business/1234407318326370.xml&coll=7

 

Wind power jobs are abundant, but training is scarce February 10, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:03 pm
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Last spring, Vestas Wind Systems donated a 12,000-pound turbine hub to Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles so students enrolled in the wind technician training program could get their hands on the very equipment they would one day maintain.

Today, it sits in storage near Portland International Airport waiting for completion of a new lab building.

The irony isn’t lost on Dan Spatz, the school’s resource development director. The college, which runs the only certified wind technician training program in the West, needs more money to meet a huge demand for skilled workers, both Spatz and industry leaders say.

And while he’s thankful for a $400,000 state grant for the lab, he’s concerned that Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s proposed budget didn’t include $8 million toward a $19.5 million, 23,000-square-foot training center.

One thing that did make it into Kulongoski’s spending plan is up to $19 million cash to entice Vestas to expand its North American headquarters in Portland. Vestas is the world’s leading supplier of wind power.

In this economy, no one is sure what will remain in the state budget, but that only makes the competition for the shrinking pot of money all the more fierce as Oregon tries to position itself as a leader in renewable energy.

Kulongoski has pushed to make Oregon a player through state policy, tax credits and direct cash incentives.

“The governor is talking about green jobs and a green economy, but they still don’t have wind technician training on the radar,” Spatz said. “I don’t see the emphasis or the recognition that this is an urgent opportunity for the state to invest in this technology. There’s a disconnect.” Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor said the governor believes “very much” in expanding the community college programs, pointing out that in 2005, the state gave the schools their first construction grants in 30 years.

Columbia Gorge received $7.5 million to build health care classrooms in The Dalles and a satellite in Hood River through state grants. And last year, the school received money for the turbine lab.

The state is facing an estimated $1 billion shortfall for 2009-11 based on revenue projections that probably will get worse, Richter Taylor said. Much of the governor’s proposed budget, released in December, is no longer valid because the state’s income has deteriorated, she said.

“There were a lot of projects that didn’t make it into his budget,” Richter Taylor said. “The governor wishes he could have done more.”

This spring, 72 Columbia Gorge graduates will have jobs waiting, maintaining wind turbines that are going up by the dozens east of the Cascades. Demand for the skilled workers, who can earn $22 to $33 an hour depending on experience, is many times what the college is able to provide, Spatz said. The school offers one-year certificates and two-year degrees.

In the next four years, Spatz estimates conservatively, wind farms from Oregon to Montana will need 500 to 600 technicians.

“We’re going to run out”

It takes one technician to maintain every nine wind turbines, said Gary Hackett, manager of Portland General Electric’s wind farm under construction at Biglow Canyon. By 2010, the farm will operate 217 wind turbines.

A typical wind turbine produces 1.5 megawatts of electricity. Oregon is generating 886 megawatts of wind power, according to Renewable Northwest Project, created by a coalition of public-interest organizations and energy companies to promote development of the region’s untapped renewable resources. That adds up to roughly 590 wind turbines in the state.

“We look to the community college for the main source of our folks,” Hackett said. “We’re going to run out of people and we do need the training for the skilled work force desperately.”

Wind energy companies, including PGE, Vestas, Iberdrola Renewables, and Suzlon Energy, have donated more than $1 million to Columbia Gorge Community College over the past three years in cash, equipment, scholarships, staff time and technical assistance, Spatz said. The school also received a $1.7 million U.S. Labor Department grant to expand over three years. By 2010, 106 technicians will graduate from the school, still not enough to meet demand.

Chuck Sheketoff, director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, said Oregon’s use of business energy tax credits and lack of substantial corporate income taxes have cut into the state’s ability to bankroll programs like the one in the gorge.

“We’d have the money if Vestas and some of these companies were paying corporate income taxes,” he said.

Another problem, Sheketoff said, is that renewable energy companies probably would have come here without tax credits because there’s money to be made in Oregon’s windy expanses. And there’s another flaw in the tax credit program, he said.

“It’s not helping Oregon become more energy independent because we’re selling the energy to California,” he said. “You’re finding out the limits of how green we can be.”

But Richter Taylor defended the tax credit program, pointing out a study released this month by economics consultant ECONorthwest that says the program delivered a 3-to-1 return on the state’s investment, creating more than $600 million in direct investment and more than 1,700 jobs in the past two years.

She said the governor must balance his efforts between direct investments, such as those to colleges, and programs such as tax incentives that attract new businesses.

Vestas, for example, has proposed a new office building in Portland’s South Waterfront that would expand the company’s 350-person professional work force by another 850. A deal still being worked out includes $12.5 million from the city and could include state business energy tax credits in addition to the cash.

“This is not just about the economy, it’s about reducing our emissions and dependence on fossil fuels,” Richter Taylor said. “There are two goals: to create Oregon’s niche and to provide a cleaner environment.”

Federal stimulus may help

The bright spot for everyone in the debate is what might happen with the federal stimulus package being worked out between Congress and the White House. No one is sure how much money Oregon will receive, but policymakers are gearing up for the day the cash arrives.

Richter Taylor said Columbia Gorge Community College could have the opportunity to apply for a grant for its new building. Spatz hopes so.

“We all know that the state is facing an economic crisis,” he said. “Our message is that renewable energy is a way for us to get out of this crisis.”

By Mark Larabee, The Oregonian - http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/02/wind_power_jobs_are_abundant_b.html

 

Study pinpoints West’s best wind and solar areas February 7, 2009

Filed under: Solar,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:41 pm
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The Western Governors’ Association is working to identify the windiest and sunniest areas of the West – in other words, those areas best suited for major renewable energy projects.

Working with the Department of Energy, the Governors’ Association has released a draft study naming areas that contain the most potential for development of renewable energy sources, also including geothermal and hydropower.

The study says there are more than 235,000 megawatts of developable energy in 12 western states, Mexico’s Baja California and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

Directors say the “Western Renewable Energy Zone” project is intended to bring more renewable energy online by facilitating the construction of major transmission lines between resource areas and population centers.

The project is now taking public comment on its early findings.

On the Net, Western Governors’ Association, http://www.westgov.org/

The Associated Press – http://www.kpax.com/Global/story.asp?S=9805883

 

Wind farm near Ellensburg would have 95 turbines February 6, 2009

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:06 pm
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A developer has increased the number of turbines in a proposed wind farm near Ellensburg.

The company behind the Desert Claim Wind Farm, enXco, is submitting an application Friday to the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council for a 95-turbine farm.

The plan had been scaled back to 82 turbines after Kittitas County commissioners rejected a proposal in 2005 for 120 turbines.

The Ellensburg Daily Record reports the $330 million project would be located on eight square miles about eight miles north of Ellensburg. It could generate enough power for 57,000 homes.

If the state approves, construction could start early in 2010.

The Associated Press - http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/618826.html

 

New forecasts help solve base load issues with wind energy February 5, 2009

Filed under: Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:31 am
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Federal researchers are developing pinpoint wind forecasts to help utilities predict how much electricity their wind turbines will generate.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research and Xcel Energy said Wednesday the forecasts would let utilities know how much electricity they have to produce from conventional power plants.

They say that would make wind energy more efficient, which could lead to lower electricity bills for consumers.

The forecasts will use data from satellites, aircraft, weather radar, ground weather stations and sensors on wind turbines. Forecasts will be delivered every three hours.

Test forecasts would be issued for Xcel wind farms in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.

Associated Presshttp://www.localnews8.com/Global/story.asp?S=9786676&nav=menu554_2

 

Port of Vancouver lands “big” wind-Turbine cargo deal

Filed under: Green Jobs,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:24 am
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The Port of Vancouver is expected to announce “a major wind-energy cargo-handling agreement” today, building on the business that began in 2000.

The port already is a major importer for Vestas Wind Systems, whose North American headquarters are in Portland.

Port Executive Director Larry Paulson is scheduled to make the announcement at the agency’s annual meeting at the port-owned Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.

The port’s expansion runs counter to recent media reports that installation of wind and solar power is plummeting because of the credit crisis.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that “trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.”

Vancouver port officials, however, say they expect wind turbine-related work for longshore workers to increase 40 percent this year over 2007, the previous busiest year for turbine cargo, spokesman Nelson Holmberg said.

The port has been handling the cargo for Denmark-based Vestas since 2000. The two sides signed a five-year agreement in 2006 establishing Vancouver as the company’s exclusive Columbia River port.

Vancouver “is positioned to become the largest importer of wind energy on the U.S. West Coast,” a news release issued Wednesday says, “providing more than $20 million of local economic impact.”

In 2007, approximately 305 complete turbines and 120 towers were imported through Vestas.

Last year, the Vancouver port handled 167 towers, 39 hubs, 39 nacelles (the generating unit) and 117 blades. The downturn from 2007 was attributed to uncertainty about federal incentives.

Allan Brettman, The Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2009/02/port_of_vancouver_lands_deal_f.html

 

Saddleback Wind farm project in WA may expand

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:16 am
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A Bingen-based company that hopes to build a 70-megawatt wind farm on a backcountry ridge near Underwood has asked the state to explore the expansion of the project north onto 2,560 acres of state trust land.

The Saddleback Wind Project would rise on logged-over industrial lands behind Underwood Mountain, just outside the north boundary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The original proposal by SDS Lumber Co. called for installing 42 wind turbines along a roughly north-south alignment on its land in eastern Skamania County to harness the gusts that blow through the Columbia River Gorge.

That proposal is on hold pending appeal of a zoning ordinance that would set standards for wind projects in all of Skamania County.

Last spring, the company approached the Washington Department of Natural Resources about leasing state trust land to the north so it could build a larger and more profitable project.

The DNR land the company wants to lease is in western Klickitat County, which already has a zoning ordinance that fast-tracks siting of wind farms and other energy projects.

SDS Lumber President Jason Spadaro said it just makes sense to expand north if the wind generation potential is there.

“The project that we have now is on the small end of wind projects,” he said. “Because of that, I don’t have a lot of flexibility. I need to maintain every potential turbine in order to keep the size of the project where it works. The more megawatts you put through, the more viable the project is.”

Under the proposed expansion, SDS would pay to build roads, collectors and other infrastructure necessary to provide access to the remote site and feed power generated by the wind turbines into the electrical grid.

“We would extend the road system we are already going to build,” Spadaro said. “There is a tremendous amount of synergy between the two properties.”

DNR officials said they would enter into a lease arrangement only if it yields revenue for the common school fund.

“Otherwise we wouldn’t do it,” said DNR regional manager Bill Boyum. “It has to be a good investment on the part of the state.”

The DNR has approved other leases for wind projects east of the Cascades, such as the Wildhorse Project east of Ellensburg, where 34 wind towers generate power on state trust land. “We turned $500,000 last year” from that project, Boyum said. “That all goes into the common school fund.”

The DNR has received about 20 comments on an environmental assessment of the proposed lease. The deadline for comments to the agency’s Ellensburg office is Feb. 10.

Boyum said if the state does eventually agree to lease the land for wind turbines, that phase of the project would be subject to a full environmental review by Klickitat County.

But critics say the DNR is trying to fast-track the project by adopting a “piecemeal” environmental review process instead of assessing the impact of the entire project upfront. A full assessment is needed, they say, to assure that environmental concerns are known and incorporated into the layout, construction and operation of the project.

“The state is forfeiting its right and its authority to enforce state regulations by punting environmental review to Klickitat County,” said Michael Lang, conservation director at Friends of the Columbia Gorge. The organization has taken no official position on the Saddleback project, but is appealing Skamania County’s energy facility zoning ordinance.
Owl habitat
One potential sticking point is that the state trust land lies in an area of scattered old growth and second growth forest used by the threatened northern spotted owl. The DNR is required to manage the area as a “spotted owl emphasis area” under its federally approved habitat conservation plan.

The DNR would require SDS to consult with federal and state wildlife officials before installing wind-monitoring towers to determine whether they could harm birds or wildlife. It would require a sign-off from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the project does not have a negative impact on owls or other imperiled species.

Spadaro said it remains to be seen whether the state trust land will prove to be a viable source of wind power. “We may start reviewing this and find out that there are wildlife issues or other issues that make it impossible to go ahead.”

However, if everything goes smoothly, as many as 25 or 30 giant wind turbines could be built on DNR land, he said.

With a new administration in Washington, D.C., promoting green energy, and new state renewable energy requirements looming, the time is right to move ahead on viable wind energy projects, Spadaro said.

A voter-approved federal initiative requires electric utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Oregon and Washington have adopted even more ambitious goals.

“President Obama has spoken about his intent to increase renewable energy,” Spadaro said. “There are now discussions about a national renewable energy standard as well. The demand is there. So is the ability to finance and develop the project. There are bank issues that make it more of a challenge, but that is not a long-term issue.”

BY KATHIE DURBIN, COLUMBIAN – http://www.columbian.com/article/20090204/NEWS02/702049950

 

Wind Farm plans approved in Carbon County, MT February 3, 2009

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 8:45 pm
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The Carbon County Planning Commission has approved plans for a wind farm with 154 windmills.

Houston, Texas-based Horizon Wind Energy is proposing to build the Simpson Ridge Wind Farm between Hanna and Medicine Bow. Construction would begin next year or in 2011.

The project was tabled in December when county planners raised more questions than Horizon could answer.

The planning commission unanimously approved the plans Monday. Commission members praised the company for giving a detailed presentation this time.

Montana’s News Station.com – http://www.montanasnewsstation.com/Global/story.asp?S=9782579

 

Stimulus bill includes funds for BPA’s power grid, wind energy

Filed under: Bonneville Power,Smart Grid,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 8:26 pm
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The economic stimulus bill working its way through Congress includes $3.25 billion in additional borrowing authority for the Bonneville Power Administration, which says it will use the money to expand the Northwest’s power grid.

The increased borrowing authority would help the power agency bring wind farms and other alternative energy sources online throughout the Northwest.

The projects would generate power for up to 1 million homes and businesses from northern California to Montana and create thousands of “green” jobs, supporters say.

“This investment will help give BPA the resources needed to create family-wage jobs and bring new energy sources online across the Northwest,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “This will allow us to get working today on creating a smarter, more sustainable power grid that is essential to our energy future.”

Murray and other lawmakers called the BPA spending an investment with short-term and long-term benefits.

“This will help build critical infrastructure to facilitate renewable and energy efficient projects that BPA has planned but cannot currently build due to a lack of capital and the frozen credit markets,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. The energy projects should create thousands of jobs in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, he said.

The House approved the stimulus plan last week, despite unanimous opposition from Republicans. The Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill this week.

The BPA, based in Portland, is a not-for-profit federal agency that markets power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams and a nuclear plant in the Northwest. The agency accounts for about 40 percent of the electricity consumed in the region, serving about 150 utilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, as well as parts of northern California, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah.

BPA said the additional borrowing authority would allow it to speed about eight alternative energy projects now being considered. The agency now has about $2.5 billion available for capital investment, but the stimulus bill would more than double that. The legislation would lift the agency’s borrowing “cap” from $4.5 billion to about $7.75 billion.

“Limited capital is our biggest roadblock to accomplishing infrastructure investments that support a transition to a green economy. It is very encouraging to see Senator Murray and the Northwest Congressional delegation successfully working to help us meet these goals,” said BPA Administrator Steve Wright.

Most of the wind projects being considered are in Washington and Oregon, but the projects would benefit customers throughout the West, said BPA spokesman Scott Simms.

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press Writer - http://www.theworldlink.com/articles/2009/02/02/news/doc49873d7197a8f110294780.txt

 

Garfield, Columbia counties in Washington to sprout more windmills January 30, 2009

Garfield County joined the wind energy rush Monday when Puget Sound Energy and Renewable Energy Systems filed a conditional use permit application to install up to 440 wind turbines on 51,696 acres. The turbines will produce up to 800 megawatts of electricity.

The project will be called the Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project, and will include 250 turbines in Columbia County capable of producing up to 450 megawatts.

Final energy capacity and turbine layouts will be determined through state and county processes and evaluation of available wind resources and environmental impacts, according to a press release from PSE.

The project will be built in phases, with construction on support infrastructure expected to begin in 2010.

The existing wind facilities in Columbia County include 204 wind turbines and a capacity of 367 megawatts. During construction, the projects provided approximately 170 full-time jobs. Post construction, 39 full-time permanent jobs exist. The Columbia County projects are called Hopkins Ridge and Marengo I and II. The projects generate approximately $1.3 million in tax revenues, according to the press release.

PSE and RES anticipate filing a conditional use permit application in Columbia County for the project later.

http://www.union-bulletin.com/articles/2009/01/29/local_news/090129local02windtowers.txt

 

Maryhill Museum OKs 15 wind turbines on land

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:17 pm
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Maryhill Museum of Art is helping promote wind power while also trimming its expenses.

The Goldendale museum in Washington state, which has the second largest collection of Rodin’s artwork on the West Coast, recently signed an agreement to allow 15 wind turbines on its property. They will bring in more than $100,000 annually once they begin operating later this year.

It’s the first wind energy project in the U.S. to generate revenues for a nonprofit museum, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The revenues will help maintain the museum’s building and grounds, said Colleen Schafroth, its executive director. The museum, which also houses the largest public display of Native American basketry in North America, draws about 45,000 visitors annually. Its 2009 budget is more than $1.1 million, Schafroth said.

The turbines will be builton the eastern end of the museum and won’t affect views of the museum and the scenic Gorge.

The project will be run by Windy Point Partners, which also has committed to contribute more than $1 million to preserving Columbia River Gorge.

The museum owns 5,300 acres high above the banks of the Columbia River. Much of its land remains wild, though some is leased to ranchers and farmers to graze cattle and raise crops.

Maryhill Museum of Art is just off Highway 97, 12 miles south of Goldendale, WA.

http://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/462900.html

 

Wind energy layoffs at a glance

Filed under: Manufacturing,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:15 pm
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The wind energy industry is seeking tax incentives and grants to help it navigate the recession. Some of the recent layoffs in turbine manufacturing include:

- Clipper Windpower, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based turbine maker, said in January it was laying off 90 of the company’s 830 workers, mainly at a plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Iowa facility employed nearly 390 workers.

- LM Glasfiber, a Danish manufacturer of turbine blades, said in January it was laying off 150 workers and halting production at one of two plants in Little Rock, Ark.

- DMI Industries, a North Dakota-based manufacturer of wind turbine towers, announced in January that it was cutting its work force by 20 percent. About 60 jobs were lost in West Fargo, N.D., and 90 jobs more in Tulsa, Okla., and Fort Erie, Ontario.

- Aerisyn LLC, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based manufacturer of towers for wind turbines, said in November it would lay off 54 workers at its Chattanooga plant.

- Trinity Structural Towers, a Fort Worth, Texas-based subsidiary of Trinity Industries, announced in November that it would lay off 131 workers in Tulsa, Okla.

http://www.theolympian.com/business/wire/story/743467.html

 

Wind energy groups seeking economic stimulus aid

Filed under: Manufacturing,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:11 pm
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Wind power advocates are pushing for billions in tax incentives and grants in the $819 billion recovery package moving through Congress, hoping to offset an economic slowdown affecting the industry.

Expansion of wind energy, a key part of rural development throughout the Midwest and Great Plains, could depend on how the stimulus plan is overhauled by the Senate next week and eventually resolved by congressional negotiators.

Wind power posted gains last year, with electricity generated by wind turbines increasing by 50 percent and 13,000 additional jobs in wind turbine and component manufacturing, the American Wind Energy Association reported this past week. President Barack Obama has called for a doubling of renewable energy production in three years, a potential boon for wind power.

But the financial meltdown has slowed demand for wind turbines, siphoned off available financing and put many projects on hold.

“With the banks and insurance companies backing away from or out of this investment in wind market, that really has put a damper on wind,” said Bob Gates, an executive with Clipper Windpower Inc., a Carpinteria, Calif.-based turbine maker. “It’s gone flip-flop in four months.”

The House-passed bill and the Senate plan would offer $13 billion over 10 years to extend a production tax credit through 2012 – the credits currently expire each year – and provide tax breaks for investments in renewable energy. The House version also includes a grant program that covers 30 percent of the upfront costs of wind energy investments.

The Senate version includes the tax breaks but does not offer the grant program, which would allow wind and solar industries to convert tax credits into grants from the Energy Department.

Wind power advocates say the grant program is needed because tax credits have been hampered by the recession. The projects require large upfront financing and have traditionally attracted investors who use the credits to offset tax liabilities. But few of these investors are profitable now.

Clipper Windpower announced about 90 layoffs earlier this month, mainly at a manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and several wind-related manufacturers have announced similar cuts.

“Without this grant program or something very much like it, we’re looking at a very difficult year in 2009 and maybe 2010 as well,” said Greg Wetstone, senior director for government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association.

Several Midwest states are hoping to increase their stake in wind energy, pointing to the potential for rural development. Wetstone’s organization estimates that North Dakota has nation’s largest wind energy potential, followed by Texas, Kansas and South Dakota.

“We’re just scratching the surface with the potential we have with wind energy,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.

Proponents in Congress said the extension of the production tax credit would help. Wind farm developers would see a tax credit for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce extended through the end of 2012.

“We’ve got to get some certainty in these tax incentives and that means extending the production tax credit,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

http://www.theolympian.com/business/wire/story/743465.html

 

Northwest states among wind energy leaders January 28, 2009

Filed under: Northern California,Oregon,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:44 pm
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Wind energy grew at a record pace in 2008, according to a recent industry report.

The American Wind Energy Association reports that 8,358 megawatts of generating capacity were installed in 2008, a 50 percent jump from the previous year. The organization also reports that enough wind energy is generated in the U.S. to power seven million homes, or 25,170 megawatts in total.

According to the report, Washington is now fifth in the nation in wind production, with 1,375 megawatts. Texas is the leader at 7,116, followed by Iowa (2,790), California (2,517) and Minnesota (1,752). Oregon was also noted for becoming seventh in the nation as it passed 1,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity.

“The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years,” said Denise Bode of the AWEA, going on to warn that a difficult economy in 2009 could set back the industry without prompt action on the renewable energy-friendly federal stimulus bill.

Out of last year’s combined new power-producing capacity, the AWEA says that wind accounted for 42 percent, resulting in 44 million tons of carbon emissions being saved.

http://www.washingtonenergy.com/articles/article/306/northwest-states-among-wind-energy-leaders

 

Work starting on Vantage Wind Farm in March

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:41 pm
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Work is planned to start in late March to construct the Vantage Wind Energy Project, a $200 million to $300 million wind farm proposed for seven miles west of Vantage, with fewer turbines than previously planned.

A general contractor for the main work at the site 15 miles east of Ellensburg between Interstate 90 and Vantage Highway will likely be selected in the next 30 days, according to Mike Logsdon, director of development for Invenergy Wind North America LLC.

“We’ve asked firms that are bidding on the project to go back and get more local contractors into their plans,” Logsdon said from his office in Portland. “We really want to stress getting local contractors involved; we want more of them.”

The local contractors, he said, would be involved with earth-moving, heavy equipment operation, the supply of gravel, concrete and related concrete work.

Work in March will start with road building, trenching and excavation for turbine locations.

Kittitas County commissioners in May 2008 approved the project to put up 69 wind-powered turbines atop towers that will be 390 feet tall from tip of extended rotor blade to the ground.

Logsdon on Tuesday said that number has been narrowed to 60 turbines for a variety of reasons involving the “micro-siting” process.

County officials in late October, according to Logsdon, approved a construction permit. Federal Aviation Administration officials recently have approved the specific locations for the 60 towers.

“Our sites are pretty much fixed, at this point,” Logsdon said, except for a few minor changes.

The reduction in turbine numbers isn’t related to increasing turbine costs, he said, but is because of several factors including setting exact locations of each tower.

The turbines, blades and metal towers for the project have been arriving by ship for some time at different ports and are being stored at the Port of Longview and near Olympia.

He said having them on hand before construction will help expedite the project and steer clear of any delays in their delivery from overseas. Invenergy’s goal is to have the wind farm completed and operating by the end of 2009.

Logsdon said a buyer for the power from the wind farm continues to be sought.

He also said negotiations are under way with property owners in the east county area for a possible second Invenergy wind farm but declined to share details about the location of that project.

The Vantage Wind Energy Project is about three miles southwest of the existing 127-turbine Wild Horse Wind Power Project owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy. PSE plans to add 22 more turbines to its project this year on the north side.

The Vantage wind farm and plans for a second project are within the county’s 500-square-mile wind energy overlay zone. The zone is an area on the county’s east end that is pre-identified as being generally compatible for wind farms.

http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2009/01/28/news/doc4980c8327bb36472434138.txt

 

California Wind-Turbine manufacturer cuts 90 jobs January 27, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Manufacturing,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 6:32 pm
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Clipper Windpower, the Carpinteria-based wind turbine manufacturer, has reduced its workforce by about 90 positions, the lion’s share at its production plant in Iowa. A company spokeswoman wouldn’t detail the exact number of jobs lost at its Carpinteria office, where administrative, engineering and sales support activities are based.

Mary Gates, a Clipper Windpower spokeswoman, blamed the global economy and credit crunch for causing financing problems for Clipper Windpower customers. The company, which touts its “green” energy innovations, employs about 840 people worldwide and about 309 at its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, manufacturing and assembly plant. Ms. Gates said the majority of the job losses are centered in Cedar Rapids, where the company began production in 2005. Clipper Windpower hopes to rehire these production employees when orders pick up, she added.

The company is one of only two U.S.-owned turbine makers — the other being General Electric — in an industry dominated by European manufacturers and wind farm developers.

Clipper Windpower CEO Doug Pertz, in an interview with Wind Watch: Industrial Wind Energy News, said business slowed as customers delayed existing orders and put off new ones because they couldn’t obtain financing for new wind farms. Mr. Pertz said the company’s production is down 20 percent from the turbines it manufactured in 2008.

Long-term and despite the layoffs, Clipper Windpower management still sees a bright future for wind energy. The company is encouraged by the Obama administration’s stated goal to double production of renewable energy in the next three years, and in its support to require 25 percent of America’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.

http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2143549/

 

Cook Island Wind Farm could be Alaska’s first

Filed under: Alaska,Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 6:28 pm
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Construction crews should be busy on Fire Island near the western tip of Anchorage this summer, and the state’s first major wind farm could be up and running there late next year.

So say officials with Cook Inlet Region Inc., the Native corporation that plans to develop land it owns on the mostly barren isle into a wind-driven source of power for thousands of Railbelt households.

“We’re moving forward with the project,” CIRI spokesman Jim Jager said last week.

Significant hurdles still remain, including determining which electric companies will buy the power and approval of all permits, Jager said.

“Of course any of this can be thrown sideways by about a thousand different things. But our anticipation is that there aren’t any show stoppers … and there will be power coming off the island late next year — in 2010.”

The announcement came as the Army Corps of Engineers last week launched a month-long public review of the proposal filed by Wind Energy Alaska, a business owned by CIRI and enXco Inc., a U.S. company that develops and runs wind energy projects.

The plan calls for erecting 20 wind turbines, each capable of generating 1.5 megawatts of power. A three-mile-long cable would carry the electricity to Point Campbell on the mainland and into the existing power grid that runs from Homer to Fairbanks.

Earlier versions of the project — first explored about 10 years ago by one of its potential customers, the Chugach Electric Association — called for 33 wind turbines and up to 100 mw of power.

But the towering 3-mw wind turbines required to do so would be less efficient in Anchorage’s cold temperatures and sometimes moderate winds than the smaller 1.5-mw turbines, Jager said. That trimmed the project down to a 50-mw wind farm.

And its developers decided to cut the proposal to 20 turbines and 30 megawatts to satisfy concerns raised last year by the Federal Aviation Administration, which maintains an aircraft navigation signal on the island.

WIND POWER IS COSTLY

The wind power will supply a small fraction of the overall electricity consumed along the Railbelt, where utilities primarily rely on power generated by gas, hydro and fuel oil. The American Wind Energy Association says 30 megawatts of wind power equals the annual electricity needs of about 9,000 households.

Last year the Alaska Legislature appropriated $25 million to construct the seabed transmission line to carry that power into the electricity grid. But before the cable can be laid, the developers will need to get at least a few of the utilities involved to sign power-purchase agreements.

Anchorage Municipal Light & Power, Homer Electric and Golden Valley in Fairbanks have each expressed interest in the power, and Chugach has said it’s willing to transport it to the grid, Jager said.

Chugach is also a prospective buyer of Fire Island wind power, Chugach spokesman Phil Steyer said Friday. The company is studying how the fluctuating power from a wind farm can be integrated into the Railbelt grid without causing load problems.

The utilities are also waiting for Wind Energy Alaska to tell them exactly how much the electricity will cost per kilowatt, Steyer said.

That’s a number that’s partly dependent on construction bids that are just now forthcoming, Jager said.

In the short run, the wind power will probably be more expensive than electricity generated from natural gas, since its expense is all upfront in the cost of building the farm, he said. But in the long-run, wind power costs are stable, since its fuel source is free, whereas the cost of gas-fired electricity may well continue to climb.

“That makes wind more attractive, because while the price may be slightly higher now, you have rate certainty for the next 15 or 20 years,” Jager said.

THREAT TO BIRDS?

The project will also have to satisfy concerns about its effect on the environment. Wind farms can kill birds. But the newer, larger turbines pose less of a threat, because the blades move more slowly, Jager said.

Audubon Alaska senior scientist John Schoen said his organization hasn’t yet taken a position on the Fire Island wind farm.

“In general we support wind energy,” Schoen said. “But we still need to do our homework. … We might have questions about the siting.”

Specifics on the precise placement of the turbines, as well as the make and model, haven’t yet been decided, Jager said. But enXco engineers are presently favoring a 1.5-mw wind turbine manufactured by the General Electric Co. that they have in stock.

The G.E. turbine has a flexible tower height with a hub that can vary between 215 feet and 265 feet — taller than a 20-story building — and a three-blade rotor that would whirl around a circle 252 feet in diameter.

The Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, will focus its own attention on the effects the project might have on the marine environment, including both the seabed transmission line and the impact that barge traffic carrying workers and materials may have on the intertidal zone. The Corps is accepting public comments on the project through Feb. 19.

http://www.adn.com/news/environment/story/666835.html

 

 
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