Northwest Renewable News

Your Daily Source for Renewable Energy News in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana & Northern California

NREL gives green light to feed-in tariffs February 16, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 5:20 pm

A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that feed-in tariffs established by states to promote the use of renewable energy are legal under certain conditions, clearing the way for the programs that aim to level the pricing playing field.

The long-awaited NREL report points out that that the feed-in tariffs can be lawful under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (or PURPA), if they are voluntarily offered by utilities, or based on “avoided cost” and paid with renewable energy credits, subsidies, or tax credits.

Oregon is one of four states that have established feed-in tariff programs. Oregon’s was started last year as pilot program under House Bill 3039. The legislation did not establish the incentive rate or rules for the pilot program and the Public Utilities Commission must adopt rules and approve the rate for the incentive payment by April 1.

Portland Business Journal –


Consultants’ study touts benefits of Antekope Ridge wind farm plan

The company hoping to build a second wind farm in Union County says annual revenues to local governments from both facilities would range between $2.7 and $6 million.

Not only that, the two winds farms combined will account for more than 300 construction jobs and more than 90 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

But not everybody is buying it.

Horizon Wind Energy opened the 101-megawatt Elkhorn Valley wind farm at Telocaset in 2007. The company has applied to the Oregon Department of Energy to build a 300-megawatt facility, the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, near Union in 2011.

Citing a study done recently by the economic consulting firms Pareto Global and ECONorthwest, Horizon said the two facilities combined will have significant long-term benefits to the local economy.

“Our modeling showed that wind farms have a positive economic impact, create job growth and increase revenue to local governments,” said Jules Bailey, the principal consultant for Pareto Global.

The study estimated that Elkhorn Valley created 150 construction jobs, and says that 15 people are employed at the facility now.

The work of maintaining and operating the facility has indirectly created another 24 jobs, the study says.

Also according to the study, revenue impact to  Union County and other local governments from Elkhorn Valley is estimated at $664,000 a year.

The study says Antelope Ridge would create about 165 construction jobs and 20 full-time jobs at the facility after construction.

In addition, the study claims the facility will indirectly create 32 more jobs and that revenue impact from the wind farm itself and resulting economic activity to governments will be about $2 million.

The proposed Antelope Ridge facility has stirred much controversy in the county. Some individuals and at least one local government — the City of Union — have expressed concerns about possible effects on real estate values, scenery, tourism, wildlife and more.

Dennis Wilkinson, head of the local effort to stop construction of Antelope Ridge, sharply disputed claims made in the study.

In a letter to Horizon, Wilkinson said a release about the study sent to news outlets was “full of spin and incorrect information.” He accused Horizon of having a policy of not providing facts.

Among other things, Wilkinson asked Horizon to document its claims about job creation and revenue impacts.

“These quotes of dollar revenue and job claims are exaggerated to put it mildly and it continues to be the policy of Horizon to attempt to fool the public about the wind projects,” he said.

“It is a proven fact by hundreds of reports that wind farms are inefficient and would not be built if not for the subsidy and all the tax write-off.”

Horizon consultant Bob Applegate said Monday that the study’s conclusions are based on economic models.

He said the amount of money Horizon spends on construction, operation and maintenance is the primary factor. Outside of direct employment, the Pareto study did not pinpoint employment at local companies.

Applegate said that direct jobs are jobs held by workers at a facility. Indirect jobs are jobs at businesses that support operation and maintenance, and induced jobs are those created at businesses like restaurants and retail stores.

“It is a fair thing to say that absent the wind farm, there would be fewer jobs,” he said.

Applegate said that Horizon employs two full-time workers at Elkhorn, with plans to add a third. He said turbine manufacturer Vestas employs 12 people at Elkhorn.

Applegate also said that the study’s estimate of revenue impacts to governments is broad because those impacts depend on what agreements are worked out.

He said that if Horizon reaches a Strategic Investment Program agreement with Union County, the smaller figure would apply.

“I think it’s fair to say that the revenue impact to the county would be at least $2.7 million,” he said.

He said Horizon and Union County are currently in negotiations regarding an SIP agreement.

Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer


‘Cow Power To Horsepower’ Researched In Bellingham

Filed under: Farm/Ranch,Methane Digesters,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 4:35 pm

When you think of what federal economic stimulus money has paid for, the first things that come to mind might be highway paving, energy retrofits or high–speed trains. Now here’s one of the most unconventional stimulus projects we’ve heard of. An institute at Western Washington University is getting half a million dollars to examine how to convert cow poop into horsepower.

Five years ago, dairy farmer Darryl Vander Haak flipped the switch on the first poop–to–power generator in Washington State. Officially, the facility near Lynden, Washington is known as a methane digester. Manure from around a 1000 cows goes in one end. Then controlled decomposition yields methane gas. It’s burned like natural gas in an electric generator.

The rub is, electricity sales haven’t been very profitable, or profitable at all says dairyman Vander Haak.

Vander Haak: “We’re looking for alternative ways. The Northwest has too much hydropower to compete with. It would be easier to compete with the gas companies, I guess.”

That’s why Vander Haak was open minded when the director of the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University came calling from down the road in Bellingham. Eric Leonhardt says he’s long had his eye on the dairy herd as a source of transportation fuel.

Leonhardt: “The problem is when the gas comes off the digester, it has not only methane in it — 60 percent — it also has carbon dioxide — forty percent, roughly. And it has a trace of hydrogen sulfide.”

Leonhardt says the challenge is to remove those engine–wrecking impurities cost–effectively. Other than that, powering vehicles with natural gas is not new. Generating the fuel from renewable sources has been done before too, for example at landfills. The U.S. Department of Energy gave the $500,000 grant to improve the fuel refining process and then demonstrate whether biogas could be cost–competitive. At lot depends on the price of fossil fuels.

Leonhardt: “At $6 a gallon, the payoff period isn’t very long.”

Banse: “So $6 a gallon for petroleum fuel?”

Leonhardt: “Yes. If you start at $3 a gallon, it’s a push. It is right on the edge of being possible.”

This spring, the Vehicle Research Institute plans to retrofit a donated airporter shuttle bus. It will take a few months of road testing to confirm Leonhardt’s cost estimates. The researcher has already calculated that the cows from just two large dairies could fuel all the public buses in his home of Whatcom County.

I’m Tom Banse in Bellingham, Washington.

Tom Banse, KUOW –


Senator Tester Spends Presidents’ Day in the Flathead Valley February 15, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Montana,Renewable Energy Projects,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 4:43 pm

Senator Jon Tester talks jobs and renewable energy in the Flathead Valley.

The Senator started his day at F.H. Stoltze Lumber in Columbia Falls. The mission? To learn more about a biomass energy project the mill is hoping to push forward.

It’s called the Woody Biomass Combined Heat and Power Project. It’s basically a facility that would us leftover wood projects to generate clean, renewable electric power for the Northwest.

Stoltze’s Vice President says it would create 13 new jobs, but also hold on to about 200 current jobs in the forest industry.

The lumber company needs about $54 million dollars to build the facility, but managers say the end results outweigh the initial investment. County Commissioners were there to back up the project.

“This is an instance where I would be wiling to take some risks, because I do think the economic vitality of the forest industry, which is vital for Flathead County, whether people know it, for lots of reasons depends on innovative thinking and use of the biomass that’s out there,” Flathead County Commissioner Joe Brenneman said.

After Stoltze, Senator Tester went on to the Flathead County Landfill to talk more renewable energy. He toured the Flathead Electric site that turns methane gas from the landfill into electric energy. As the trash rots, it produces gas containing methane. The methane is then captured, and used to generate renewable energy. Right now, the landfill’s “Gas-to-Energy Plant” creates enough power for about 900 homes, with the ability to expand.

“This may not be the first in the country, but it’s the first in Montana and I think that if people come here and look at this,it’s really impressive and we’re getting something from a resource that was a liability and make it into an asset,” Senator Tester said. “And that’s really what’s important and I think it’s one of those things that, if we can create a few jobs and make this country more energy independent, it’s a win win deal.”

While in the Flathead, Tester also met with Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher and spoke with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.

Maritsa Georgiou, KECI (TV)–Day-in-the-Flath/6365577


Wind tunnel breezes onto Portland State’s campus

Filed under: Oregon,University Research,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:34 pm
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A new wind tunnel at Portland State University could bolster the city’s green cache by bringing top-level researchers to the city.

The custom-designed wind tunnel is being constructed in Wisconsin and will be shipped to PSU in March. It will be installed in a first-floor lab of the school’s new engineering building, 1930 S.W. Fourth Ave.

The tunnel is generating excitement in Portland design circles. Sustainability advocates expect the $500,000 tunnel to encourage high-level research into wind energy.

Having a research-grade piece of equipment in Portland will be immensely helpful to architects and engineers, said John Breshears, associate partner with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.

ZGF designed rooftop wind turbines for downtown Portland’s Twelve|West office-and-apartment project for Gerding Edlen Development Co. The four wind turbines installed in 2009 were among the first to be placed in an urban setting in the U.S.

For that project, ZGF and its partners did their research at Oregon State University’s two wind tunnels. Bringing precision research equipment to Portland will encourage similar innovation.

“I don’t know that many universities or cities that have that level of research. It will enable us to do more of the kinds of research we need to do,” said Breshears, who said the firm is interested in researching wind patterns so it can install turbines at its other projects.

ZGF also is interested in using it to study green roofs, an increasingly popular feature in sustainable design. Little is known about how they interact with the environment.

NASA and the National Science Foundation are providing the initial funding to operate the equipment and direct research, though the school is looking for additional partners and projects.

Raúl Bayoán Cal, an assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, leads the wind-tunnel project.

The effort is getting an assist from Oregon BEST, which has pledged to match any grants he secures and is linking him with industry, said David Kenney, president and executive director. The 2007 Legislature created the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center to develop and promote Oregon’s green industry cluster.

Kenney said that as the North American home to wind energy leaders such as turbine manufacture Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. and wind power provider Iberdrola Renewables, it’s important for Portland to gird its favorite new business sector with solid research capabilities.

“It’s a great connection,” he said.

The wind tunnel channels carefully controlled wind through a five-meter chamber where researchers duplicate the conditions they’re trying to study — temperature, pressure, ground configuration and so forth.

Lasers record how the air moves through the chamber.

Doctoral candidates will use it for high-level research, but it is also a teaching and recruitment tool to attract undergraduates and high school students to the hard sciences by giving them a hands-on experience.

“There’s nothing cooler than that,” he said.

It already has helped attract talent to Portland.

Max Gibson, a Ph.D. candidate studying under Cal, came to Portland from Mississippi by way of Canada. The wind tunnel, he said, is hugely attractive to students.

“This is going to put us on the map,” he said.

Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal^2877541


Plan for Shelton, WA biomass plant is great news for region

Filed under: Biomass,Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 4:28 pm

Plans are under way to build a $250 million biomass plant near the Shelton Airport with an objective of turning 600,000 tons of wood debris into enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.

A joint venture of Duke Energy and a global energy firm called Areva has a long, long way to go to get the plant off the ground, but it’s exciting to think about the potential to turn mounds of leftover logging debris — stumps and tree limbs — into electrical energy.

We’re a little surprised that company officials rolled out the project without firm contracts with timber companies for the woody debris or contracts with electrical companies to purchase the power generated from the biomass plant. But make no mistake, we’re excited at the possibility of a new source of alternative energy in South Sound.

Today, after a logging company moves through a stand of trees, the remaining woody debris is generally pushed into huge piles that are burned. So-called slash burns pollute the air and pose a serious health risk for individuals suffering from breathing problems. Slash burns are a terrible waste of natural resources. There’s increased pressure from regulatory agencies to reduce slash burning to protect air quality.

State lawmakers and Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, recognized that fact, and are proceeding with a handful of pilot projects to turn logging debris into energy. The state is proceeding with those test projects, but the joint venture involved in the Shelton project is proceeding on its own and is not part of the Department of Natural Resources pilot project.

At the launch announcement in Olympia recently, officials said they hope to break ground by late this year on the power plant on Port of Shelton property near the airport.

The first order of business is to lock up contracts with suppliers of woody debris. “We’re contacting all the major landowners within 50 miles of the plant site,” said Reed Wills, president of the energy startup firm, Adage LLC.

One of the major timber companies in the Shelton area — Green Diamond Resource Co. — is in talks with Adage about supplying feedstock for the plant. “We’re very interested in a biomass plant in our community,” said Patti Case, public affairs manager for Green Diamond, which traces its linage to Simpson Timber Co., founded in 1890 by Solomon Simpson in the tiny town of Matlock.

Adage officials said the power plant would be built to produce 55 megawatts of electricity.

After suppliers are lined up, the next step is to garner environmental and land use approval, then enter into contracts with electrical suppliers willing to purchase the alternative power at competitive prices.

On the environmental front, Adage officials have had preliminary talks with officials at the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency that regulates emissions.

“We’ve had discussions with the company, but they haven’t applied yet for a permit,” said Fran McNair, executive director of the clean air agency. She said the equipment the company plans to use to control emissions appears to meet the agency’s emissions requirements because it is the best available technology.

Community and political leaders were quick to praise the woodwaste-to-energy plan because it’s expected to generate 700 direct and indirect jobs during the two-and-a-half year construction.

The daily operation would require about 100 employees collecting and transporting the woody debris with another couple dozen workers operating the plant.

“There’s a great labor force here — ready, willing and able to work,” said state Rep. Fred Finn, a Democrat whose district includes Mason County.

“This is part of the next chapter in the forest products industry,” said Mason County Commissioner Lynda Ring Erickson.

We would hope the energy company would have little trouble lining up contracts with public utility districts or other energy suppliers who need to add to their inventory of alternative energy sources.

Initiative 937, which was adopted by Washington voters in the 2006 general election, requires PUDs and electrical companies with more than 25,000 customers to focus on conservation and produce certain percentages of alternative energy by specific target dates. The Shelton plant will fill that requirement.

The plan to turn renewable natural resources into energy — energy that reduces both our dependence on foreign oil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions — is a real plus and should be embraced by the entire South Sound.

The Olympian –


Regulators seek comments on Ore. wave energy project February 13, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Wave/Tidal Power — nwrenewablenews @ 8:57 pm
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Now’s your chance to learn more about a proposed wave energy project off Gardiner and comment about it to federal regulators.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received a water permit application from the developers and the agency has opened a 30-day comment period. The deadline is March 10.

Reedsport OPT Wave Park has proposed constructing a 10-buoy array, with an underwater substation pod and transmission cable. Each buoy will have a 36-foot diameter, placed about 330 feet apart. They all would have about 200 gallons of hydraulic fluid, but spills are unlikely because of a double containment system.

OPT also will have a spill control and counter measure response plan.

Comments can be mailed to Merina Christoffersen, 1600 Executive Parkway, Suite 210, Eugene, OR, 97401-2156; e-mailed to, or faxed to (503) 229-6957.

The Army Corps will use comments to determine whether to hold a public hearing as well as whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit.

For more information, call (503) 229-6030 or toll free within Oregon at (800) 452-4011. A video demonstration of the project is available at the OPT Web site,

The World –