Northwest Renewable News

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

PG&E customers to pay for wave power studies January 31, 2009

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has won approval to recover from ratepayers $4.8 million in wave energy development costs.

The California Public Utilities Commission this week approved the funding mechanism for the company’s WaveConnect project, said Jana Morris, a PG&E spokeswoman, said.

“Over time, it will be incorporated into the rates like some of our other projects,” she said. She did not provide any specific information of when or how bills will be affected.

The funding approval allows the company to move forward with wave energy studies, which remain in the exploratory stages.

“It’s a small amount” when it’s spread out over time and shared by all California PG&E customers, said Fort Bragg City Councilmember Dave Turner.

Of more concern are the project’s potential environmental, economic and visual effects, he said.

County officials and area residents said they favor “green energy” projects, but want to know more about the potential impacts to the ocean and coast before they take a stand on wave energy.

The devices could damage fisheries, interfere with whale migration and create visual blight on a seascape that is crucial to tourism, critics say.

There are dozens of wave energy devices PG&E will study. Some look like giant buoys bobbing in the ocean while others are train-sized contraptions that snake along the surface.

The energy generators could be placed between a half-mile and five miles offshore at depths of up to 600 feet, according to PG&E’s proposal. Each device could potentially generate from 150 kilowatts to 4 megawatts, which at the upper limit is enough to power about 3,000 homes.

Each of the two WaveConnect project sites could produce up to 40 megawatts of clean renewable electricity, according to PG&E.

Morris said the company is years away from launching ocean wave energy devices, Morris said.


solar Manufacturer plans to open a new facility in Bend January 30, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 2:32 pm
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In dark times when thousands of Central Oregonians are without work, some local businesses are bucking the trend, making plans to expand. PV Powered in Bend which makes solar-power systems plans to open a new facility on the east side of Bend and hopes to at least double its staff of 50. “Translating that into the number of jobs really depends on the timing of the growth and just overall economic issues that we’re working our way through right now,” said Erick Petersen, Vice President of PV Powered.

GL Suite in Bend employs 30 people. The company makes software for government regulatory and licensing agencies and plans to add 15 to 20 more employees and move to a larger building by the end of the year. “Our existing customer sales are up about 40 percent over the prior 12 month period and as that continues to grow we’ll add more and more people,” said Bill Moseley, President of GL Suite.

So why are some companies doing so much better? Both say they found a niche and have customers outside Oregon. PV Powered hopes to expand overseas. “Clean energy is without question the place to be. Wind, biomass, solar, geothermal,” said Petersen.

“The people, the customers we sell to, we’re lucky they’re just really, really stable and we’re not really impacted by the housing or any of these other industries,” said Moseley.

GL Suite has seen a consistent 30 % growth for the past eleven years. “I think for the next two years we’ll continue at least at the rate of growth we’re expecting for the next year and probably a little stronger than that,” said Moseley.

PV Powered was hit by the downturn in August when they laid off 10 people as they waited for the federal investment tax credit that wasn’t renewed until September. But now they say they’re cautiously staying positive. “We’re predicting a significant growth in the business year over year, we are growing in the residential market, we’re significantly growing in the commercial market,” said Petersen.

GL Suite also plans to add more products for their existing customers.


Garfield, Columbia counties in Washington to sprout more windmills

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.