Northwest Renewable News

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Renewable energy manuf. tax break clears key panel in Wash. April 28, 2009

A “skinnied-down” bill that would provide a tax break to manufacturers of solar, wind and other renewable energy equipment who locate in Clark County cleared a major hurdle Friday as the Legislature rushed toward adjournment.

House Bill 2130, sponsored by Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee Friday morning in a version far different from that of the original bill. It still must survive final House and Senate votes on the state’s 2009-11 operating budget over the weekend.

Probst’s original bill would have given a 50 percent tax credit against the state’s business and occupation tax to any business that developed a renewable energy manufacturing facility in Washington, up to a maximum credit of $20 million.

The annual cost to the state would have been about $30 million.

In the latest version of Probst’s bill, the state’s costs would be capped at $2.5 million annually in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and $5 million annually thereafter.

Probst said he argued successfully that if lawmakers were going to downsize the bill, they should limit the break to companies that locate in Clark County.

“The credit is dedicated to Clark County because we are trying to build a base to make Clark County a major exporter of the components for solar and renewable energy,” he said. “If you look around the world, the places that export barrels of oil are doing really well. In the future, I want us to be a place that exports solar panels and wind turbines.”

The Clark County Economic Development Council wants the tax break so it can compete with other states and countries that are courting solar manufacturers.

Under the scaled-down bill approved by Senate Ways and Means Friday, companies that invest a minimum of $25 million in construction, machinery and equipment for a renewable energy facility would be eligible for two kinds of tax breaks: A two-year deferral of the state sales and use tax, and a credit worth up to 15 percent of their eligible investment against the state business and occupation tax.

Probst said his effort to win passage of HB 2130 has been “a wild ride. We thought it was dead, then it was revived.” Negotiations over the bill reached “the highest levels” of the Legislature, he said.

His measure is one of a handful of tax-break bills that have survived thus far in a session where lawmakers have grappled with how to close a projected $9 billion budget deficit.

Many of those are intended to provide incentives for the development of renewable energy and the use of alternative-fuel vehicles such as electric cars.

BY KATHIE DURBIN, COLUMBIAN – http://www.columbian.com/article/20090425/NEWS02/704259967

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Desert Claim wind farm hearings July 13 in Wash. April 27, 2009

Formal adjudicative hearings by the state to examine the proposed Desert Claim Wind Power Project will likely begin the week of July 13 in Ellensburg, according to a tentative scheduled submitted last week.

The schedule, including deadlines for pre-filed testimony and rebuttal of that testimony, was suggested to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, during the council’s day of meetings conducted Thursday in Ellensburg on the Desert Claim project.

Thursday’s meetings included a ruling on approving intervenors in the decision-making process and taking testimony that evening on an environmental impact study of the wind farm, which has been downsized from 120 turbines to 95.

During the evening hearing, by one attendee’s count, nearly 80 people attended, and 28 people testified to EFSEC: of the 28, 20 voiced support for the wind farm’s construction and operation, seven were opposed to the project or aspects of it and one person’s comments reflected a neutral position.

Project developer, enXco Inc., estimates the total investment in the proposal is more than $330 million, with turbine sites spread on 5,200-acres of private and state-owned land eight miles northwest of Ellensburg north of Smithson Road.

EFSEC eventually will make a recommendation to Gov. Chris Gregoire on the 95-turbine wind farm after the Ellensburg hearings, and the governor then makes the final decision.

EFSEC hopes to make the recommendation before the end of the year.

David Steeb, enXco’s project director, after the Thursday sessions, said many people attended the evening meeting and expressed support for the project because “they want Desert Claim’s economic benefits as soon as EFSEC and Gov. Gregoire can approve them” in the form of local tax revenue, jobs and increased local business.

“We know we are doing the right thing when our supporters represent schools, businesses, ranching, renewable power and just basic citizens,” Steeb said. “That’s a real, genuine cross section of this community.”

Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marshall Madsen, after the hearing, said the chamber didn’t speak to the environmental impacts of the project, but assessed its support among chamber members.

In regard to wind farm support, Madsen said a survey of those responding indicated 90 percent supported wind farm development.

Anita Boyum, contacted later, said she spoke in general support of the wind farm’s location within the Ellensburg School District and the economic benefits it would give to funding education and district projects.

She said the Ellensburg School District Board, of which she is chairperson, on Wednesday passed a resolution supporting the general location of the wind farm in the district and its effect to broaden the district’s tax base that would, in turn, support future school levies and school bonds.

Boyum said she was reporting on the district board’s resolution and represented the Washington School Director Association’s Trust Land Task Force, of which she is chair, and the Board of Governors of the Children’s Land Alliance.

One speaking against the project was Eloise Kirchmeyer of Reecer Creek Road. After the hearing, she said she is one of seven non-participating landowners whose property line is within 2,500 feet of a proposed turbine location.

Kirchmeyer said setbacks between property lines and turbines should be at least a mile, which is a standard observed in many European projects.

She said she is concerned about the effect of the proposed project on her property values, indicating she hasn’t been able to sell her land in three years of effort.

She also expressed concern about the detrimental impact of her and other’s scenic vista with the tall turbine towers, blinking lights atop 410-foot towers at night, noise and safety concerns related to the fall of ice built up on turbine blades and the lack of escape routes from her property in case of wildfires.

Comments on the environmental study will continue to be accepted by EFSEC until 5 p.m. May 4 at P.O. Box 43172, Olympia, WA 98504-3172 or e-mailed to: efsec@cted.wa.gov.

Intervenors

EFSEC Manager Allen Fiksdal said the state energy council approved intervenor status for the Economic Development Group of Kittitas County, Kittitas County government and the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

Previously approved for intervenor status was the Counsel for the Environment and the wind farm applicant Desert Claim Wind Power LLC.

Fiksdal said EFSEC will likely issue an order soon that will formally approve the intervenors and the proposed adjudication schedule, including hearings in Ellensburg.

A general public hearing, open to any citizen to speak, will be conducted the week of July 13 just prior to the Ellensburg adjudication hearings, and Desert Claim also proposed a general public hearing be conducted in the Seattle area the week of July 7.

Mike Johnston, Daily Record http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2009/04/27/news/doc49f5efe6a4a9e763859756.txt

 

Agencies want a say in Kittitas Co., Wash. wind farm’s future April 21, 2009

Three agencies, including Kittitas County, want to intervene and affect the future of the Desert Claim wind power project north of Ellensburg.

The Washington state Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council will consider the requests during a council meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hal Holmes Community Center, 209 N. Ruby St. in Ellensburg.

To gain intervener status, petitioners must tell the council how they would be affected by the 5,200-acre wind farm project. The council may approve the petitions at the hearing or wait until a later date.

In addition to the county, the petitioners are The Economic Development Group of Kittitas County, the county’s economic development arm, and the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

Representatives of the state agency and the county economic development group said their petitions favor the project.

Ron Cridlebaugh, executive director for The Economic Development Group of Kittitas County, said the group supports the plan because of the economic stimulus, jobs and added tax base it will provide.

Desert Claim Wind Power, owned by a French firm, enXco, wants to build a 95-turbine wind farm on 5,200 acres, about eight miles north of Ellensburg.

The firm decided to seek state approval after the county denied its application. A revised proposal was submitted to the council in February, calling for reductions in the number of turbines as well as the number of residences that would be within a 2,500-foot setback from the turbines.

If built, Desert Claim’s $330 million project would generate enough energy for 57,000 homes. The project would create 160 jobs during construction and a total payroll of $3.6 million.

Kittitas County is home to the Wild Horse wind farm, east of Ellensburg. The Vantage Wind Farm nearby is yet to start construction. A third facility, Kittitas Valley Wind Farm, has been approved, but may not start construction until next year.

Tony Usibelli, assistant director for Community Trade and Economic Development, said the agency routinely intervenes in siting energy projects.

“We think it is a good project, but it has to go through the council process,” he said.

County officials argued in filings earlier in the case that the changes made to the size and scope of Desert Claim made an application for approval to the state premature.

Should the council ultimately recommend Gov. Chris Gregoire approve Desert Claim, it would mark the second time the state has overridden county opposition. A council recommendation to approve the nearby Horizon Wind Energy project was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

By DAVID LESTER, Yakima Herald-Republichttp://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2009/04/20/agencies-want-a-say-in-wind-farm-s-future

 

Wave Power Coming on Slow Rollers

Two years ago, there was a “gold rush” on the ocean to stake claims for wave energy. Now the spray is settling. As it clears, fewer heads remain above water. Energy developers have given up on about a quarter of the wave projects they proposed along the West Coast. Some tidal power proposals are ebbing away as well. The slow arrival of this new source of renewable energy is just fine with some coastal residents who still harbor doubts about the technology. We get more on the story from KPLU’s Tom Banse.

For more information:
Congressional letter – March 2009 Congressional letter requesting $250 million of DOE stimulus funds be set aside for marine renewable power technology R&D. Signers include Jay Inslee (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and David Wu (D-OR)

West Coast wave energy projects proposed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (www.ferc.gov) listed from north to south (filing date):

P-12751 Makah Bay (Finavera) application to surrender license filed 2/09

P-13058 Grays Harbor Ocean Energy (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) 11/2007

P-13047 Oregon Coastal Wave Energy (Tillamook Intergovernmental Dev. Entity) 10/2007

P-12750 Newport OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) permit surrendered 3/09

P-12793 Florence Oregon Ocean Wave Project (Oceanlinx) 4/2007, withdrawn 4/08

P-12713 Reedsport OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 3/2006

P-12743 Douglas County Wave Energy (Douglas County, OR) 9/2006 (oscillating column device on Umpqua River jetty)

P-12749 Coos Bay OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 3/2006

P-12752 Coos County Offshore (Bandon, Oregon) (Finavera) permit cancelled w/o objection 6/08

P-12779 Humboldt County WaveConnect (PG&E) 2/07

P-12753 Humboldt County Wave Energy (Finavera) permit surrendered 2/09

P-13075 Centerville OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 11/2007

P-12781 Mendocino County WaveConnect (PG&E) 2/07

P-13053 Green Wave Mendocino Wave Park (Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC) filed 10/07 pending

P-13377 and P-13378 Fort Ross Project- N & S (Sonoma County Water Agency) 2/09 pending

P-13376 Del Mar Landing Project (Sonoma County Water Agency) 2/09 pending

P-13308 San Francisco Ocean Energy Project (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) 10/08 pending

P-13379 San Francisco Ocean Energy Project (City and County of SF) 2/09 pending

P-13052 Green Wave San Luis Obispo Wave Park (Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC) filed 10/07 pending

P-13309 Ventura Ocean Energy Project (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) filed 10/08 pending

Total proposed wave energy projects since 2006: 21
Total projects scrubbed for any reason: 5

KPLU, http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kplu/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1496258&sectionID=1

 

Offshore Wind Energy Blows In To Tillamook, Ore. April 20, 2009

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 8:44 pm

When you stand on the beach on a nice day like this and gaze out into the ocean, you can see maybe ten miles.  Right about there on the horizon is where a Seattle company is hoping to float a wind farm.

It would be off the Oregon Coast near Tillamook Bay.  The offshore developer hopes mooring the floating windmills that far out will short-circuit opposition.

The turbines would be even bigger than the giant windmills sprouting along the mid-Columbia River. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from the Oregon Coast.

Think back to your last trip to the beach.  Do you remember if the wind was blowing?  I bet you it was.  And that’s what interests energy developer Alla Weinstein.

Alla Weinstein: “The wind resource offshore is a lot stronger and more consistent than it is on shore.”

The challenge is how to harness that wind to make electricity.

Alla Weinstein: “Because the ocean is fairly deep very quickly.”

On our Pacific Coast, certainly.  Weinstein founded a company called Principle Power.  The start-up is trying to do something never done before — namely build a floating wind farm.  Weinstein proposes to marry two existing technologies to do this.

Alla Weinstein: “We actually are not inventing the wheel.  We are reusing the wheel.  The wheels that we are reusing are the offshore platforms that were developed for the offshore oil industry and also the (wind) turbines that have been developed first for use on land.”

Weinstein and her Oregon project manager have just finished presenting their plans to a community meeting in the postcard pretty town of Manzanita.

The company picked Tillamook County because high-voltage transmission lines come closest to the coast here.  The plans eventually call for 30 wind turbines, each on its own floating platform anchored to the sea bottom.   The turbines are bound to generate local jobs, too.

Manzanita architect Tom Bender listened to the presentation and then came out against what he calls “industrialization of the ocean.”

Tom Bender: “The red lights on these things… These 400-500 foot tall towers obviously have flashing red lights. You get that on a foggy evening, the entire sky is pulsing red lights.”

Danish naval officer Frants Poulsen retired to Manzanita.  He comes to an opposite conclusion.

Frants Poulsen: “A windmill is a beautiful machine.  They have been with humans for 10,000 years and it contributes to preserving our planet.”

Fishermen are another constituency to assuage.  Charter boat captain Jon Brown foresees less disruption from the offshore wind farm than proposed wave energy parks nearer to shore.

Jon Brown: “I much rather have wind energy 10 miles offshore than wave energy right by the beach. Yeah, no question about that.”

Still in question is whether the price of the electricity from an offshore wind farm will be affordable.  A different company from Seattle prepared an estimate in connection with a combination wave and wind energy platform it proposed near Westport, Washington.

Burt Hamner is president of Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company.

Burt Hamner: “It is expensive and there’s no way around that.  It’ll cost twice as much per megawatt – or twice as much per unit of energy — to produce the power offshore as it will onshore.  The reality though is that in many places there’s nowhere else to get that much energy onshore.”

The Principle Power folks insist their electricity will be priced “competitively with other sources of new renewable energy.”  The Seattle company recently signed a contract with the biggest electric company in Portugal.

The pair plan to moor the world’s first floating wind farm in the east Atlantic, not here, with development off our coast to follow second.

Sales pitches to utilities for the Oregon offshore power start later this year or next.

Online:

Principle Power

U.S. Dept. of Interior – Offshore renewable energy potential (PowerPoint delivered by Secretary Ken Salazar on 4/6/09)

BY TOM BANSE, OPB News – http://news.opb.org/article/4813-offshore-wind-energy-blows-nw-coast/

 

Oregon Hedges its Bets By Courting Solar Industry

Filed under: Green Jobs,Manufacturing,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , ,

With so many commercial industries struggling and unemployment rising Oregon is attempting to regain control over its economy by wooing solar researchers and companies onto its turf – something this state has been very good at in the past. Oregon has worked feverishly to build a reputation as one of America’s top solar hubs, and has tirelessly sought out solar researchers, manufacturers and energy generators over the past five or so years.

When times were good Oregon was able to attract numerous manufacturers, researchers and projects to the state. Now that times have changed, however, it’s unclear whether all the time and money Oregon is investing into courting the solar sector will, in fact, provide a barrier against economic turmoil or sink the state further into depression.

One of Oregon’s latest solar victories comes in the form of a $1.34-million grant for solar energy research that was provided by the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST), in conjunction with the Oregon University System, the Oregon State University College of Engineering and the Oregon State University Research Office. The money will be divvied between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, which will use it to create the Photovoltaics Laboratory of the Oregon Support Network for Research and the Oregon Process Innovation Center for Sustainable Solar Cell Manufacturing, respectively. While university research will definitely be a big part of the new laboratory and center, the state is more excited about what it can mean for current and prospective businesses.

“From an industry perspective this investment is tremendous,” said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST. “The energy industries play a significant part in the Oregon economy, and from a utilities perspective most of our large utility providers are all thinking about renewable energy.”

Though the facilities will be located on the respective universities’ campuses, the laboratory and research centers will be open to other Oregon-based schools, as well as public and private businesses. “Having access to the equipment and laboratories will be a huge resource for [local businesses],” Kenney said. “If a manufacturing company has a solar cell with a defect it will be able to come into the lab and study it under a variety of conditions.”

Aside from these state-of-the-art facilities, businesses will also have access to university researchers and data, as well as a huge workforce population that is well versed in solar energy research and manufacturing. While the actual equipment will not be available until later this year or early 2010, Kenney noted that businesses still have immediate access to researchers and the workforce pool.

Though it’s too early to tell whether these projects will actually bolster Oregon’s economy one thing is certain – the state could use a boost. The state lost 34,700 non-farming jobs in January and February alone, and boasts the third highest unemployment rate in the country, which currently sits at 10.8 percent.

In addition to the grant money, Oregon is also trying to bolster its reputation as an electric car hub. Gov. Ted Kulongoski has aggressively marketed his state as an automotive-friendly destination by widely promoting two bills that would encourage the manufacturing and selling of electric vehicles in Oregon.

One of the bills would allow electric vehicle manufacturing facilities to become eligible for the Business Energy Tax Credit (referred to as BETC or Betsy), which allows energy-conserving businesses to receive between 35 percent and 50 percent off their total green project costs. The other bill would allow a current hybrid tax credit to transfer to zero-emission vehicles, which the governor is hoping will appeal to electric car manufacturers. So far Kulongoski’s plan has worked. Nissan agreed to introduce its new electric car here in 2010, and Mitsubishi announced plans to partner with the state and Portland General Electric to develop a network of vehicle charging stations that will promote the zero-emission vehicles. The state is still trying to woo Think, a Norway-based electric car company, into establishing its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Portland. Oregon is one of eight U.S. locations that Think is considering.

The state has also successfully swayed a solar electric systems manufacturer into entering the Oregon market. Residential Power Systems, a division of the New York-based SunWize Technologies Distributed Power Group, just decided to open its first branch in Philomath, which is between Eugene and Portland. The company has tapped two local solar industry experts to oversee the new office. It’s also offering residents a discount of $1,000 on any solar electric systems purchased in April.

Staying true to its solar roots, Oregon is also working on a proposal that would create a 71-acre solar energy farm at the Medford Airport, which could potentially power 2,000 homes. The state is hoping to utilize funding from Obama’s stimulus plan for the project.

In previous years Oregon has successfully courted numerous solar powerhouses into its borders that have put the state on the map as a top solar center. In 2008, Solar World USA created North America’s largest photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant in Hillsboro – a move that Germany-based Solar World’s vice president Gordon Brinser said was made possible by Oregon’s many tax credits and willingness to open up their universities’ research facilities.

Although experts believed that the plant could add approximately 1,000 new jobs to Hillsboro over the next three years, much has been made about the tax credits that made this location possible. As previously mentioned, sustainable businesses can apply for Betsy credits in order to alleviate some of the costs associated with going green. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with Oregon creating a tax credit that should, in theory, drive sustainable companies into the state, many believe a problem does lie within the credit’s pass-through option.

This option allows recipients of the tax credit to sell that credit for cash. What resulted was the sale of $11-million-worth of tax credits by Solar World to Wal-Mart for only $7.3 million. The discount chain can now use these credits over the next five years to offset some of its corporate state income taxes. This will cause Oregon to lose out on substantial income taxes, while Solar World has found a quick way to obtain some cash. In fact, the company has already been approved for another $19.4 million in Betsy credits, which it is again free to sell if it so desires.

Clearly it seems that not all of Oregon’s plans to lure sustainable companies and green-collar jobs have worked out. It is, however, hard to deny that the state hasn’t done a lot to make a name for itself in the solar realm. Oregon has begun six new solar manufacturing projects over the past year and a half, which the state hopes will create 2,000 jobs by 2011. It is also home to the world’s largest wind farm, as well as one of the most impressive biodigesters out there. The biodigester is located at the Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Health and Healing, and was instrumental in the facility becoming the first of its kind to receive platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Oregon also has more hybrid car owners per capita than any other state.

In these uncertain times there’s no telling what survival strategies will and will not work – both for Oregon and the rest of the nation. Whether its efforts are fruitful during the downturn or not, Oregon has made it clear that the state takes its investment in solar power seriously.

Nellie Da, NuWire Investorhttp://www.nuwireinvestor.com/articles/oregon-hedges-its-bets-by-courting-solar-industry-52854.aspx

 

Clean-Energy initiative changes not done yet in Wash. April 18, 2009

Environmentalists will have to reboot their compromise on changes to a voter-approved clean energy initiative, after a deal struck in the Legislature’s waning days fell apart Friday night.

The agreed-to bill would have eased some of the requirements of Initiative 937, which directs utilities with more than 25,000 customers to get 15 percent of their power from new sources like wind or solar by 2020.

But that deal began to fall apart Friday, prompting environmentalist Democrats to scrap their plans and use some legislative maneuvering to keep the compromise bill in play for another possible vote.

“The agreed-upon bill should be approved. I see that as the path forward,” said Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines.

“We have another week of session remaining to work with the House and the Senate to make it more suitable,” said Pearse Edwards, spokesman for Gov. Chris Gregoire.

I-937 was approved by voters in 2006. But Senate Democrats have pushed this year for changes that would give utilities more flexibility.

The compromise plan debated Friday in the House would have given electric utilities some wiggle room to meet the initiative’s green energy requirements, while also raising slightly the final power target in 2020.

But once it became clear that changes to the compromise plan might be approved by the House, a group of environmentalist Democrats unexpectedly lined up with Republicans to add a “poison pill” amendment that allowed vast amounts of hydropower to count toward green-energy targets.

The measure eventually passed the House on a 57-40 vote. But with the bill now amended so drastically, the greens could be assured the Senate and governor won’t go along with the changes.

That means the bill is likely to head to a conference committee, where the House and Senate could restore the agreed-to bill and send it back for a final, yes-or-no vote.

Washington Public Utility Districts Association spokesman Dean Boyer said the compromise bill, while not ideal, still allows utilities some flexibility.

“It opens up alternatives,” he said, in part by letting utilities purchase eligible renewable power from anywhere on the Western power grid, instead of just Northwest states.

Clifford Traisman, a lobbyist for Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council, said environmentalists’ support is tied a separate bill that gives sales tax breaks for renewable energy projects.

“The sales tax exemption is the carrot that has brought this industry to Washington state, and we don’t want to lose that carrot or the industry,” Traisman said Friday.

Even though altering I-937 is “kind of a dicey proposition” for environmentalists, they felt the additional tax breaks would strengthen renewable power development in Washington.

“In balance, it’s a deal that we can live with,” Traisman said.

The renewable energy bill is Senate Bill 5840.

AP writers Phuong Le in Seattle and Curt Woodward in Olympia contributed to this report.