Northwest Renewable News

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

Geothermal possible at Newberry Crater in Ore. August 31, 2009

Update on the quest for geothermal power at Newberry volcano. Information provided by Davenport Power LLC, operator of the project.

Review of 2008 Exploration

After drilling two deep exploratory wells (10,060 and 11,600 feet respectively), the Newberry Geothermal Project, operated by Davenport Power LLC, found very high levels of heat in both wells, but little commercially viable resource – neither hot water nor steam. During the past months, Project geologists and scientists evaluated data from these wells along with previously gathered information. This time-consuming process is normal in development of geothermal resource projects. The three pads and two wells the Newberry Project constructed last year remain in place and will continue to be maintained and utilized in exploration activities.

Surface Geophysical Surveys

The Newberry Project team has begun implementation of the next exploration phase on Newberry Geothermal Project’s BLM-leases (Bureau of Land Management). Planned surface geophysical work will collect data to assist in understanding the nature and geology of Newberry Volcano. This geophysical work consists of a series of gravity surveys and magnetotelluric surveys.

This surface work will be non-invasive and low-impact in nature. It will occur on geothermal lease holdings on the western flanks of Newberry Volcano. The planned geophysical data gathering is similar to that which was approved by the BLM and Forest Service (FS) in 2006. This work is anticipated to start in 2010.

Temperature Gradient Holes

The Newberry Geothermal Project also is proposing a series of small, slim diameter temperature gradient holes. These would be drilled up to 3,500 feet deep, at up to twelve locations outside the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, along the Volcano’s western flanks. In addition to gathering temperature data, the purpose is to conduct passive-seismic monitoring of subsurface conditions.

None of these temperature gradient holes are expected to be used to locate geothermal water or steam. Furthermore, it would not be possible to do so with the size and depth of the holes to be drilled. These holes are another method of exploration to further scientists and geologists understanding of the subsurface geology in this part of Newberry Volcano.

The twelve proposed low profile drilling sites are in a north-south axis along the western flanks of Newberry Volcano. One site utilizes our existing Newberry Geothermal Project well pad. These passive-seismic sites would be approximately 100 feet x 100 feet in size along existing FS roads, and/or at previously logged areas. Drilling would be done with a truck-mounted drilling rig producing a slim core hole and minimal residue.

The proposed temperature gradient drilling activity, must be approved by the BLM (Prineville Office) through an Environmental Assessment (EA), pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The assessment of these activities will be conducted by the BLM and the Forest Service (Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District). The EA completion is expected by early 2010. The goal of the Newberry Geothermal Project is to initiate field exploration activities in the Spring, 2010.

The Newberry Geothermal Project and Davenport are excited about this next stage of the rigorous and lengthy ‘Newberry Geothermal Exploration Phase’ on our leases at Newberry Volcano. “Achieving our goal of utilizing Newberry’s tremendous geothermal energy potential to produce renewable, clean electricity remains the focus of our efforts,” stated Doug Perry, President of Newberry Geothermal Project.

KODH (TV, Bend, OR) –


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

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

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

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

The Daily News –


Two Wind Turbine Public Hearings in Bonneville County, Idaho August 26, 2009

Bonneville Planning and Zoning held a public meeting Wednesday to hear comments about two proposed wind turbine farms.

The first proposal would expand the current Ridgeline farm by 20 turbines.

Ridgeline already has a permit which allows them to build north of the current wind farm in the foothills near Bone starting in 2010.

The new permit would and add an additional 20 more turbines north of that project towards Lincoln Road.

Randy Gardner with Ridgeline Energy says the new turbines will only be a small footprint and current uses will still be allowed.

He said, “Currently the land up there is used for CRP, dry land crops, there’s some grain, some hay, some grazing up there. None of those activities will be affected by putting in wind turbines. Just as the wind farm that was built back in 2005 didn’t eliminate those type of activities. This will be the same.”

The second meeting was for a proposed 13 turbine farm on the Ucon Butte northeast of Idaho Falls.

Local News8 –


Idaho Power seeks OK on wind power

The utility is asking the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to approve a sales agreement with two wind projects in the Hagerman area that, when combined, will have a capacity of 35.7 megawatts.

The owner of the projects, Iowa-based John Deere Renewables, wants to eventually combine the two projects into one when the second one becomes operable.

The Cassia Gulch Wind Park, about four miles west of Idaho Power’s lower Malad substation, is already operating. A 16.8-megawatt project, Tuana Springs, will be built next to Cassia Gulch and is expected to be operating by June 30, 2010.

The commission is taking comments through Sept. 23 on the proposal.

Idaho Statesman –


sale imminent for Newberg, Ore. wind power firm

Filed under: Manufacturing,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 10:39 pm
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Wind turbine manufacturer Abundant Renewable Energy (ARE) of Newberg will be purchased by a California-based competitor, according to announcements Monday from both firms.

The San Diego-based Helix Wind has inked non-binding agreements to acquire ARE’s business assets, along with those of fellow Oregon firm Renewable Energy Engineering, for $4 to $6.5 million.

The sale is in fact a welcome move, said Gregory Price, manufacturing representative for ARE.

“The acquisition allows us to focus on research and development, instead of marketing, logistics and other administrative needs,” he said. “Helix is interested in moving their operations to Oregon.”

The two firms have a certain difference in design philosophy — ARE’s windmills have a traditional horizontal axis, while Helix takes its name from the firm’s line of vertical-axis turbines, which resemble larger versions of the “wind catchers” on many porches.

Nonetheless, Helix will continue to market and sell ARE’s line of 2.5 and 10 kilowatt wind turbines as part of its portfolio.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter technology — site evaluation is a big part of wind power’s effectiveness,” Price said, explaining that different models perform better in different settings.

Regardless of the shape of the equipment, wind power and alternative energy is a growing business throughout Oregon. Jobs in the state’s clean energy economy grew nearly seven times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007, according to a detailed study recently released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The analysis found that between 1998 and 2007, jobs in Oregon’s clean energy economy increased at a rate of 50.7 percent, while overall job growth expanded by 7.5 percent.

“Oregon has more jobs in its clean energy sector, as a share of its overall economy, than any other state,” said Dan Lombardi, Oregon representative for the Pew Environment Group. “Oregon has attracted $70 million in clean technology venture capital in the past three years alone.”

Oregon’s growth in this sector was part of a national trend that saw job growth in the clean energy economy outperforming overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Nationally, jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a rate of 9.1 percent while the total number increased by only 3.7 percent over the same period.

In ARE’s case, demand has grown sufficiently that the firm has contracted out much of its manufacturing and assembly to Tualatin manufacturers Powin/QBF, a former parts supplier to Freightliner.

“They have the tools, the people and the experience — but the auto industry isn’t doing so well right now,” Price said, referring to Freightliner’s woes following parent company Chrysler’s bankruptcy.

A significant part of the growth is thanks to federal and state spending that help make such wind power systems (generally costing thousands of dollars) more affordable to residential and commercial property owners.

“There are quite a number of tax credits and grants that can work in conjunction — any Oregon business can get up to 80 percent of the purchase price reimbursed through state and federal sources,” Price said. “People just don’t know that the money is out there.”

Federal and state governments have also provided tax credits to manufacturers such as ARE. While such programs have drawn criticism as “propping up” the clean power industry, “the intent is for the industry to become self-sustaining, without subsidies, within another 10 years,” said Stephen Marx, deputy communications director for local Congressman David Wu (D-1st Dist.). Marx toured ARE Monday with Lombardi and Price.

“Any high-tech industry needed subsidies at first — ours is no different,” said Price, agreeing that the goal was a desirable one. “The demand is there, we just have to make sure our company strategy is sustainable.”

For more information on ARE’s line of products, visit For tax credit information, visit or

David Sale, Newburg Graphic –


Montana’s wind may be some of the most lucrative in the nation August 25, 2009

Filed under: Montana,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 9:08 pm
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Anyone who has spent any time in Montana could hardly be surprised by the findings.

A Harvard study, released last month, puts the Big Sky State in a tie with Kansas – and second only to Texas – for having the greatest potential in the nation for wind power.

Coded by a deep blue color on the map, the report shows Montana so rich in wind that it has the potential to produce 4,700 terawatt hours of wind-generated electricity, a whopping 370 times the state’s current total retail electricity sales.

Ross Keogh, a research analyst for Sagebrush Energy, a renewable energy development company that focuses on smaller-scale projects, explains that one terawatt hour is the equivalent of 1 million megawatt hours.

“They’re assuming a huge potential,” he said, adding that he found no fault with the model. “We have so much more energy in the wind blowing across Eastern Montana than is buried in the coal below.”

While the figures boggle the mind, both the authors of the study and local wind experts quickly dispel the notion that wind potential equates to available wind power.

“A very small portion of what is possible ends up being doable,” said Van Jamison, vice president of strategic operations for Gaelectric, an Irish wind-development company with an office in Great Falls. Jamison headed up the Montana Energy Office from 1980 to 2000.

Jamison describes the study as “fascinating reading” and “provocative.” Yet he also views its projections as a “bookend” against which future development could be measured.

“We could even be the No. 1 state in terms of potential,” he said. “But if there’s absolutely no production, we’d be the most underachieving state in the world. That’s where we sit today. We’ve got that choice.”

Gov. Brian Schweitzer is less taken by the new ranking – “Down to category three wind (averaging between 14.3 and 15.7 mph), Montana is number one over Texas,” he said – than the state’s recent track record in wind energy development.

In 2003, the state was putting out a mere 1 megawatt of wind power. By 2008, that figure had jumped to 271 megawatts. He credits recent legislation with providing the tools for development.

“The bottom line is, Montana has increased its wind portfolio at the fastest rate in the country,” he said.

Transmission bottleneck

Rhyno Stinchfield, CEO of Billings-based Montana Wind Resources, doesn’t question the study’s estimates.

“Montana has been ranked No. 5,” he said. “That being said, the top five are very close to each other.”

Stinchfield agrees that attaining the study’s projection of capacity is not realistic, but he said he knows of half a dozen large wind projects under consideration in the state.

“Even if only one-third of them happen, we’re talking 1,000 megawatts of wind power, easy,” he said. That’s nearly four times what Montana is currently producing.

By quick calculation, he figures that 100 megawatts of wind would amount to $2 billion in construction and tens of thousands of jobs. A recent study from the Center for American Progress projects 16.7 jobs for every $1 million spent on clean-energy projects.

Stinchfield estimates that development is four to 10 years off. Like others in the industry, he cites the state’s limited transmission system as a key obstacle to additional wind development. Yet progress on that front, too, is beginning.

Jamison cites Senate Bill 360 for opening the door to boosting transmission. The bill, which passed in the most recent legislative session, allows transmission upgrades, up to a certain voltage, in existing rights of way without the need for additional environmental review.

“We don’t want a proliferation of transmission lines across the state,” he said. “To my perspective, it makes the same kind of sense as energy efficiency. It tends to minimize the environmental implications.”

And there are transmission line projects in the pipeline. One is the 600-megawatt Montana Alberta Tie Line. When complete, possibly as early as next year, it will establish the first merchant transmission line in the Western grid.

Also in the works is the Mountain States Transmission Intertie. The line would provide 1,500 megawatts of new transmission capacity between Butte and Idaho. Further on the horizon is TransCanada’s NorthernLights Inland Project.

Already permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the line would connect Eastern Montana through Townsend to Las Vegas, Southern California and Phoenix. Schweitzer explained that the direct-current line, with a capacity of 3,000 megawatts, would be more efficient than existing lines.

“There’s much less line loss and (you need) smaller poles and lines,” he said. “The disadvantage is, it’s extremely expensive to put in the transformer system.”

Balance of power

Critics of wind power also point to its unpredictability. Utilities need to make sure that power and load are balanced, which is a challenging task even with relatively stable sources of electricity.

“And now you add wind to that equation,” Jamison said.

Keogh sees a critical need for a coordinated, regional plan to balance power, including the West’s vast wind resource, across the grid. The alternative is an erratic power supply that increases the risk of outages and damage to equipment, he said.

There’s also the problem of firming power, which is the backup when the turbines are still.

According to Stinchfield, the Judith Gap wind farm ranks as the most efficient in the country. Even so, it falls in the neighborhood of 40 percent efficiency.

“That means that 60 percent of the time they have to firm with additional power,” he said.

Yet, he sees promise as more wind farms sprout up. Ultimately, he said, a multitude of wind farms in different locations would back up one another.

“We’ll probably also need other sources of energy,” he said. “They’re not going to go away.”

The economy of wind

Not surprisingly, the rate of both wind and transmission development is closely linked to economic activity. Just a year ago, 14 major investment houses were investing in renewable projects. That number is down to six, Stinchfield said.

There’s still much interest and lots of money sitting on the sidelines, he said. And investment is beginning to pick up again.

But is wind power economically feasible, even if development dollars become available?

Detractors claim that wind is only viable because of government funding. Stinchfield argues that the hydroelectric dams and the rural electric cooperatives would never have come about without taxpayer help.

“We need to produce wind competitively,” he said. “The power companies tell us we can’t do that. I believe we can.”

Exporting wind to out-of-state consumers is part of that competitive strategy. That’s because out-of-state markets, like California, are willing to spend between 8 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to local bids in the 51/2-cent range.

“Believe me, that adds up when you’re shipping megawatts of power,” Stinchfield said.

Jamison sees Montana’s wind potential as a resource that serves the state well when it reaches beyond state boundaries. To focus solely on supplying power to Montana is “insanely parochial,” he adds. “Otherwise, why produce any more cows than we could eat in Montana?”

Unique to Montana

Not only can Montana boast of its enormous wind potential, but promoters assert that the state’s wind is second to none.

“Not all winds are created equal,” Jamison said.

The Harvard study notes a seasonal disparity between peak demand and availability. Demand tends to be high in the summer, when air conditioners are in use, but wind is more plentiful in the winter. According to Keogh, that applies less to Montana. He said Montana’s wind is largely aligned with the region’s hydroelectric power supply. Hydro peaks during spring runoff and into the summer, while wind comes on strong in fall and winter.

On a more short-term basis, Schweitzer refers to Montana’s wind as a “peaking wind.” In most places, wind blows during the night, when demand is low. But Montana’s winds blow strong during the day, he said.

“That’s the reason Montana wind is so good,” he said. “That’s why wind developers are chasing Montana projects.”

By pulses and spurts

Jamison remembers when wind power wasn’t cost-competitive with traditional energy sources. Now it’s the fastest sector of energy growth in the world, he said.

The intervening years were a period of pulses of development, he said, the last of which hit Montana when Colstrip 3 and 4 and associated transmission capacity came online in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

In general, he said, as a pulse hits one area, a slowdown hits another. In North America, growth will be slow and steady, he said.

“You won’t see the potential Montana has get fulfilled in the next decade,” he said. “Probably 5 percent at most. You’ll see wind companies out prospecting for sites. You’ll see people lining up to put together the next round of transmission.”

Stinchfield thinks the new renewable energy standards – the state is committed to 15 percent renewable energy by 2015 – will spur the process. He noted that just last week, NorthWestern Energy put out a request for proposals to add 75 megawatts of wind energy to its portfolio.

And considering California’s goal of 33 percent by 2020, that means very big business for Montana.

“You’re talking the eighth-largest economy in the world,” Stinchfield said. “It’s huge.”

From there, the possibilities are endless.

Keogh talks about a “smarter grid,” which could tap into the latest and best technologies. One day, he said, the grid might provide consumers with instant information on the cost of the electricity they’re using, thus allowing them to make decisions based on that price. He also envisions “smart” appliances that could switch to a dormant mode when demand peaks and cost rises.

“Those are the little tweaks that will be really important when we reach 30 to 40 percent wind generation,” Keogh said.



Eugene company to manufacture solar hot water heaters

A Eugene real estate company is moving forward with plans to build an assembly and storage facility that would include space for a local solar energy company to build low-cost solar water heaters.

RLA Holdings LLC has submitted plans to the city for the two-building project, totaling 27,420 square feet, on a 0.81-acre lot at Third Avenue and Almaden Street.

RLA Holdings is a real estate company owned by Ronald Anderson, who also owns A&K Development Co., which builds food-processing equipment for the corn industry, and Pacific Metal Fab, a metal fabrication company.

David Beede, project manager for RLA Holdings, said one building would be a three-sided, 15,000-square-foot canopy structure used by A&K Development to store its food-­processing equipment. The other, 12,420-square-foot building would be leased to Energy Wise Lighting, which plans to assemble low-cost solar water heaters, as well as to store its lighting fixtures, he said.

He said the project would create 30 to 40 jobs.

Beede said timing of the project is “still open-ended.” He declined to disclose the project’s expected cost.

Energy Wise Lighting officials said last winter that they hoped to start production of the low-cost solar water heaters by this summer. But the company is still working to line up tax credits and test its technology, so it appears production won’t happen until winter, company president Peter Greenberg said Monday.

Energy Wise, which did about $3 million in sales last year, specializes in energy-efficient lighting fixtures for large buildings, including factories, prisons and schools.

Greenberg said earlier this year that his company has installed 50,000 fixtures that save a total of 75 million kilowatt hours a year, a record that won recognition for the company from the Energy Trust of Oregon.