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Glacier Wind Farm is state’s biggest wind energy project October 31, 2009

Filed under: Montana,Renewable Energy Projects,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:52 pm
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Last week was a week of good news for NaturEner USA, Montana Alberta Tie, Ltd., the State of Montana and Glacier and Toole Counties.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Jose Maria Sanchez Seara, NaturEner USA’s Chief Executive Officer, dedicated the second phase of the Glacier Wind Farm on Wednesday, Oct. 21. The Glacier Wind Farm, which is located in Glacier and Toole Counties, is the largest wind energy project in Montana.

“This wind farm is one of the reasons Montana is on the map as a leader in wind energy development,” said Gov. Schweitzer. “With a total of 210 megawatts, this is a significant contribution of clean and green, domestic energy to our region.”

San Diego Gas and Electric has contracted with NaturEner to purchase some of the energy produced by the project’s 140 turbines.

During the dedication ceremony, Ken Young, NaturEner’s Director of Asset Management, provided a brief history of the project. At the “land owner and local officials appreciation dinner” later that evening, Young expressed his gratitude to all those involved in the project.

He said he has worked on projects in Texas and New York, but working in Montana has been an enjoyable experience. He described the area landowners as “good stewards” of the land, adding they are a “good fit” for NaturEner.

Seara recalled his first trip to Montana three years ago to review the area, which now boasts 140 turbines and a $500 million investment by his company. “I know, I wrote the checks,” he grinned. He, too, thanked the land owners involved in the Glacier Wind Farm project, describing them as “one of our company’s most valuable assets.”

Gov. Schweitzer pointed out it won’t be long until the Glacier Wind Farm will be surpassed by another NaturEner wind farm, the Rim Rock Project, which is scheduled for construction 25 miles due north of the Glacier Wind Farm. NaturEner’s projected investment in the 206-turbine wind farm is $800 million. At 309 megawatts, the Rim Rock Wind Farm will be one of the largest in the Northwest and will create more than 500 construction jobs.

The Supreme Court of Canada, on Thursday, Oct. 22, dismissed the final appeal by an Alberta landowner group, which has been opposed to the construction of the $213 million Montana Albert Tie Ltd. (MATL) transmission line. With the Canadian high court’s decision, all avenues for legal challenges and appeals have been exhausted and construction of the transmission line and NaturEner’s Rim Rock Wind Farm can begin.

“We are extremely satisfied with the decision from the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Bob Williams, vice-president Regulatory, Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. “This was the last remaining road block and we plan to start construction as soon as possible.”

The power line project has undergone a complex, comprehensive and lengthy regulatory approval process taking almost four years including public hearings, environmental assessments and stakeholder engagement at multiple levels in both Canada and the United States. “We will continue to engage with all the landowners, listen to their concerns and negotiate fair compensation for the use of their land,” said Williams. “We are committed to being a good neighbor.”

The 230-kilovolt line will run from Lethbridge, Alberta to Great Falls and will be capable of moving 300 megawatts of power either north to south or south to north. Construction of the line provides a more reliable supply of electricity for southern Alberta and northern Montana and accesses the power grid for almost $1 billion in renewable wind power projects in the USA.

In dismissing the appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court also awarded legal costs to Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., NaturEner Energy Canada Inc. and NaturEner USA, LLC.

By LeAnne Kavanagh, Shelby Promoterhttp://www.goldentrianglenews.com/articles/2009/10/28/shelby_promoter/news/news2.txt

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NW energy efficiency better in 2008, council says

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Idaho,Montana,Oregon,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 5:46 pm
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Improved energy efficiency reduced power demand by an amount equal to about 148,000 homes across the Northwest last year.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council said regional energy savings in 2008 were the best for any year since recordkeeping began 30 years ago.

The Portland-based council said that 2008 efficiency improvements conserved a total of 234 average megawatts of electricity – or the output of an average-size natural gas-fired power plant.

Nearly two-thirds of the energy savings was in homes, mostly from switching to compact fluorescent lights. Commercial buildings had the second-largest efficiency gains.

The council is an agency of the states of Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington created by Congress with the Northwest Power Act of 1980.

Associated Press – http://www.localnews8.com/Global/story.asp?S=11421001

 

Oregon geothermal projects get $40M in stimulus money

Filed under: Geothermal,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 5:17 pm
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Continuing efforts to advance alternative energy resources and break our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced nearly $40 million in Recovery Act funding for the exploration and development of geothermal energy technologies in Oregon.

“This funding will literally help to bring Oregon’s geothermal energy potential to the surface,” Wyden said. “It will create and sustain jobs improving alternative energy technology to better tap into Oregon’s unique set of renewable energy resources.”

“The Recovery Act continues to spur growth in the emerging clean energy industry,” Merkley said.  “These projects will create new jobs and solidify Oregon’s position as a leader in renewable energy production.”

Distributed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding will support and create seven Oregon-based geothermal projects.

The funding dramatically increases geothermal energy development both in Oregon and nationwide and is a large step toward comprehensive utilization of alternative energy resources throughout the state.

The following seven Oregon projects are receiving funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

Nevada Geothermal Power Company- Crump Geyser- $1,764,272
This project will test a new, low environmentally impacting drilling technique and create a method to model the movement of fluid in the reservoir.

Newberry Geothermal Holdings- Newberry- $4,475,075
This project will use advanced techniques to locate geothermal reservoirs.

ORMAT, Nevada, Inc. – Glass Buttes- $4,377,000
This project will locate faults in geothermal reservoirs using advanced techniques.

The City of Klamath Falls- Klamath Falls- $816,000
This project will fund the construction of a low-temperature power plant with a district heating system to power the city of Klamath Falls.

Johnson Controls, Inc.- Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls)- $1,047,714
This project will install a low-temperature unit on the Oregon Institute of Technology campus.

AltaRock Energy, Inc. – Newberry Volcanic Monument (Bend)- $24,999,430
This project will generate power from the Newberry Geothermal Resource Area by demonstrating EGS (engineered geothermal systems) technology.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle article on a Bay Area project, AltaRock is developing a new form of geothermal power, drilling deeper into deep rocks, hotter than 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The Bay Area company will fracture those rocks with high-pressure water, creating a network of cracks. AltaRock then will pump more water into the cracks, using the rocks to heat the water and create steam.

Surprise Valley Electrification Corporation- Paisley- $2,000,000
This project will build a binary power plant that uses low-temperature fluids. It will also help to construct a local aquaculture facility.

Associated Press – http://www.ktvz.com/Global/story.asp?S=11410230

 

Portland-area builders shift to small, efficient homes

Filed under: Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:03 pm
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OREGONIAN 2009

The rows of white turbines spinning over wheat fields and ridgelines in eastern Oregon are ample evidence that renewable energy from wind is real and growing.

So much so that the aging network of transmission lines and power stations that carries energy around the region is loaded to its limits.

But wind developers are just getting started. And thousands of miles of new power lines carried by skyscraper-sized steel towers will need to be laid across deserts, farms and forests as more wind farms rise in farther-flung corners of Oregon and the West.

It won’t be cheap, or without controversy.

More than half of Oregon is public land that Oregonians value for recreation, unobstructed vistas and habitat for sensitive species. And the cleared corridors that accommodate such transmission lines cut a wide swath.

Expanding the power grid is one trade-off of the national effort to expand clean energy technology and combat climate change.

“There’s no question that we are changing the face of the state right now,” said Brent Fenty,  executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association in Bend, which is tracking transmission proposals in eastern Oregon. “And the important part is that we do that in a way that is responsible and reflects our values.”

Energy experts have long lamented the inadequacy of the nation’s energy grid. The federal government estimates that even though electricity demand has increased nationally by a quarter since 1990, construction of new transmission facilities has slowed.

The Department of Energy also says $60 billion in new investment in transmission, or about 12,650 miles of new lines nationwide, is needed by 2030 to get 20 percent of power from wind.

Oregon ranks fifth among states for wind power capacity. It now gets 7 percent of its power from wind, versus 1 percent a few years ago. And the state will require large utilities to source a quarter of the power they sell from renewable resources such as wind by 2025.

The creation of federal dams such as Bonneville over the past century was accompanied by the build-out of major new transmission lines to carry the power they produced. And over the past decade, excess capacity on those old lines — due in no small part to the disappearance of energy-eating aluminum smelters — has been filled up by new wind projects.

But now those lines are getting full.

“Especially with all the wind projects on the east side, the cross-Cascades capacity is beginning to be congested,” said Michael Mikolaitis,  director of transmission projects for Portland General Electric.

Northwest projects

PGE proposes building a 200-mile, 500-kilovolt line from near Boardman in northeast Oregon, across the Cascade Mountains and into the Willamette Valley, one of a half-dozen or so proposed transmission projects in the Northwest.

PGE says it has requests to carry 700 megawatts of wind power from proposed wind farms near Maupin and Arlington, and its planners expect the line to serve 400 megawatts beyond that. (One megawatt of wind power is enough to power about 200 homes.) The new line also would connect to PGE’s planned natural gas plant, another existing natural gas plant and a coal plant near Boardman.

PGE hopes to break ground in 2013 and have the line up and running two years later.

But building a transmission line is complicated. Terrain varies. Transmission towers are up to 190 feet tall, and they are built in corridors 125 to 250 feet wide that have to be kept clear of trees.

“These corridors have a long-term environmental impact in that they are permitted clear-cuts. Most of the time they are hundreds of feet wide, and that impacts wildlife habitat and clean water,” said Erik Fernandez,  wilderness coordinator for the group Oregon Wild.

About 27 miles of the Cascade Crossing line would be on U.S. Forest Service land, with an additional 30 miles over the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reservation and most of the rest on private land.

New lines often mean new rights of way, and across the American West, there are about 10,000 miles of new high-voltage lines — those exceeding 200 kilovolts — being considered in the next 10 years, according to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. At a meeting of Western governors in June, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal lamented that transmission lines could make his state look like a jumbled plate of spaghetti.

“We are talking about in a very short time span having a massive build-out of the power infrastructure. And if we do this the wrong way, there’s going to be a large price tag environmentally,” Fernandez said.

Permitting process

Most of Oregon’s wind development has focused on the Columbia River Gorge, where there are existing transmission lines, farmers willing to lease their land for turbines and good wind, at least in the summer.

“If you take a look at maps of where the high-quality wind sites are, they’re generally not where people live. And ultimately the energy that’s produced needs to be delivered to consumers,” said Brian Silverstein, senior vice president for transmission services at the Bonneville Power Administration.

The agency, which markets the power from federal dams, has 15,200 miles of transmission lines in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, that make up about three-fourths of the regional grid. And it proposes 225 miles of new lines, mostly to handle the increased energy production from new wind farms, Silverstein said.

Those thousands of miles of lines don’t take into account the multitude of smaller feeder lines that will be needed to connect scattered wind projects to the grid. A good example is the roughly 50-mile line Columbia Energy Partners proposes to carry power from its planned wind farm on the north end of Steens Mountain in Harney County.

Originally envisioned to cross the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the line was rerouted after opposition from environmental groups. The new route would cross mostly private land, with six power poles proposed on Bureau of Land Management land, said Columbia President Chris Crowley.

“Our project is permitted, and it’s on private land. But to connect to the grid, we have to cross federal land. And that’s proven to be the hook,” Crowley said.

The BLM has 30 pending applications for transmission projects in the West, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. On Wednesday, Salazar and other administration officials announced an agreement to streamline the permitting process for transmission projects on public land.

Simultaneously, Western states and federal agencies are trying to plot where new transmission corridors should be located based on where the renewable resources are greatest and potential environmental impacts the least.

That includes the West-wide Energy Corridor, a plan to designate 6,000 miles of new energy corridors on 3 million acres of federal lands in Oregon and 10 other Western states where applications to build new pipelines or electricity lines would be expedited.

By Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/10/wind_powers_success_spurs_new.html

 

Efficiency Program in Portland sets the standard

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Oregon,Utility Companies — nwrenewablenews @ 4:22 pm
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Clean Energy Works Portland is a groundbreaking new program that enables Portland residents to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and pay for the improvements over time through their utility bills.

A contractor performing a blower door test to identify air infiltration and leakage throughout a home. But the most exciting and unique aspect of the program is the Community Workforce Agreement that was developed by representatives of labor unions, community groups, businesses, community colleges, and other stakeholders. It is a comprehensive plan to make sure that new jobs created by Clean Energy Works Portland are high quality, career-track jobs that offer family-supporting wages and benefits, and that they go to local residents from diverse backgrounds.

“We wanted to have this project reflect some higher set of goals beyond just retrofitting homes and reducing carbon emissions,” said Derek Smith of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the city’s go-to person on the Clean Energy Works Portland program.

The program uses $2.5 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds the city received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as seed money to start a revolving loan fund that will enable Portland homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes at no up-front cost. The energy improvements that will be available to homeowners during the pilot phase of the program, which will cover 500 homes, include insulation, air sealing, duct sealing, and improvements to space heating and water heating systems.

The Energy Trust of Oregon will schedule home energy assessments for interested homeowners and help them choose the energy saving options that best meet their needs. To pay for the improvements, homeowners will receive low-interest, long-term loans and will pay them off via their monthly utility bills.

Once the pilot phase is completed next summer, some 100,000 homes in Multnomah County, which encompasses the city of Portland, could qualify for the program.

A state law, Oregon’s Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Technology Act of 2009 (HB 2626), made the Portland financing mechanism possible. “Portland is the first pilot project for this new statewide, low-interest loan program for weatherization work that you can pay back on your utility bill. That’s how we’re going to spread this idea around the state,” said Barbara Byrd, who wears many hats in Oregon, including secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO and coordinator of the Oregon Apollo Alliance, which strongly supported passage of HB 2626.

Fifty-five direct jobs will be created by the pilot program, but many more are expected to be created after the pilot phase. In order to make sure those jobs will have good wages and benefits and be accessible to community members with previous barriers to employment, the city pulled together approximately 60 stakeholders to develop a Community Workforce Agreement that would complement Clean Energy Works.

Smith of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability said he got the idea to bring labor and training standards and community benefits into the program from being part of the Green For All “community of practice.” The community of practice connects people throughout the United States who are working on green jobs programs and helps them share their learning experiences with others in the field. Green For All is a partner in Clean Energy Works Portland, along with the Energy Trust of Oregon, Portland General Electric and others.

Maurice Rahming, president of the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon, participated in the Clean Energy Works Portland stakeholder meetings that culminated in the Community Workforce Agreement. “I think it’s a tribute to the mayor that he got minority contractors involved early on, rather than having them involved at the very tail end. It shows he’s looking to diversify the contracting pool,” Rahming said.

“Construction isn’t always the most diverse workforce that’s out there, and we wanted to set up an understanding that let’s have the workforce and the contractors reflect the city of Portland,” he added.

In addition to minority contractors, the stakeholder meetings included many groups that offer pre-apprenticeship training to prepare people in basic work skills so that they can then enter training programs that teach skills specific to an occupation. These groups included the Native American Youth and Family Center, which offers employment training courses to Native Americans; and Oregon Tradeswomen, which offers women training courses to prepare them to enter the building and construction trades. Pre-apprenticeship training programs like these will funnel participants into weatherization technician training courses linked to Clean Energy Works Portland.

Many labor unions also participated in the development of the Community Workforce Agreement, including the Laborers union, which is about to begin offering training courses in weatherization that will be available to graduates of the pre-apprenticeship programs described above. “A part of what we wanted to see [in the Community Workforce Agreement] was that people were going to get quality training, because then they’re going to come into the market with better skills, and that’s a chance for them to get their wages up,” said Al Davita, the training director of the Laborers Training Program in Oregon and southern Idaho.

Davita said the Laborers will be providing three levels of training in weatherization-an 80-hour entry-level class for weatherization installers/technicians that will require 80 hours in general residential construction to get into the class; a 40-hour weatherization supervisor training; and a 40-hour energy auditor training. This means that trainees who become weatherization technicians through Clean Energy Works Portland will be able to move into other careers with additional training.

“Our plan is to recruit people who are out of work, give them quality training so they can go out and do this work, but also give them a career pathway so that they can potentially stay in weatherization for the next 20 years or may be able to move into commercial building construction or demolition, where the wages are higher. So we’re looking to give people the chance to change their lives,” Davita said.

After five weeks of meetings, the stakeholders came to consensus on a Community Workforce Agreement for the Clean Energy Works Portland pilot program that lays out requirements for worker training, wages and benefits, local hiring, contractor standards and more. Key goals and targets of the agreement, which was passed by the Portland City Council on September 30, include:

Local hire: at least 80 percent of employees used in the pilot program will be hired from the local workforce.

Family-supporting jobs: workers will earn no less than 180 percent of the state minimum wage.

Diverse workforce: historically disadvantaged or underrepresented people, including people of color, women, and low-income city residents, will perform at least 30 percent of total trades and technical project hours.

Diverse business participation: twenty percent of the dollars that flow through the project will go to businesses owned by historically disadvantaged or underrepresented people.

Prevailing wage: contractors will pay wages that are at least 180 percent of Oregon state minimum wage or the prevailing wage for weatherization work, whichever is higher.

Worker training: contractors will hire 100 percent of new weatherization employees from designated training programs until 50 percent of the contractor’s non-supervisory work hours are performed by these training program graduates.

Labor peace: contractors will sign a labor peace agreement that includes a majority sign-up provision (meaning that contractors will respect the will of the workers if a majority of them signs up to form a labor union).

The Community Workforce Agreement also sets up a system of “best value contracting,” which means that contractors wishing to join the pool of qualified contractors for the Clean Energy Works Portland program will be scored on a range of attributes. They will earn points for having a successful track record of hiring and retaining historically disadvantaged people; having a plan for establishing sub-contracting relationships with businesses owned by people of color and women; and hiring graduates of pre-apprenticeship training programs, among other criteria.

Clean Energy Works Portland’s criteria for qualified training programs requires the programs to have at least three defined partnerships with state recognized pre-apprenticeship programs or signatory community organizations that service underrepresented populations, and to make sure a majority of trainees are women, people of color, low-income people or people from disadvantaged communities.

“In Oregon, a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, Clean Energy Works Portland stands to provide a scalable national model by leveraging federal recovery dollars to put people back to work and achieve significant carbon reductions,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams. “With our community workforce agreement, we have the ability to promote social equity in a measurable way, providing an opportunity for under-employed youth and adults to gain career training in the sustainable building industry, and ensure that Portland stays at the forefront of the green economy.”

For other cities that are considering designing programs similar to Portland’s, several of the people who participated in the process that created the Community Workforce Agreement emphasized the importance of involving stakeholders early in the process. “My bottom line advice is that if you want to do this, you have to involve the stakeholders from the very beginning of the process,” said Barbara Byrd. “It’s not something the city can put together and ask people to sign on to. It was the involvement of the stakeholders that not only created the workforce agreement, but will also make sure it works.”

Rahming said that the early involvement of minority contractors will help them be able to participate in the program. “In contracting, time is everything,” Rahming said. “A lot of times, larger companies can put proposals together more quickly, because they have more staff. This time, because the project was presented to my contractors at the front end, it will allow them to be able to meet the wage and benefits and training requirements.”

Now that the Community Workforce Agreement is in place and the pilot program has already begun converting loans for homeowners, some of the same people who were involved in the stakeholder process will oversee how the program is run.

“The side benefit of this whole effort is energizing a community,” Smith told Oregon Live in a recent interview. “People are really interested in this. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for their home energy bills and (the environment). It seems like one of the promises of the new clean economy could be realized here.”

For more information about Clean Energy Works Portland, go to www.cleanenergyworksportland.org.

Read the Community Workforce Agreement.

by Andrea Buffa, Grist – http://www.grist.org/article/2009-10-28-portland-weatherization-program-gives-top-billing-to-labor-stand/

 

Walla Walla colleges energize community solar project

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Solar,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 4:16 pm
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If representatives from each of Walla Walla’s three colleges have their way, the region will soon be transformed by an energy revolution. This, at least, is the hope of Walla Walla University physics professor Fred Liebrand. Liebrand is working on a community solar project which will unite Whitman, WWU and Walla Walla Community College in a venture to generate renewable energy.

“It just seemed like a very good idea that could help everyone,” said Liebrand. His idea is to solicit investments from community members and alumni of all three schools, which would be used to purchase a solar energy system.

“The idea is to allow people from the community in—people who couldn’t afford to put solar panels on their own homes,” said junior Nat Clarke, president of Whitman’s Campus Greens. Clarke is enthusiastic about the project and says Whitman only found out about it this fall.

“The school’s current involvement is cautiously interested but not actually engaged,” he said.

Clarke, along with Professor of Geology Bob Carson and the Whitman Conservation Committee, is in the process of determining how Whitman can become involved in the project.

Liebrand says that for both WWU and WWCC, the project would provide technical training for students who are studying engineering and other related fields. The goal of the project would be for students to do the actual system installation themselves.

“Whitman may rely more on the goodwill of its students,” he said, referring to the fact that Whitman has no technical programs. Nevertheless, he feels that installing a solar system would be a valuable experience for Whitman students.

“Knowing how things are put together is always valuable,” he said.

In addition to the logistical details, a major aspect of the project has been determining its financial viability. Installing a functional solar energy system is expensive, costing about $5,000 per kilowatt. One kilowatt will generate about $85 worth of energy in a year, so government incentives are key for the project to work.

Currently, the federal government will subsidize the installation of solar systems by giving a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of the entire system once it is installed. Washington also has a program in place to pay per kilowatt hour of energy generated. Community solar projects are eligible for double the rate residential projects can receive, and if the project uses solar panels made in Washington, the total incentive is up to $1.08 per kilowatt hour.

Though these incentives might seem high, Carson points out that it makes sense for the government to invest in solar energy.

“New power facilities are expensive, and we’re also getting clean air,” he said.

Carson said he’s communicating with the other colleges involved in the project to determine how they can move forward. The cooperation of local governments and utilities will be important, as will the participation of all three schools.

Whitman junior Ari Frink also sees an opportunity for the Network for Young Walla Walla to get involved in the project. The network was founded this year so that WWU, WWCC and Whitman students can work together on projects and share ideas.

“Once we find out what a solid role for the network could be within the solar project, I’ll bring it up,” he said.

Currently, the project’s future is still being determined. In spite of the logistical obstacles, Clarke believes the project can succeed.

“I’m really excited about this project,” he said. “If it gets through, it’s going to be the next big green thing on campus.”

By Rachel Alexander – http://whitmanpioneer.com/news/community/2009/10/29/community-solar-project/

 

Mid-Columbia could be smart energy center

Filed under: Manufacturing,Renewable/Green Energy,Smart Grid,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 2:04 pm
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The Mid-Columbia’s future could be as a smart energy center, says the first public look at plans being developed by a coalition of area business leaders led by the Tri-City Development Council.

One opportunity to do that may be by launching a carbon-friendly project to reduce the 45,000 gallons of diesel that the Hanford vitrification plant could require per day when it begins treating radioactive waste, said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC vice president of Hanford programs.

He and Keith Klein, president of the Local Business Association, spoke about the new Smart Energy Initiative at the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.

Community leaders have long been concerned that the region’s economy relies on the Hanford nuclear reservation’s environmental cleanup. Now about 11,500 people are employed there. But as soon as 2015, when areas of the reservation are cleaned up, employment could start a long decline.

“In the meantime, we have an opportunity to rebrand ourselves,” Klein said.

A vision for the region’s future began to develop after DOE began discussing the idea of focusing more cleanup money on reducing the contaminated footprint of nuclear weapons sites across the nation.

Newly available land then could be turned into industrial parks to research and produce clean energy.

At Hanford, about 60 square miles of land would be available for an energy park, primarily in the southeast corner. Land likely would be leased rather than sold.

Since January, a coalition of local leaders in energy businesses, economic development, job training and education have been meeting to brainstorm strategies to develop the Mid-Columbia’s potential as a clean energy center.

The TRIDEC group is looking at three potential projects with different energy sources for the vitrification plant, Petersen said. While the group is not ready to discuss specifics, two projects would be carbon-neutral and the third would produce a smaller carbon footprint than the diesel fuel now planned to be used at the plant.

Under the current plan, the vitrification plant would use a combination of diesel fuel, which could peak at 45,000 gallons per day on cold winter days, and 70 megawatts of electrical power.

As the Smart Energy Initiative moves forward, TRIDEC will need to know what land and facilities DOE would be willing to make available for private use, Petersen said.

Among TRIDEC’s interests is pitching the 250,000-square-foot Fuels and Materials Examination Facility at Hanford for recycling nuclear fuel that has been used once at commercial power production plants.

TRIDEC and the coalition of business leaders also need some seed money and would like a better way to cut across all the DOE offices for the support they need. For instance, land managed by the DOE Office of Environmental Management is proposed for an energy park at Hanford, but the office can only spend money on Hanford cleanup.

But it’s not just the Hanford resources that would contribute toward making the Mid-Columbia a clean energy center. It already has an impressive energy infrastructure, Petersen said.

About 40 percent of Washington’s total power and 100 percent of its wind power is produced within 100 miles of the Tri-Cities, Petersen said. Power generation within 100 miles comes from wind, hydroelectricity, coal, natural gas and a nuclear plant, with biomass power being developed.

It also has the science and technology backbone needed to become a smart energy center, with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University-Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts Science and Engineering Laboratory and the Tri-Cities Research District.

The area has multiple energy companies ranging from Areva, which produces the nuclear fuel for 5 percent of the nation’s power supply, to companies focused on wind and solar energy.

By Annette Cary – http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/934438.html