Northwest Renewable News

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Clean energy backers tout jobs at Tri-City conference February 8, 2010

The expansion of clean energy represents the next major source of economic development and job growth in Washington, and the Tri-Cities is at the epicenter, a Washington congressman said Sunday.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., told attendees during the opening day of the 10th Harvesting Clean Energy Conference that more than 11,000 jobs in the state are associated with the production of clean energy — including hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, biomass and more.

The goal of the conference, which runs through Tuesday at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, is to promote rural economic development in the Northwest through clean energy development and production, organizers said.

And passage of energy legislation by Congress this year will help spur creation of even more jobs, said Inslee, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Agriculture and the development of the aerospace and software industries represented the first three waves of job creation in the state, with clean energy technology the newest rung, he said.

“The Tri-Cities is perfectly positioned for the next great wave of technological development,” Inslee said, citing in particular electrical generation work by Energy Northwest and solar technology by Infinia Corp. of Kennewick.

The House already has passed an energy bill. In the Senate, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John Kerry, D-Mass., are developing bipartisan energy legislation, Inslee said.

Approval of energy legislation is crucial, Inslee said, and not only for job growth and climate protection. America also is in a research and development race with China to create clean energy technology.

“They have made the decision they want to dominate the clean energy industrial base in the next 10 years,” Inslee said.

Conference workshops Sunday included sessions on hydropower, tapping the resources available to farms and rural communities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the promise of biochar — charcoal prepared from biomass that is used to generate energy and improve the productivity of soil.

In agriculture and industry, electric vehicles quietly are becoming more commonplace because they don’t pollute and have lower long-term maintenance costs.

There are plug-in electric buses and hybrid school buses, short-haul trucks, tractors, forklifts used in agricultural warehouses and an electric utility vehicle — similar to an ATV — made by an Oregon-based company.

The electric utility vehicle made by Barefoot Motors of Ashland is being used by ranchers and those involved in vineyards and orchards, electric utilities and forestry companies, among others, because of its workload capacity, low energy and maintenance costs and quiet operation, said Barefoot’s Bob Acheson.

Electric vehicles, however, tend to be expensive because of the cost of lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory are working to improve battery technology, said Tim Murphy, who is involved with the lab’s advanced vehicle testing effort.

“The potential payoffs for cost-effective batteries are huge for us,” Murphy said. “I look at it as a real energy, security and quality of life issue.”

Conference workshops today will include sessions on biomass, wind power, Smart Grid technologies and generating energy from food processing waste.

Richard Wynne, director of geopolitical and policy analysis for Boeing, will give the keynote address this morning on agriculture’s potential role in developing renewable energy sources for aviation.

Kevin McCullen, TriCity Herald


Tricities considering Oregon company’s EV-charging system November 26, 2009

Filed under: Electric Vehicles,Smart Grid,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 10:09 pm
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An Oregon company wants the Tri-Cities to be ready for electric vehicles.

A company representative made a presentation Monday to about 18 community and business leaders on the OpConnect Electric Vehicle Charging System at the Richland Community Center.

The Tri-Cities may be small but it’s forward-looking, said Nathan Isaacs, business development manager for Beaverton, Ore.-based Optimization Technologies, and a former Herald reporter.

Electric vehicles are a viable alternative to vehicles that run on fossil fuel technology, and they are expected soon to grow in a big way, Isaacs said while talking about the benefits of the charging system his company has developed.

The production of electric cars like Nissan’s Leaf and General Motors’ Chevy Volt is being highly anticipated because they will help reduce carbon emissions, he said. “If you wait until something happens, then you’re too late.”

A DOE pilot project already is under way in several metro communities across the nation, including Seattle and Portland, to promote electric vehicles. The first part of the plan is to set up 2,500 charging stations before Nissan makes available 1,000 of its electric cars in those communities late next year, he said.

Though the whole concept may be more applicable to large metro areas, it has potential use in the communities like the Tri-Cities, Isaacs said.

A few years ago PNNL researchers concluded that the nation’s electric grid could meet the needs of about 70 percent of all U.S. light duty vehicles if their batteries were charged during nonpeak hours. And his presentation is the next step to educate decision makers about a new technology, he said.

His company’s system can be used by residential customers, businesses and public agencies, he said.

The system runs on a software with multiple smart applications that help customers charge their vehicles during nonpeak hours, help utility companies manage grid load, integrate renewable energies and provide useful data to car and battery manufacturers, Isaacs said.

The presence of more charging stations will help remove range anxiety for EV drivers, he said.

The system, which can simultaneously serve about four vehicles, can be installed — ready for use — for about $10,000, he said. A stripped-down home version would cost about $1,000.

It typically would take about two hours to fully recharge a battery, though a lot would depend on the battery and charging process, he said. Some of the new cars prevent total drainage of battery power by shutting off some ancillary operations, he said. That helps makes sure you never have to begin charging your car battery from an absolute low point, he said.

It’s a futuristic concept but Ben Franklin Transit would be interested in looking at the commercial version of the product as electric transit buses become popular, said Dick Ciccone, maintenance and special projects manager at BFT.

Pratik Joshi, Tri City Herald


Electric vehicles, infrastructure power 2009 Beyond Oil conference November 13, 2009

Filed under: Electric Vehicles,Idaho,Smart Grid — nwrenewablenews @ 4:13 pm
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Shiny new electric vehicles, emitting only low-whirring sounds, glistened as they darted among the few sun breaks in Seattle outside a Cascadia Center conference titled Beyond Oil: The Sustainable Communities Initiative.

ChargePoint charging station
Charge Northwest displayed its ChargePoint charging technology, which is offered for plug-in electric vehicles in the Pacific Northwest.

The all-electric Ford Focus made its debut at the late-October event, co-sponsored by Idaho National Laboratory. Ford’s Focus added to a charged atmosphere around the Department of Energy’s $100 million grant for a 36-month transportation study in five states. The Pacific Northwest is jointly pursuing a vision of electrified transportation in the I-5 corridor from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Ore., as part of the study.

More than 300 attendees convened on the Microsoft Redmond campus near Seattle to hear from more than 50 experts about innovative transportation strategies, e-car technologies, infrastructure challenges and the vulnerability of the nation’s reliance on oil. One presenter argued for vehicles capable of operating on a full spectrum of alternative fuels that includes electricity.

INL is a strong partner in helping the region pursue the electrified transportation vision by managing e-vehicle demonstrations, collecting data to adjust strategies for transportation systems, and devising new clean energy systems appropriate for the Pacific Northwest.

Most recently, INL joined eTec’s electric vehicle infrastructure demonstration project with the Nissan automotive company and regional partners. The project will analyze performance and infrastructure data for 1,000 Nissan “LEAF” zero-emission vehicles.

The forum built on previous planning sessions and joined with the Clean Cities Conference. Its goal was to learn from regional governments and organizations about activities to realize the vision of electrified transportation systems, new clean energy systems and new infrastructures for improving communities. As part of DOE’s larger study, Puget Sound’s Clean Cities received a $15 million grant for its petroleum reduction project to create a regional sustainable market for renewable alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies.

INL gets senatorial endorsement
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah addressed the forum via recorded video message and opened his remarks by saying how pleased he was to see INL as a major sponsor.

“I am sure that you all are aware of the old phrase, ‘Hi, I’m with the government, and I am here to help,'” he said. “Well, if you hear someone from the Idaho National Lab say that, you can believe it because they mean it. And, they can really help.”

INL joined Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, the University of Washington, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Cascadia Center in sponsoring the forum.

Sen. Orrin Hatch
Sen. Orrin Hatch recognized INL’s efforts during a message televised at the Cascadia conference.

INL speakers opened and closed the conference. INL Deputy Lab Director David Hill joined representatives from Microsoft, Ford and the National Transportation Policy Project to welcome participants.

“The Pacific Northwest is a tremendous place to focus on electric vehicle integration where there are grand transportation challenges and a strong advocacy for change,” Hill said.

J.W. “Bill” Rogers Jr., INL’s associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment, closed the conference with a presentation that connected the need to develop clean energy systems with transportation advances such as both electric and plug-in electric vehicles. He also detailed INL’s groundbreaking research in hybridizing clean energy systems, as well as the potential contributions by both light-water and high-temperature gas nuclear reactors.

“Over the past few years, INL has built partnerships in the Pacific Northwest to support its DOE customer and continues today to serve as a key regional asset in providing clean energy solutions,” said Mike Hagood, INL’s program development manager. “Our growing relationships in the area will provide INL an opportunity to identify and address key research challenges associated with advanced transportation integration and their connection with clean energy sources.”

The combined forum offered more than 20 sessions about the challenges in electric vehicle technologies, infrastructure and marketplace competition.

Anne Korin of Set America Free advocated ending oil’s monopoly in the transportation sector by replacing the nation’s transportation fleet with flex fuel vehicles so the marketplace can determine which feedstock, fuel generation processes and fuels are most competitive. Korin cited the volatile impact exerted on global economies by OPEC’s 1973 oil embargo and high oil prices during 2008. She added that there is an excellent business case for vehicles operating on electricity and flex fuels made from a combination of gasoline and a variety of alcohols (ethanol, methanol and butanol made from renewable energy sources).

Tim Murphy, INL’s Energy Storage and Transportation Systems manager, described INL’s ongoing plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and electric vehicle infrastructure demonstrations across America. He explained how INL’s Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity and Vehicle Data Management System are used to collect and analyze vehicle, battery and infrastructure data critical to the successful implementation of the eTec-Nissan-INL electric demonstration in the region.

Proposed Smart Mobility Hub at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma, WA – integrating information technology and sustainable transportation and smart growth principles.

“We are growing our relationships in the West and Pacific Northwest,” he said, “where we have found exceptionally receptive and proactive partners for researching e-vehicle technologies.”

In addition to the new electric Ford Focus, Cascadia hosted displays of Tesla’s electric roadster, Ford’s Hybrid Plug In SUV and Ranger EV truck, Toyota’s Prius, Rapid Electric Vehicles (REV), and Véhicule Électrique. Other alternative vehicles included Western Washington University’s biomethane compressed natural gas-powered vehicle and several propane-propelled vehicles.

Infrastructure demonstrations included charging station technologies from Plug In America, Charge Northwest, as well as vehicles and support technologies from Pacific EV, Evergreen Fleets, MC Electric Vehicles and more.

INL presented a large graphic display on transportation and clean energy systems, which detailed the Pacific Northwest vehicle testing programs, DOE/INL’s Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity and INL’s Hybrid Energy System concept with a proposed testing laboratory to research various combinations of energy systems.

by Keith Arterburn, INL Communications & Governmental Affairs –


Bioelectricity More Efficient than Ethanol for Transportation, Study Shows May 10, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Biomass,Electric Vehicles — nwrenewablenews @ 4:11 pm
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In a new study published online yesterday in the journal Science, researchers led by Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced modeled entire fuel systems all the way from crop cultivation to vehicle propulsion, comparing cumulative greenhouse-gas emissions for both biofuels and bioelectricity. They found that the bioelectric pathway came out ahead of both corn ethanol and advanced cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass.

“We expected that electricity would look better than corn ethanol, but it was surprising to see that this was also the case for the more advanced second-generation ethanols,” Campbell says. “In all cases, the electricity pathway uses a lot less land to achieve the same amount of transportation.”

The study suggests than electric vehicle powered by biomass will travel an average of 81% farther than an internal-combustion vehicle powered by cellulosic ethanol if both are produced from the same area of cropland.

The results also suggest that alternative bioenergy pathways have large differences in how efficiently they use the available land to achieve transportation and climate goals.

>>Listen to an interview with lead author Elliott Campbell from Science Podcast

Timothy B. Hurst, Gas 2.0


Oregon may get electric car plant April 17, 2009

Filed under: Electric Vehicles,Green Jobs,Manufacturing,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 2:10 pm
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Oregon is one of eight states in consideration for an electric car manufacturing plant that could employ 900 workers.

Representatives from Think North America will visit Portland on Tuesday in an appearance with Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a spokesman confirmed Friday morning.

The Norway-based company announced in March that it’s in discussions with eight states about building a manufacturing plant and technical center for its compact electric car, the Think city.

The plant would initially employ 300 and be capable of producing 16,000 cars per year. It would ultimately grow to 60,000 cars per year and 900 workers, the company said.

The tiny four-seat all-electric car can reach more than 60 mph and travel 112 miles on a single charge, operating either on sodium or lithium-ion batteries, the company claims. It’s designed to have a low carbon footprint and features recyclable plastic body panels and a fully recyclable interior.

Spokesman Brendan Prebo said the company hopes to get the price of the car down to $20,000 after tax incentives, but must reduce the cost of the battery to meet that goal.

U.S. production is expected to start in 2010, with the first-year volume of 2,500 units available to pilot and demonstration projects, the company said.

Thus far, the company has only identified California and Michigan, its North American headquarters, as Oregon’s competition for the plant.

The contest is moving quickly.

Prebo said the company will choose a site in the next couple of months in order to meet its goal of starting production by mid-2010.

That means Think is eyeing existing brownfield sites and preferably a location that has existing and available manufacturing space. Prebo said Think has identified several U.S. sites with existing manufacturing space, but wouldn’t say whether any of those were in Oregon.

Kulongoski has put a target on the fast-rising electric vehicle industry and hopes to cement Oregon’s reputation as an early adopter of the technology.

Already Portland holds the oft-cited record of having the most hybrid-fuel vehicles per capita of any city in the nation.

Portland General Electric Co. earlier this year began installing electric vehicle charging stations throughout its service station. And the state Department of Transportation earlier this week began soliciting bids for electric charging manufacturers, the first solicitation of its kind in the nation.

Kulongoski and Sen. Ron Wyden will join Think CEO Richard Canny for a test drive of a Think city vehicle Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. the World Trade Center building, next to PGE’s electric charging station at 121 S.W. Salmon Street.

Portland Business Journal –


EV Industry: Startups invest millions in scooter market March 25, 2009

Filed under: Electric Vehicles,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 8:46 pm
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When it comes to electric vehicles, the Tesla Roadster and Chevrolet Volt get all the love. But there are other EVs rolling around, and they’re balancing on two wheels.

Since 2007, when Vectrix of Middletown, R.I., first rode onto the scene with its battery-powered Maxi Scooter, a growing number of U.S. startups have entered the plug-in two-wheeler market. They’ve invested millions of dollars in vehicles, many of which are poised for production within a year.

Led by pioneers with impressive résumés, these companies predict growth despite the down economy, and they’re laying claim to niche markets with such boasts as “first” and “fastest” as they stake out territory in what many believe is the future of transportation.

“It’s amazing how inefficient the vehicles we’re driving today really are,” said Forrest North, founder and chief executive of Mission Motorsports, a San Francisco company that unveiled the prototype for its 150 mph, 150-mile-range electric motorcycle at the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference in Long Beach, Calif., last month.

“Electricity is just so many orders of magnitude more efficient that it’s the only way to go,” said North, a former mechanical designer with Tesla and leader of Stanford University’s solar-car team in the mid-1990s.

Like many EV entrepreneurs, North, 33, had looked into hydrogen and biodiesel as power sources but found them impractical. Hydrogen is abundant, but turning it into fuel and developing a distribution infrastructure is costly. Biodiesel can take more energy to produce than it generates.

With electricity, the infrastructure already exists: Electrical outlets are abundant. Battery technology is also improving by about 8 percent each year, North said, allowing bikes to easily upgrade once the chemistry comes along. Already, electric two-wheelers get the equivalent of about 300 to 500 miles per gallon. As technologies improve, they’ll be able to generate even more energy with less weight and cost.

Debut product

Billed as “the world’s fastest production electric sport bike,” Mission’s debut product is called the Mission One. Scheduled to ship in early 2010, its estimated retail price is $68,000 — most of which is attributable to a large lithium-ion battery pack designed to compete with a gas-powered, performance-oriented sport bike.

It’s the power-to-weight ratio of existing batteries that is, in part, driving development of electric two-wheelers.

Weighing less than 25 percent of a typical passenger car, two-wheeled scooters and motorcycles require fewer expensive batteries to bring them to speed. They are also simpler; they require fewer components and safety features; and they aren’t subject to the stringent governmental requirements for passenger cars.

That makes two wheels a less-complicated and less-expensive entry point than cars for entrepreneurs, which is why electric two-wheelers also are coming on the market faster and more affordably than their four-wheeled brethren. The majority of available electric two-wheelers cost less than $10,000.

Vectrix was the first company to manufacture a production electric two-wheeler. Since introducing its $11,000, 62 mph Maxi Scooter in August 2007, it has unveiled a second model and sold more than 1,500 vehicles globally. While that isn’t a lot compared with the millions of cars sold every year, it represents a 300 percent increase in annual sales from 2007 to 2008.

“Any time you bring a new technology to market, when you can horizontally grow that product, it validates to the consumer that it’s a real technology,” Vectrix Chief Executive Mike Boyle said. This spring, Vectrix will roll out a third scooter model, the $5,195, 30 mph VX-2.

Spring is also the launch date for two other electric two-wheelers — Zero Motorcycles’ Zero S and Brammo Motorsports’ Enertia. Like Vectrix, The S and Enertia are oriented toward the commuter market. Unlike Vectrix, they are motorcycles.

“The market is definitely getting excited for an electric motorcycle,” said Neal Saiki, 42, founder of Zero Motorcycles in Santa Cruz, Calif. “It’s going to grow really rapidly as people realize how practical and fun and fast these motorcycles are. They can be environmental and have fun.”

Ex-NASA engineer

Zero was the second manufacturer, after Vectrix, to make a production electric two-wheeler.

Founded by Saiki, a former NASA engineer, and funded, in part, by former Sun Microsystems executive Gene Banman, who now is Zero’s chief executive, Zero has sold 200 of its $7,500 Zero X models — an off-road electric motorcycle with a 50 mph maximum speed and 40-mile range off a single charge.

Craig Bramscher, of Brammo Motorsports in Ashland, Ore., says he raised $10 million in venture capital last year.

And when his 300 Enertia electric motorcycle rolls off the line in May, he’s thinking his company will be aided by the $787 billion stimulus package.

The program includes a 10 percent tax credit on the purchase price of two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles with batteries generating at least 2.5 kilowatt hours of power.

“It seems like the right place, right time,” said Bramscher, former owner of a software-technology firm. “A lot of people haven’t forgotten we’ve got an oil problem.”

By Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times


Obama Announces $2.4 Billion for Electric Vehicles March 19, 2009

Filed under: Electric Vehicles — nwrenewablenews @ 1:13 pm
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President Barack Obama today announced the launch of two major programs that will drive the development of the next generation of electric vehicles in the United States and support the growth of domestic jobs. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the release of two competitive solicitations for up to $2 billion in federal funding for competitively awarded cost-shared agreements for manufacturing of advanced batteries and related drive components as well as up to $400 million for transportation electrification demonstration and deployment projects.

By contributing to the reduction of petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions, these projects will advance the United States’ economic recovery, national energy security, and environmental sustainability. Today’s announcement will also help meet the president’s goal of putting one million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.