Northwest Renewable News

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

Conservation efforts will play key role in meeting Northwest’s energy needs February 10, 2010

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Idaho,Montana,Oregon,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 4:34 pm

The Northwest should meet most of its electricity needs over the next two decades through extensive energy conservation efforts, and it’s going to take more than just changing light bulbs.

That’s the conclusion of a regional power blueprint the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that was unanimously approved Wednesday morning at council headquarters in dowmtown Portland. It focuses on the benefits of efficiency over building new power plants.

“For customers, it’s a good thing in that it’s very clearly saying the direction the region should go in terms of power supply is first and foremost energy efficiency,” said Bob Jerks, director of the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon.

The plan estimates about 85 percent of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana’s new power demand over the next 20 years – about 5,900 megawatts – could be met through conservation, with the rest coming from new renewable power sources like wind, as well as natural gas power plants.

The council says finding additional power through efficiency will be far cheaper than developing new power generation, whether from renewable sources like wind or traditional fossil fuel power plants.

“That’s good for the climate, and it’s good for pocket books,” Jenks said.

Significantly, the council says the region does not need to build any new coal-fired plants to power our iPods, ovens and electric cars.

But while efficiency is cost effective, it’s not free. The council estimates spending would need to step up from a quarter of a billion to $1 billion a year by 2018 to accomplish its efficiency goal. Those expenditures would show up as part of customers’ electricity bills.

That and the ambitious scope of the plan led to some pushback from the region’s electric utilities.

“That money is going to come from ratepayers, and that puts upward pressure on rates,” said Michael Early, executive director of Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities. “And that’s not something utilities want to do in this economic environment,” when demand for power is not growing.

Council members praised the plan Wednesday for taking into account a future that includes strict regulation on carbon dioxide emissions from coal and other traditional power sources.

“Because carbon penalties loom in one form or another and uncertainty about those penalties abounds, the region can see the day when carbon emissions must be reduced,” Melinda Eden, one of the two council members from Oregon, said following the vote.

The plan’s estimated 5,900 megawatts of conservation – the rough equivalent of the power-producing capacity of 10 coal plants like Portland General Electric’s Boardman facility – would come through things like homeowners increasing insulation at their homes and business refitting their buildings with power-saving lights, as well as more complex improvements to the grid that distributes power around the region.

Utilities will take the plan into account when setting their own strategies for meeting the future demand of their customers. More directly, council policy guides the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency that sells electricity from the region’s dams.

The council and Bonneville are charged with balancing power needs with protecting imperiled salmon, and critics of the power agency say the council’s analysis shows the region can do away with 4 of its 31 dams to help fish without jeopardizing its energy future.

The unanimous passage of the plan comes after years of debate between council members and input from utilities and citizens’ groups.

Following Wednesday’s vote, Terry Morgan, the council’s director of power planning, compared those deliberations to the television reality program Survivor.

There were victories and defeats, he said, “and some of us were almost voted off the island.”

John Killen, The Oregonian


NW power plan: No coal, only wind, gas, efficiency

The latest energy plan for the Pacific Northwest has been adopted with the goal of limiting greenhouse gas pollution by increased conservation and wind power development.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously adopted the regional energy plan Wednesday at a meeting in Portland.

The plan covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana for the next 20 years. But the council revises it every five years to keep up with changes.

The new plan says most of the increased demand for electricity in the Northwest can be met with improved efficiency, conservation and wind power.

Associated Press –


PSE expanding renewable energy grant program February 9, 2010

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Renewable/Green Energy,Utility Companies,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 12:09 pm

Puget Sound Energy’s work in bringing renewable energy demonstration systems to Washington state schools is expanding its reach this year. Monday, Feb. 8, the utility opened the application period for schools and, new to the program this year, select institutions that educate the public about renewable energy and the environment, to apply for a small scale solar array or wind turbine grant.

Between $5,000 and $20,000 in funding will be available for renewable energy demonstration systems ranging from 900 watts to 2 kilowatts to be installed in 2010.

PSE’s Renewable Energy Education (formerly the Solar Schools Program) and voluntary Green Power programs have already funded 20 educational solar power projects in the Puget Sound region in the last six years. The programs promote understanding and acceptance of renewable energy technologies and expand the range of options available to local educators, students, families and communities in PSE’s nine county electric service area.

Three new features to the 2010 Renewable Energy Education Program have been added:

All institutions with a renewable energy education focus are now eligible to apply, previously the program had only been open to school districts with Resource Conservation Managers.

Applicants will be required to have utilized a PSE energy efficiency program in the past 36 months.

An electronic application is available for online submittal, applications can be found on PSE’s Web site at:

Successful applicants will receive grants to fund renewable energy education demonstration projects at their educational facility. The grant will provide supplemental funds or in approximately four cases cover the entire cost of a renewable energy demonstration system.

In addition to the rooftop-mounted solar panels or wind turbines, the grants support Web based monitoring software that allows students and interested community members to track how much energy is being generated as the weather changes. Also provided are educational materials and support including science teacher training, classroom activity guides and renewable energy science kits.

Small-scale renewable energy demonstration systems require no fuel and minimal maintenance while generating enough power, on average to operate 10 to 20 notebook computers, each consuming 33 watts for eight hours a day. The wind and solar equipment has a typical system lifespan of 20 or more years.

Schools and education institutions qualifying for the grant will submit plans detailing their educational goals and objectives for a solar or wind demonstration project. All proposals must be received by PSE no later than 5 p.m. on March 22, 2010.

In 2009, Puget Sound-area schools received more than $110,000 in grants for the installation of solar systems:

• Green River Community College, Auburn

• Liberty High School, Renton

• Hazen High School, Renton

• Coupeville Middle and High School, Whidbey Island

Since 2004, PSE has funded the installation of other systems at Redmond High School, Port Townsend High School, the Bellingham Environmental Learning Center, Depot Market Square in Bellingham, the Puget Sound Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee’s Training Center in Renton, the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Western Washington University in Bellingham, the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, JG Commons Building and Vashon Household building all on Vashon Island, Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way, Marshall and Washington Middle Schools in Olympia, Interlake High School in Bellevue, South Whidbey High School and Sakai Intermediate School on Bainbridge Island.


For more information, visit

Auburn Reporter –


Idaho Power plans more generation from wind February 8, 2010

Idaho Power’s new plan for meeting anticipated customer energy needs for the next two decades shows the utility’s energy portfolio will grow increasingly diverse with a heightened emphasis on renewable sources.

Idaho Power filed its integrated resource plan for 2009 with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in December.

// Wind energy is slated to become an increasingly substantial energy source for Idaho Power. Spokeswoman Stephanie McCurdy said the utility put out a request for proposals in May seeking 150 megawatts of wind power generation.

Now, Idaho Power has 192 megawatts of wind capacity in its system, and by 2012, McCurdy said the company expects to have more than 600 megawatts of wind power.

To ensure a stable power source at times when wind power wanes, Idaho Power plans to build a natural gas combined cycle combustion turbine capable of producing 300 megawatts of power, called the Langley Gulch plant, in Payette County. Construction on the project is scheduled to start this August, and the plant should be on line by July 2012.

Idaho Power’s plan also calls for 40 megawatts of geothermal power — about 20 megawatts of that total are part of a contract that’s awaiting approval by the IPUC.

The plan is updated every two years with input from Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Council, made of members from the general public, the government sector and environmental stakeholders.

The plan also outlines the company’s steps to promote energy efficiency. McCurdy noted Idaho Power has 17 energy efficiency programs and two educational initiatives pertaining to energy efficiency.

One is a credit of $7 per month for customers who allow Idaho Power to install devices on their air conditioners that cycle off air conditioning at peak hours.

Customers are free to share their opinions about the utility’s future plans or ask questions about the plan by emailing, but the public comment will not affect the 2009 integrated resource plan.

John O’Connell, Idaho State Journal


Rose Garden Arena goes green with energy efficiency, food composting, bike parking January 26, 2010

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 8:01 pm
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The Rose Garden Arena has accomplished the greenest retrofit of a sports stadium in the United States, an effort affirmed this week when energy efficiency measures and operational improvements were certified by a rigorous green building program.

The green efforts touch nearly every aspect of the building’s operations. With recycling and food composting, the arena will keep more than 60 percent of its waste from going to landfills. About 30 percent of attendees at Rose Garden events use mass transit or bicycles to get there. The building will buy 100 percent of its electricity and natural gas from renewable sources.

The arena this week was certified LEED Gold, the second highest ranking in the program known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED program has gained popularity since 2000 for use in new office buildings and condominiums, where it has become a new starting point for the most competitive projects.

A handful of sports stadiums have been certified at the lowest levels of the LEED program, but among major league sports facilities, no new buildings or retrofits have reach the gold ranking.

“LEED definitely challenges you to think about things differently and examine your day-to-day operations and maintenance to get to the level that we got,” said Chris Oxley, general manager of the Rose Quarter and Rose Garden. “It really required us to get pretty in-depth on how we’re running the building.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council has encouraged sports leagues to evaluate their environmental impact, in part to make fans more environmentally conscious.

With the real estate bust halting new construction, the LEED program’s certification for building retrofits has gained popularity. Known as LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, the program scrutinizes everything from the cleaning products used by janitors to the site’s accessibility to mass transit.

Oxley wouldn’t say how much the arena spent to become LEED certified or what timeframe the up front costs would produce a return on investment. The arena has spent several years improving its recycling and sourcing of compostable materials, and other green measures, he said.

Achieving the LEED certification required more than a year of study with consultants such as Green Building Services of Portland and the non-profit Energy Trust of Oregon.

The Rose Garden was third-party certified for 62 out of a possible 100 points in the LEED system. A ranking of Platinum requires 80 of 100 points.

Elaine Aye, principal with Portland-based Green Building Services, said greening an arena is very different from similar efforts on office buildings.

“What’s more challenging is you have a really large big-box building and this intense occupancy at very specific times,” she said. “So identifying the energy use in the building is very challenging.”

Energy auditors used an infrared scan of the building to find hard to detect air leaks that could be plugged for additional energy savings, Aye said.

A carbon assessment found the arena generates 20,084 tons of carbon dioxide related emissions a year. That compares with 24-tons a year generated by the average American.

The assessment also found that most of the arena’s carbon footprint comes from motorists driving to and from events — even more than flying an NBA team around the country week to week.

With the Rose Garden, as with many green building projects, most of the energy efficiency measures are things that most visitors probably wouldn’t notice.

A variable-speed motor will use less energy to produce ice for hockey games than an old motor that just turned on or off. Replacing 246 light fixtures in the “event level” of the building — the basement that houses Trail Blazer lockeroom, a kitchen and offices — means that lights will idle at 28 watts instead of 175 or 250 watts.

The arena has plans to improve is bike parking facilities, both in parking garages and in outdoor covered areas.

In uber-green Portland, there’s a community expectation that the Rose Garden should strive for energy efficiency, Oxley said.

“We want to be the most sustainable organization in the sports and entertainment community,” he said. “That’s kind of our mantra around here. This for us was a great step to get there.”

Dylan Rivera, The Oregonian


Forecast: NW Energy prices likely to rise modestly January 24, 2010

Energy prices in 2009 reflected both good and bad news for consumers; the good news was that prices for natural gas and oil were much lower than the previous year; the bad news was that a severe recession was part of the reason for the lower prices.

Looking ahead to 2010, I expect a modest recovery of energy prices, the extent of which depends to a large degree on the economy. A robust recovery from the recession would put more upward pressure on energy prices. A sluggish recovery would moderate energy price increases.

Oil prices should increase moderately during 2010. They remain high by historical standards even during the recession. The outlook for oil prices, however, must always be conditioned on developments in the Middle East. Changes in world oil prices quickly find their way to the gasoline station and consumers’ pockets.

Natural gas prices fell by about 50 percent between 2008 and 2009. Many consumers have seen the effects of this reduction in their natural gas bills as distributors pass along cost reductions in rates. I expect moderate natural gas price increases this year.

However, a new development is at work in the U.S. natural gas market that could affect future prices. A couple of years ago, natural gas supplies were expected to decline for the U.S. and Canada. Yet, improved drilling and recovery technologies have unlocked natural gas supplies from shale and other non-conventional formations. The result was a substantial increase in natural gas supplies that, combined with the recession, contributed to the collapse of prices in 2009. While there are questions remaining about the future of these non-conventional supplies, they are likely to help contain price increases for years to come. Nevertheless, the higher cost of developing these supplies will prevent large decreases in natural gas prices in the long term.

Electricity prices for consumers are less volatile than oil and natural gas prices. They are regulated to a greater extent and more insulated from market fluctuations. This is especially true in the Pacific Northwest, where hydroelectricity supplies a large share of our electricity. Hydroelectricity cost does not change directly based on fuel prices.

Future costs of electricity are increasingly likely to be affected by policies addressing climate change concerns. It is important to understand that, nationwide, electricity generation accounts for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Because of the large presence of hydroelectricity in the Pacific Northwest, the electric generation share of carbon dioxide emissions is only 23 percent. For example, electricity generation in Washington state produces only 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions per kilowatt-hour of the total U.S. electricity generation.

Nevertheless, efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are likely to significantly affect the cost of electricity. Electric utilities in Washington are subject to renewable portfolio standards that require growing shares of electricity supplies to be renewable. Renewable electricity generation is more expensive than existing generation and new natural gas-fired electricity generation. Proposed cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gases would raise the cost of existing carbon dioxide-emitting generation, especially existing coal plants that account for 85 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the Northwest power system. Even improved efficiency of electricity use can raise electricity rates, while at the same time reducing electric bills for homes and businesses that participate because less electricity is consumed.

Conservation vs. new power

Carbon emissions and electricity costs were issues that the Northwest Power and Conservation Council addressed in its new draft Sixth Power Plan for the Pacific Northwest. The resource strategy advocated in the plan is an aggressive pursuit of improved efficiency (conservation) in homes, businesses, and factories.

The council found that much of the region’s expected growth in electricity needs could be met with conservation at far lower cost and risk than building additional generation. In addition, renewable electricity generation acquired to meet renewable portfolio standards in the region will help reduce carbon emissions. The region should improve the operational procedures of the power system to better integrate variable generation sources such as wind, but also should look for other small-scale renewable opportunities in local communities. After renewable power requirements are met, natural gas-fired generation is the next best source, if necessary. In the long-term, other forms of generation, efficiency, energy storage, or operational changes should be considered, researched, and demonstrated, including smart-grid technologies.

Such an energy strategy requires that the region’s citizens and businesses, working with their local utilities, participate in securing their own energy futures. Low-cost supplies of energy can no longer be taken for granted. But energy that is available can be used far more efficiently, reducing the impact of rising costs and resulting in a more sustainable economy.

Terry Morlan, Columbian forecaster; The Columbian


Daimler receives $40M for heavy-duty truck efficiency development January 13, 2010

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Manufacturing,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 12:52 am
Tags: ,

Portland-based Daimler Trucks North America received nearly $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy on Monday to develop energy efficiency technologies for heavy-duty trucks. The company will match the grant with an additional $40 million.

Daimler received the largest single slice of the $187 million in federal grants announced Monday, all of which was given to auto industry manufacturers to develop fuel-efficient engines and other technologies for trucks and passenger vehicles by 2015.

A news release from the Department of Energy said Daimler’s share will be used to work on engine downsizing, electrification of auxiliary systems like oil and water pumps, waste heat recovery, improved aerodynamics and hybridization.

A spokesperson for Daimler said the majority of the $80 million will be spent in the Portland area on its SuperTruck project. The company’s research and development division, which employs 750, is based on Swan Island.

It could be another significant development for the Swan Island plant, which company officials planned to close this year until announcing in September that it was changing course.

Among the reasons for keeping the plant open was a $377 million contract from the U.S. Army to make 1,780 military trucks.

The grants awarded Monday includes $100 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and covers up to half of the cost of each project, bringing the total public-private investment for the projects to $375 million.

The nine companies to receive grant awards claim their projects will create more than 500 jobs for researchers, engineers and other managers developing the technologies. The projects are expected to generate as many as 6,000 jobs by 2015, including many in manufacturing and assembly.

A majority of the federal grants, $115 million, went to three manufacturers in the long-haul truck industry. Alongside Daimler were Columbus, Ind.-based engine-maker Cummins Inc. and Fort Wayne, Ind.-based truck- and trailer-maker Navistar Inc.

The remaining $71 million went to manufacturers in the passenger vehicle market with a goal of improving the fuel economy of engines by 25 to 40 percent in the next five years. Recipients include Cummins, the Chrysler Group LLC, Delphi Automotive Systems LLC, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., and The Bosch Group.

Portland Business Journal –