Northwest Renewable News

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Sutherland will lead Central Wash. renewable energy partnership January 31, 2010

Kittitas County officials have announced that former Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland is taking the helm of a new public-private partnership focused on renewable energy jobs and research.

The partnership is called the Central Washington Resource Energy Collaborative, which was formally recognized by the state Commerce Department in October.

It is the first Innovative Partnership Zone in the state since Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the initial designation of 11 such zones in 2007. Such zones are designed to build on the success of so-called “research parks” around the world such as the The Triangle in North Carolina and Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

In a news release Friday, Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell said Sutherland has agreed to accept the position as interim executive director of the new partnership and is expected to refine the agency’s organizational structure and direction over the next 12 to 18 months.

“We are extremely excited to have someone with Doug’s qualifications and experience to guide this project during its critical startup stage,” Jewell said.

Sutherland’s credentials include stints as the Pierce County executive, city manager of the city of SeaTac, and mayor and city council member of Tacoma. As a Republican, he served two terms as public-lands commissioner before he was defeated by Democrat Peter Goldmark in 2008.

In taking the job, Sutherland noted that he is a graduate of Central Washington University and thus familiar with the area.

“This is a great opportunity to assist in building a lasting organization,” he said. “The fact that I have ties to the area was a bonus that made it even more attractive.”

CWU is one of several organizations that are taking part in the partnership, along with Kittitas County and the nonprofit Economic Development Group of Kittitas County.

Also on board is Puget Sound Energy, which owns the Wild Horse wind farm east of Ellensburg, and enXco Development Corp., the French-backed company that is building the 95-turbine Desert Claim wind farm eight miles northwest of Ellensburg.

Kittitas County officials touted the partnership as the first in the state to focus exclusively on resource-based technologies.

According to the county’s news release, the partnership’s goal is to create a “hub” for renewable energy research and to strengthen the county’s job base by nurturing technology based companies.

Sutherland is expected to start Monday and will work out of the Economic Development Group’s offices in Ellensburg.

CHRIS BRISTOL, Yakima Herald-Republic


ISU gets grant for renewable energy training program January 30, 2010

The federal government has awarded Idaho State University $1.5 million to establish a new program for training technicians suited to work in the renewable energy industry.

The U.S. Department of Labor grant will be funneled to ISU’s Energy Systems Technology and Education Center. Administrators will use the money to create a nine-month to certify technicians who can pursue careers in wind energy and other renewable energy fields.

Students completing the program will be certified as renewable energy technicians. With additional classes, they can obtain an associates degree in wind engineering or mechanical engineering technology.

The center hopes to begin offering classes in the renewable energy program in the fall of 2011.

Associated Press –


Merkley promotes locally inspired energy-efficiency plan January 13, 2010

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Green Jobs,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 12:42 am
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An energy efficiency plan inspired by a Portland lawmaker and the city of Portland’s new Clean Energy Works program could go national in a second-round economic stimulus bill being fashioned in the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon’s Democratic junior senator, in a Monday afternoon appearance before the Portland Tribune editorial board, said “it’s very likely” that the Oregon model for financing home energy-efficiency improvements will make it into the bill.

Merkley proposed the idea based on a law enacted by the 2009 Legislature and pushed by state Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland. The city of Portland became the first local government to experiment with the idea with its Clean Energy Works program.

The idea is to enable people to get low-cost loans to make home energy-saving projects, and pay back the money on their monthly utility bills. If payments are structured as envisioned, the savings on energy bills could equal the monthly loan repayments, so there is no additional monthly cost, or minimal cost, to the homeowner.

The program is designed to help people use less energy, finance improvements with no out-of-pocket costs and create “green jobs” in home energy retrofits.

The Obama administration prefers to use federal grants to pay for the improvements, Merkley said, but he’s pushing for low-cost revolving loans, so that federal funds could be used as a long-term source to pay for the home improvements.

Merkley, who just finished his first year in the Senate, said he spoke with one of his mentors, former Republican Sen. Mark Hatfield, this week about the declining civility and increased partisanship of the Senate.

Some of it is due to a change in senators’ schedules, Merkley said. They typically are in session from Monday afternoon through Friday morning, working in Senate sessions late into the night, then spending long weekends in their districts. That leaves little time to socialize with each other and build personal ties that once were common, Merkley said.

In Hatfield’s day, Merkley said, “They had relationships that made it hard to demonize each other. That has been lost.”

The rookie senator said the increasing use of the filibuster threat has meant that every major bill requires 60 votes to pass the Senate. A process originally designed to assure every senator got heard has devolved into a required “supermajority” vote on important matters, Merkley said.

That slows the process, he said, because it means important bills require at least two weeks’ of time on the Senate floor because of procedural votes. It also encourages senators to jam unrelated subjects into bills, making bills more cumbersome and difficult to read.

Merkley is researching parliamentary procedure with experts in the field, with an eye to proposing changes in the system. Two ideas being floated around the Senate are limiting the use of the 60-vote requirement at some future date, so it’s not clear that it would benefit one party or the other, he said.

Merkley predicted that the massive health insurance overhaul bill under debate in Congress would win final approval by Valentine’s Day. However, his past four predictions for when the bill would get done proved too optimistic.

Something needs to be done to reform the health care system, he said. “We have a broken system that’s doubling in price every eight years.”

And there’s a growing bulge of baby boomers hitting the age when they’ll need more health care.

“It’s not as though we’re entering a low-cost period,” he said.

Merkley also said he endorsed the two tax measures on Oregon’s Jan. 26 ballot this month, Measures 66 and 67. The measures will raise some high-end income taxes and business taxes to balance the 2009-11 budget.

Steve Law, Portland Tribune –


“Green jobs” likely in Idaho, perhaps driven by more hydro power, state agency says November 20, 2009

Renewable energy is one place the state could make job gains, said the Idaho Department of Commerce.

In 2008, the U.S. Energy Information Agency ranked Idaho seventh nationally in its renewable energy generating capacity, and an Idaho Department of Labor analysis found energy sector employers paying $2.6 billion to over 49,000 workers, 12 percent of total wages and 7.5 percent of total jobs.

A $1.25 million federal grant awarded earlier this week to the Department of Labor will be used to develop detailed information on the current and future potential of jobs in the state’s power and energy industry, and in particular jobs in the area of efficient and renewable energy, also known as “green jobs.”

The Energy Information Agency profile of Idaho identifies its vast hydropower resources — the sixth largest in the nation — as the source of nearly all the state’s renewable energy capacity. Wind and wood or wood waste accounted for less than 7 percent combined.

But researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory have identified 6,700 additional hydropower sites that could potentially produce another 2,100 megawatts of electricity. That would boost Idaho’s hydro capacity by another 22 percent.

Wind remains the most likely alternative resource for development. In 2004, the federal energy agency found no notable wind generation in Idaho. Idaho has 146 megawatts of wind power operating in Idaho according to the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance Wind Task Force report.

Of that total, 64.5 megawatts, is being generated by the Wolverine Farm in southeastern Idaho”s Bingham County. Recent wind mapping indicates Idaho has about 18,000 megawatts of generation potential, the 13th highest in the United States. The southeastern part of the state has been identified as having several locations with nearby transmission lines that could support viable wind farms. Most developers require a wind classification of three or higher, and of the 75 sites in Idaho at that rating a third are in the southeast.

The natural hot springs in southeastern Idaho account for the Northwest’s first geothermal electric plant near Raft River. Operated by U.S. Geothermal Inc., it produces about 13 megawatts of electricity with a maximum capacity estimated at 110 megawatts.

Generating costs are relatively high, but technological improvements offer prospects of developing one or more of the other 24 geothermal sites in Idaho identified for the Governor‚s Geothermal Task Force in 2007.

Recently the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation announced plans for a 100-megawatt geothermal plant near Preston.

Biomass — wood products, cellulosic feedstock and byproducts from grain crops — is being evaluated throughout the state to include gases containing carbon from decomposing landfill material. But timber and grain are the focus.

Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman –


Huge Solar Farm Gets Sunny Welcome In Cle Elum, Wash. August 20, 2009

The private company proposing the region’s largest solar power plant got a sunny welcome at its first public presentation of the idea.

Earlier Wedsnesday, about 50 residents of central Washington’s Kittitas County asked questions of Teanaway Solar Reserve managing partner Howard Trott.

Trott told his audience that the 400,000 panels he wants to install in a forest clear-cut will be well hidden.

Howard Trott: “It doesn’t produce green house emissions. It’s sustainable. It’s low maintenance, silent, offers a low visibility profile, and produces power even on cloudy days.”

Trott said his company submitted a development application to the county Tuesday.

Locals who came to the solar company’s briefing seemed most interested in the jobs the project might bring.

The 145-acre installation is billed as generating enough electricity to power 45,000 homes.

OPB News –


Giant Central Wash. $300M solar plant moves ahead August 19, 2009

Backers of one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic plants say they’re moving ahead to build their facility near Cle Elum in central Washington.

Teanaway Solar Reserve LLC officials said they’ve submitted a permit application to Kittitas County to build a 75-megawatt plant that will include 400,000 solar panels on 400 acres of former logging land. They’re estimating the overall private investment into the plant will be more than $300 million.

The project, they said, will create up to 225 “family-wage” jobs every year during the plant’s three-year construction period. The plant is expected to employ 35 people after it’s built.

“The Teanaway Solar Reserve (is) an example of the ideal 21st century business — one that benefits individuals, the community and the planet at the same time,” said Howard Trott, managing director, in a statement.

The permit application contains “hundreds of pages necessary for county land use and environmental review,” Teanaway officials said in a statement. When complete, the project would provide enough energy for about 45,000 homes, they said.

Puget Sound Business Journal –


Solar giant eyes Oregon May 28, 2009

Filed under: Green Jobs,Manufacturing,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 12:08 pm
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Oregon has made the list of possible homes for a manufacturing facility for one of the world’s largest makers of solar energy products.

China-based SunTech Power Holdings Inc. last week announced plans to open manufacturing operations in the U.S.

A SunTech executive confirmed that Oregon is not only on the list, but the state has been its most aggressive suitor after paying several visits to executives in China.

“They’ve been pursuing us long before we even made a commitment internally to even build a plant in the U.S.,” said Steve Chadima, vice president of external affairs in publicly-held SunTech’s U.S. operations. Oregon is “pretty much at the top of the list in terms of their aggressiveness.”

by Erik Siemers, Portland Business Journal