Northwest Renewable News

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

NREL gives green light to feed-in tariffs February 16, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 5:20 pm

A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that feed-in tariffs established by states to promote the use of renewable energy are legal under certain conditions, clearing the way for the programs that aim to level the pricing playing field.

The long-awaited NREL report points out that that the feed-in tariffs can be lawful under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (or PURPA), if they are voluntarily offered by utilities, or based on “avoided cost” and paid with renewable energy credits, subsidies, or tax credits.

Oregon is one of four states that have established feed-in tariff programs. Oregon’s was started last year as pilot program under House Bill 3039. The legislation did not establish the incentive rate or rules for the pilot program and the Public Utilities Commission must adopt rules and approve the rate for the incentive payment by April 1.

Portland Business Journal –


Regulators seek comments on Ore. wave energy project February 13, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Wave/Tidal Power — nwrenewablenews @ 8:57 pm
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Now’s your chance to learn more about a proposed wave energy project off Gardiner and comment about it to federal regulators.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received a water permit application from the developers and the agency has opened a 30-day comment period. The deadline is March 10.

Reedsport OPT Wave Park has proposed constructing a 10-buoy array, with an underwater substation pod and transmission cable. Each buoy will have a 36-foot diameter, placed about 330 feet apart. They all would have about 200 gallons of hydraulic fluid, but spills are unlikely because of a double containment system.

OPT also will have a spill control and counter measure response plan.

Comments can be mailed to Merina Christoffersen, 1600 Executive Parkway, Suite 210, Eugene, OR, 97401-2156; e-mailed to, or faxed to (503) 229-6957.

The Army Corps will use comments to determine whether to hold a public hearing as well as whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit.

For more information, call (503) 229-6030 or toll free within Oregon at (800) 452-4011. A video demonstration of the project is available at the OPT Web site,

The World –


Oregon House passes biomass energy bill February 11, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Utility Companies — nwrenewablenews @ 2:26 pm

Two energy-related bills moved from the Oregon House on Wednesday and went to the Senate.

House Bill 3674, which passed 60-0, allows some pre-1995 plants powered by biomass or municipal solid waste to be counted against Oregon’s goal of utilities obtaining 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. The bill also allows utilities to collect for steps toward development of hydrogen power stations.

The bill’s first part was a reworking of a 2009 bill vetoed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who said he is satisfied with the changes.

“The compromise legislation ensures this renewable energy resource continues to help the state reduce its carbon emissions while also maintaining Oregon’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard and improving the health of our forests,” he said in a statement.

House Bill 3675, which passed 59-1, makes technical changes to a 2009 state loan program for projects promoting energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy.

Peter Wong, Statesman Journal –


Despite possible suit, canola project continues in Ore. February 10, 2010

Filed under: Biofuels,Farm/Ranch,Legal/Courts,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 5:02 pm
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An economic development grant approved by Josephine County officials last year has hit a snag, but Commissioner Dave Toler said that the project remains worthwhile and has benefited the community.

The $85,000 grant was approved by the board of county commissioners on Jan. 13, 2009 by a 2-1 vote, with Sandi Cassanelli dissenting. It was awarded to the Josephine County Soil and Water Conservation District (JCSWCD), which was charged with administering the grant in cooperation with the Eugene-based firm, N.W. Seed Crushers.

At the time, it was hoped that canola could be grown by area farmers, which could then be crushed, with the resulting oil used for biofuels. The growing of canola is prohibited in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, but not in the southwest portion of the state.

However, the partnership between N.W. Seed Crushers and JCSWCD now appears to be dissolving, and could end up in litigation.

Toler addressed the issue during the Wednesday, Feb. 3 meeting of the Josephine County Renewable Energy Task Force, held at the courthouse in Grants Pass.

Only half of the grant allotment has been spent, Toler said, meaning that the other half is still available.

Toler touted certain aspects of the grant allocation. He said that more than 300 acres of canola have been planted throughout the county as a result, with several growers participating.

Kit Doyle has taken the lead on the project, Toler said, and has created partnerships with many growers. Doyle also has a waiting list of other growers hoping to become involved, Toler said.

A production facility for the crop may be established somewhere in the county soon, Toler said, adding that the Applegate Valley is becoming the local “epicenter” of canola growing.

Once the canola seed is crushed, around 70 percent of the product can be used as an agricultural feed product, Toler said, and the rest can be used as a biofuel.

He said that a new state mandate requires that 3 percent of the diesel consumed in Oregon come from renewable energy sources. There is currently an inadequate supply of such renewables in the state right now, he said, so it is being imported from Montana.

“This is definitely growing,” Toler said.

The grant was intended to stimulate the growth of biofuels crops, Toler said. Unless the commissioners vote to pull the remaining funding back, he said, it can go to a local contractor to continue the project.

“I think it will have a long-term impact in terms of agriculture,” Toler said. “With $43,000, we stimulated part of our agriculture sector. That’s great bang for our buck.”

Doyle will be scheduled to make a presentation to the commissioners sometime in mid-February about the canola project, Toler said.

Scott Jorgensen, Illionois Valley News –


Federal Biomass subsidies may get altered

Filed under: Biomass,Legal/Courts,Oregon,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 4:57 pm

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio is seeking to have sawdust and wood shavings removed from a program that provides federal subsidies for biomass used to create energy.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, DeFazio said the subsidy program has resulted in mill by-products being sent to biofuel and pellet plants rather than to composite wood manufacturing plants.

With the subsidies, the value of sawdust and wood shavings has doubled, making them less valuable for manufacturing, DeFazio said. At the same time, it has driven up the cost for manufacturers needing those materials for their products.

Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize the transfer of biomass material currently used for higher-value products to lower-value processes goes against congressional intent, DeFazio said, and is having a devastating impact on the U.S. wood manufacturing industries.

His letter was also signed by Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss.

“Driving up input costs for the composite and wood manufacturing industries will negatively impact their ability to compete globally and could ultimately lead to the loss of thousands of jobs,” DeFazio wrote. “During a time of 10 percent national unemployment — with many state unemployment rates even higher — we can ill afford to lose additional family-wage, U.S. manufacturing jobs.”

The three congressmen asked the Department of Agriculture to temporarily freeze subsidies provided through the Farm Service Agency until the list of eligible materials excludes wood mill waste, scraps, sawdust, chips and shavings. They also asked Vilsack to ensure that finalized rules and regulations are in place before the program continues.

The wood manufacturing and composite industries support 21,000 family wage jobs, 350,000 indirect jobs and generate $7.9 billion in annual revenues, the letter said.

John Sowell, News Review


Oregon House Approves Scaled-Back Green Tax Credits

Oregon lawmakers are trying again to scale back tax credits for renewable energy projects. Governor Ted Kulongoski vetoed their first attempt last year.

The Oregon House approved a new version of the bill Wednesday and this time, the governor’s on board. Chris Lehman reports.

The Business Energy Tax Credit has been around since the late 70’s but three years ago lawmakers sweetened the deal.

They wanted to entice more renewable energy companies to invest in the state.

In that sense, it worked. But it ended up giving away more than lawmakers expected.

This measure would cap the credit, and save the state an estimated $55 million in the current budget.

Republican Representative Vicki Berger says it was a case of unintended consequences.

Vicki Berger: “We are on the map in terms of this kind of technology, which is a very good thing. But we do need to be sensitive to the fact that it can run away with our budget.”

The bill required approval by a three-fifths majority since scaling back a credit is considered a tax increase.It passed 59-to-1.

Governor Kulongoski issued a statement saying he’d sign the bill if it clears the Senate.

Chris Lehman, OPB News –


OR Legislators rewrite state renewable energy tax break February 7, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:24 pm

A legislative panel has agreed to rewrite a tax break that has spurred alternative energy projects — but also has threatened to put a big hole in the state budget.

A compromise bill that sets limits on business energy tax credits, particularly for large wind projects, drew approval from all 10 members of the House Revenue Committee at 8 p.m. Friday. It heads for a House vote this week.

“I am brain-dead, and I am terrified there is something awful in here we have missed,” said Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, who sits on the committee.

“That being said, we will have a chance to correct anything we missed as it moves through the process. I would caution that I do not want to see major shifts in the policy ideas we have articulated here, because that will cause me unending heartburn. … This is the perfect thing to do tonight.”

The bill helps plug what has threatened to be an additional loss of $100 million to state tax coffers.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he was satisfied with what lawmakers did to limit the credits, which are subtracted directly from income taxes owed by businesses. He had vetoed a 2009 attempt to set limits.

“Every tax credit has a shelf life and should be routinely reviewed to ensure it is still necessary to achieve its primary objective,” he said in a statement after Friday’s vote.

The issue stems from lawmakers’ 2007 expansion of the business energy tax credit, which was created in 1979, from 35 percent to 50 percent of a project’s cost with a cap of $10 million per project.

To help balance the current budget and limit projected tax losses to about $120 million, lawmakers last year proposed some restrictions, including a cap of $3.5 million on larger projects.

Kulongoski vetoed the bill, and the tax loss was estimated at $143.8 million.

Lawmakers were told by their tax analysts Wednesday that under current law, overall credits would cost the state an estimated $235 million in this budget cycle — nearly $100 million more than Kulongoski’s figure, and nearly twice the amount lawmakers planned.

For wind-related projects, the Oregon Department of Energy last month listed 34 applications for tax credits since the 2007 expansion. At Kulongoski’s direction, the agency took steps to restrict the credits.

To Associated Press news executives in Oregon, including Statesman Journal editors, Kulongoski defended his veto last week as a way to encourage alternative-energy projects. But he also accepted some of the responsibility for the ballooning credits, as reported in news accounts last year.

“I still think it was the right decision,” he said. “But I should have been more careful.”

House Bill 3680, which blends provisions of the vetoed bill and recommendations from the Energy Department, would reduce those tax losses by $55 million in the current budget and $98 million in 2011-13.

In addition to limiting tax credits on wind projects larger than 10 megawatts that receive pre-certifications this year, in 2011 and 2012, the new bill will cap overall credits for renewable-energy projects at $300 million for the current budget cycle and$150 million in 2011-12.

It also proposes to stretch out to six years, instead of the current five years, tax credits for large renewable-energy projects exceeding$10 million.

“What happened with this credit gives us a cautionary tale that even good ideas need to be managed appropriately,” said Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis.

One of the concerns addressed in the new bill was the breaking up of large projects into several small projects for businesses to get additional credits. That practice will be curtailed by the bill.

Advocates for renewable energy had urged lawmakers not to be too restrictive.

“Oregon should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” wrote Matt Blevins, a vice president of M&R Strategic Services, working with Renewable Northwest Project, and a former lobbyist for the Oregon Environmental Council.

“It must uphold its commitment to projects that have received preliminary incentive certifications to provide certainty to the market and encourage additional investment in the state.”

Blevins’ comments were in a column posted on the BlueOregon Web site.

Other portions of the new bill extend the tax-credit program in the renewable-energy manufacturing sector, which has created an estimated 1,800 direct jobs since 2006 and thousands more indirect jobs. Those numbers are expected to double in the next two years.

Jon Bartholomew, a policy advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, urged more transparency for the applications for such tax credits.

“The public trust in our government and programs like the business energy tax credit is predicated on being able to see what is going on,” he said.

Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, said the bill achieves a balance.

“We are protecting job creation in this state and a clean-energy future for Oregon,” he said. “At the same time we are adding accountability, using taxpayers dollars wisely, and having the program meet standards that the people of Oregon expect from their state government.”

Peter Wong, Statesman Journal