Northwest Renewable News

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Bend startup’s product Simplifying solar power installation February 9, 2010

Filed under: Emerging Technology,Manufacturing,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 12:34 pm
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A year ago, Bend solar-power startup AC Solar Technology did not even exist.

Last week, CEO Glenn Harris presented his company’s product, a solar module, to industry representatives from the United States, France and Switzerland at a startup conference in San Francisco.

And this week, AC Solar Technology expects to receive its ETL Listed Mark, which shows the modules meet Underwriters Laboratory safety standards, and which will allow the company to start production.

AC Solar Technology’s Blue Leaf 210W AC module, which is essentially a small solar electrical system, has the potential to open up the solar market to small commercial and residential users, Harris said. It simplifies solar power installation.

Photovoltaic systems produce DC, or direct current. Most electrical appliances in a home use AC, or alternating current. So most solar systems need wires that lead from the solar panels to an inverter, which converts direct current into alternating current. The wires continue from the inverter to the building’s electrical system.

The Blue Leaf module essentially removes the direct current portion. It has no DC wiring or components and uses AC from the modules to the power grid, according to a company news release. It has a single AC line leading from the inverter on the back panel. It’s like an extension cord, Harris said.

“We think the market is going to like a little 200 watt solar system,” he said. “That’s not something that’s been done before.”

Removing the DC part of the equation also simplifies installation for electricians, he said.

Costs for solar electric systems can vary, depending on the size, the system rating, installer and other factors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. On average, the costs run $8 to $10 per watt, before rebates or tax credits.

Harris estimates a Blue Leaf module, which measures about 5 feet by 3 feet, will cost $5 per watt installed, or about $1,500, after rebates and credits.

Before his work with AC Solar Technology, Harris worked for Bend-based PV Powered, which makes inverters, both as its president and also a consultant. He also served as CEO of SunCentric, a Grants Pass company that provides a variety of services for solar power firms.

Harris does not believe AC Solar will compete with PV Powered, at least not directly. PV Powered does not make small-sized inverters or modules, he said.

Founded in the middle of last year, Harris said AC Solar Technology does not have a real office.

But it’s looking to get one.

With its certification in hand, the company will be able to start manufacturing, first at a temporary location, he said. AC Solar, which expects to employ about 150 workers by the end of its third year, also has been seeking a permanent site, but Harris said he’s not optimistic it will be in Oregon.

The climate in the state has become uncertain with the debate over the Business Energy Tax Credit, sparked after its estimated $4 million cost expanded to $167 million in lost revenues .

Harris understands, he said, how that leaves lawmakers to make tough decisions, balancing the state’s need for tax revenue with its desire to encourage renewable energy.

Other criteria also factor into the decision on where to locate, Harris said, not just government incentives. Along with Oregon, he said, other states in the running are Arizona, Delaware and Michigan.

Arizona, with its abundant sunshine, major population centers and transportation infrastructure, is attractive, Harris said. In one morning in Phoenix, he saw about 10 buildings and 1 million square feet of real estate.

“Some of the other states are chomping at the bit,” he said.

Harris expanded on his company’s product and market in an interview with The Bulletin.

Q: What makes your product different?

A: The new technology is the box on the back. It takes the DC power right at the back and turns it into … AC. You could put one on your back fence. … You could put one on your roof and wire it right into a 110 (volt line). It’s just three regular wires going into your fuse box. You could walk into Costco and buy this thing. Basically, you enable everybody.

Q: Where does it fit within the solar power market.

A: (It has the) potential to open up lots of different markets. Our interest is expanding the residential market. (It’s a) market expansion device.

Q: Where is AC Solar Technology located presently?

A: We don’t have official offices at the moment. We’re looking for a place to call home. It’s time to put the stake in the ground. We’re going to build the modules. I think we’re pretty well ready to start manufacturing. The question will be where.

Q: What are the considerations?

A: It’s really not a competition, per se. It’s not like they walk in and hand you a check and say thanks for being here. It really comes down to: Is it a great place to build? How’s the transportation system? What the state does is icing on the cake.

Tim Doran, Bend Bulletin


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


Oregon Wind power entrepreneur readies turbine for market February 7, 2010

Filed under: Emerging Technology,Manufacturing,Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:53 pm
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After three years in development, a sullied business partnership and a significant financial set back, a Coquille woman’s invention — a roof-mounted appliance that generates electricity from wind — will soon reach the market.

Mary Geddry, CEO of Coquille-based Rogue River Winds, said the ultra-efficient, low-profile, sturdy wind turbine with a built-in generator called the V-LIM, is generating interest.

She’s gearing up production. But don’t expect any local manufacturing jobs to spin out of it — at least not anytime soon.

“There just isn’t the infrastructure in Coos County at this time,” she said.

After attempts to get the V-LIM off the ground locally failed, Geddry relocated the project to Portland where a prototype was in the works, before she again relocated it to Cottage Grove where it was completed and may be manufactured.

She said some manufacturers in Alaska and the East Coast have expressed interest in producing it, as well.

So what is it exactly?

Owners of industrial and commercial facilities who want to scale back energy usage can affix the V-LIM atop roofs — where wind velocity is greatest — to generate power to pump back into the grid.

The V-LIM is said to be more efficient than traditional wind turbines in that it produces electricity in winds ranging from light breezes to Class 2 hurricanes, is silent and vibration free even in gusts up to 100 miles per hour. As wind speed increases, so does the turbine’s power output.

It has rapid response steering foils to direct the turbine to face oncoming wind, according to a press release.

It’s about three meters in diameter and is designed for commercial and industrial use.

The unit costs between $125,000 to $150,000.

The price could be split.

If several large facilities within proximity of each other purchase one, they could share the cost savings.

“Our goal actually is to implement them into a microgrid, because that is the most cost effective way to purchase and provide power,” Geddry said.

The V-LIM produces 25 kilowatts on average during wind bursts. Peak energy users can expect a return on investment, in consistently blustery regions, in about three years, Geddry said.

The product has garnered interest from a local nonprofit seeking a new location with plans for a energy-efficient facility.

“We’ve been following her project,” said Patricia Gouveia, director of energy services at Oregon Coast Community Action. “Primarily, we want to develop a sustainable campus and support Coos County businesses, so it seemed like a good match if we can make it happen.”

“For a nonprofit,” she added, “if we can get to the point where we can pay our own energy costs, that’s a huge savings for us.”

Gouveia said they’d seek grant money to fund a project.

From concept to finished product was bumpy road. Geddry had hopes originally to design and manufacture the units locally, creating jobs. But a business partnership with a local entrepreneur fell apart.

“It just wasn’t getting done,” she said of the project. “It wasn’t getting finished and I had to get it finished.”

According to Geddry, every part manufactured here had to be replaced. The turbine has been re-engineered completely, which tripled her original cost projection.

She said the move to Portland was necessary to stay within a budget and timeline.

Geddry, who crafted the unit’s aerodynamic design, recruited brain power from Portland State University to upgrade the efficiency of the mechanism with a high-bandwidth generator.

Electrical engineer and Coos County resident Dr. Stanley Marquiss came on board to design a “plug-in-play” feature, which allows the appliance to configure itself into a facility’s energy system automatically once it’s installed.

Before the V-LIM can officially go on the market, it needs to be certified with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energies Laboratory, a process that could take about six months. In the meantime, Geddry hopes to begin production to meet demand — which may come from the U.S. Department of Defense.

All military bases, Geddry said, must produce 25 percent of energy from alternative sources, such as wind, by 2025.

Talks with the DOD are preliminary at this point, she said, but supplying the government agency with the V-LIM has potential.

“It appears that they would be one of our biggest markets,” she said.

Nate Traylor, The World –


Winds of change: Port looks beyond recent green boom

For two years, wind energy has brought a gale of a business to the Port of Longview. But change is blowing through the industry, and port officials say they are gearing for the end of boom times.

The port collected a combined $17.6 million in wind-energy handling fees in 2008 and 2009, and those fees were a major reason the port had record revenue each year. The off-loading of the giant wind towers, turbine blades and nacelles manufactured overseas has meant more work for area longshoremen, who recycle the money paid by shippers back into the community.

Federal officials are pushing for more domestic wind-energy manufacturing, which could translate into lower demand for imports through the port. The recession has stalled large-scale wind projects, and wind energy expansion is limited by the capacity of high-voltage transmission lines.

“The industry, as a whole, is experiencing some general flat-lining,” said Valerie Harris, Port of Longview marketing director.

Port officials forecast wind energy to be a steady commodity for about five to seven more years. Late in this decade, wind-energy equipment will likely come through the port intermittently instead of steadily, Harris said.

This year, business will slow down as a lagging effect of the recession, but it should pick up through the middle of the decade, Harris said.

In 2008, the port broke a nine-year-old record by hauling in $23.5 million in revenue. About 40 percent, or $9.4 million, was from wind-energy transport.

“It’s given us a lot of man hours and a lot of work, especially in the economic downturn,” said Dan Coffman, president of the Longview-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 21.

Port officials are predicting another record-breaking revenue year for 2009. Final numbers aren’t yet available, but the port’s wind-energy revenues fell to $8.2 million in 2009.

Going with the grain

So what’s the next big money-making cargo for the Port of Longview? The obvious answer is the $200 million grain terminal Portland-based EGT Development is building at the port. With a capacity of 8 million metric tons, the elevator is expected to make the Port of Longview a major West Coast grain exporter when it goes online next year.

The grain elevator is expected to create 50 full-time jobs, and 30 would go to longshoremen, Coffman said. The elevator likely will employ more people than wind energy imports because it will operate with more shifts, he said. Also, with demand rising in Asia, grain export isn’t likely to be a boom-and-bust business, port officials say.

“If wind energy does taper off, the (grain) facility will still be there,” said Ken O’Hollaren, Port of Longview executive director.

Revenue from log exports, once king at the port, is slowly coming back as the rest of the world emerges from the recession, O’Hollaren said.

The port also is exploring domestic shipping to other West Coast ports and expanding its barge traffic to inland states, he said. For example, the port could load logs on barges to travel along the coast or head inland along the Columbia River, O’Hollaren said.

Also, the port could start importing materials and parts such as steel paneling needed to build the wind towers and turbines if U.S. manufacturing starts to take off, Harris said.

“We haven’t waited until we saw a downturn or a flat-lining in wind,” she said.

Along the West Coast, the ports of Longview and Vancouver have emerged as the premier handlers of wind-energy cargo. In Vancouver, port officials say they haven’t pinpointed when wind-energy imports will sunset.

“It’s just too early to tell,” Port of Vancouver spokesman Nelson Holmberg said.

Wind blowing offshore?

The port’s wind energy business could reverse itself over the next few years.

Both Vancouver and Longview ports are looking to move into the export of wind energy equipment, especially with President Obama pushing for more green jobs. Over the past two years, the Port of Longview has loaded a handful of ships with wind-energy cargo manufactured stateside and bound for Asia and Europe.

“With the wind industry being a global industry, an increase in U.S. and worldwide manufacturing as well as installations will likely result in more activity for ports, back and forth, as markets continually adjust on a global basis,” said Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, a Washington, D.C.,-based trade group.

“For example, some components will eventually be exported from the U.S. to other countries as the U.S. builds up its capabilities and the president seeks to boost our exports,” she said.

Wind power capacity worldwide grew by 31 percent in 2009, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, and China accounted for about one-third of the growth. The United States accounted for about 10 percent.

About 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity already is on line in Oregon and Washington. Over the next two decades, Western states can handle about 4,500 more megawatts of wind energy, which would power more than 1 million homes, said John Harrison, spokesman for the Portland-based Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The electricity transmission grid can’t handle much more growth that, Harrison said. To help add capacity to the system, the Bonneville Power Administration, the largest power marketer in the Northwest, is planning to build a 70-mile-long transmission line from Castle Rock to Troutdale, Ore.

Wind energy depends on the wind blowing, which is why utilities need a reliable source, such as hyrdropower, as a backup, he said.

“When the wind isn’t blowing, the dams can be turned up. When the wind is blowing, the dams can be turned down,” Harrison said.

Demand for wind energy worldwide is likely to remain high for years, but it remains to be seen where clean-energy-hungry countries will buy the equipment.

Despite all the talk of adding domestic green power manufacturing, total employment in the industry was down in 2009. Without the federal stimulus package approved last February, wind energy would have lost 40,000 jobs, according to American Wind Energy.

Denmark and Japan remain the big players in the manufacturing of wind-energy components, which bodes well for the import business at the Port of Longview.

That’s good news to Coffman, president of the longshore union. Longview is an attractive port for wind-energy manufacturers because its has a new, $4.7 million mobile harbor crane and longshoremen experienced in handling wind cargo, he said. One Longview operator developed an innovative strategy to handle the turbines with a forklift more quickly, which boosts business, he said.

“It just shows the creativity of some of our people here,” Coffman said.

Erik Olson, The Daily News –


Weyerhaeuser-Mitsubishi sign biomass fuel deal February 2, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Manufacturing,Washington,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 3:12 pm
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Weyerhaeuser Co. said it’s signed a deal with Mitsubishi Corp. to explore possible future biomass-to-energy deals.

The Federal Way timber giant (NYSE: WY) and the Tokyo trading company said they’re interested in the feasibility of opening a commercial-scale production facility next year that would make bio-pellets from biomass (materials from trees and wood byproducts) and sell them to utilities and industrial users for energy production.

Mitsubishi currently operates two bio-pellet facilities in Japan and already has a deal to make bio-pellets in Germany.

“This opportunity has the potential to offer a significant renewable energy option here in North America and beyond while also creating green jobs in our operating communities. At the same time, we have the opportunity to enhance the value of Weyerhaeuser timberlands by converting residuals from our forest management activities into a new revenue stream,” said Dan Fulton, Weyerhaeuser CEO and president, in a statement.

Puget Sound Business Journal –


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

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


Oregon solar operations get $87M in tax credits

Filed under: Manufacturing,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 12:40 am
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Three companies have gotten a total of $87 million in tax credits to boost clean-energy technology in Oregon.

They include the SolarWorld wafer plant in Hillsboro and a German company, Centrosolar, reported to be interested in a photovoltaic operation in Gresham.

The SolarWorld plant got the largest amount of credits — $82 million — for an expansion.

Spokesman Ben Santarris called the credits a welcome addition as the company struggles to compete with panel manufacturers that get substantial government backing in countries such as China.

He said SolarWorld, also based in Germany, is hiring eight to 10 workers a week for the Hillsboro plant. The company plans to invest $500 million, have 1,000 employees and be able to produce solar panels with 500 megawatts of generation capacity.

A representative of Centrosolar told The Oregonian newspaper an announcement was expected Monday about the company’s plans. It got $4.7 million in credits.

The Oregon Department of Energy has approved a $6.2 million loan in October for CentroSolar America to finance construction of a 100-megawatt-capacity photovoltaic manufacturing facility in Gresham, although the money has not been disbursed.

Pacific Metal Fab got $304,000 in credits for producing parts for solar hot water systems in Eugene.

The Obama administration announced a total of $2.3 billion in tax credits Friday.

The credits are part of the federal stimulus program. The amounts are not cash grants, but would offset the companies’ tax liabilities.

Ashland Daily Tidings –