Northwest Renewable News

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

Project aims to turn irrigation ditch into power November 11, 2009

Filed under: Micro Hydro,Montana,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 8:47 pm
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An $11 million hydroelectric facility that will harness flows from an irrigation canal in the same way power is tapped from rivers is planned west of Fairfield, with NorthWestern Energy lined up to buy the electricity.

The Turnbull Hydroelectric Project, which will produce 13 megawatts of electricity, will be constructed 4 miles west of Fairfield on the Spring Valley Canal in the Greenfields Irrigation District. That district distributes water from the Sun River to farmers and ranchers, said hydroelectric engineer Ted Sorenson of Idaho Falls.

Turnbull Hydro LLC, which is building the facility, is a joint venture of Sorenson, rancher Wade Jacobsen and the Greenfields Irrigation District.

The 13 megawatts is enough electricity to power 8,000 to 10,000 homes. Most of the power probably will be used in the immediate vicinity, he said.

“All of Fairfield will be energized from this power,” Sorenson said.

When the project is finished, Turnbull will be considered a “summer peaker” because it will provide power when water and air conditioner use is high. The system will operate during irrigation season from May to September. Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2010.

Using irrigation canals to generate electricity at times of peak demand is common in Idaho and California, but the Greenfield’s project is the first Sorenson knows of in Montana.

“It’s a new application of old technology,” said Sorenson, who was the project engineer on a 7.5-megawatt hydroelectric project completed at Tiber Dam in 2004.

Separate generating facilities will be placed at two concrete canal “drops,” or flumes, known as Upper Turnbull and Lower Turnbull, along the Spring Valley Canal.

Upper Turnbull is 1,100 feet long and drops 100 feet, while the 2,600-foot Lower Turnbull descends 140 feet. The flumes carry water from Pishkun Reservoir across steep declines.

“They’re kind of like a big waterslide,” Sorenson said.

Pipelines parallel to each flume will divert the water. As the water descends through the contained pipelines, the resulting pressure will be captured at the bottom of the flumes with turbines, which will convert it into electricity.

It’s the same concept as having a tank of water in the attic of a home that produces good faucet pressure on the main floor, Sorenson said. Energy from the flumes, which were constructed in 1928, is going to waste right now, Sorenson said.

The diverted water will be returned to the canal system without disrupting delivery to producers, Sorenson said.

NorthWestern Energy, which provides electricity and natural gas to 656,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, announced Tuesday that it had signed a 20-year contract with Turnbull to purchase the power.

NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said the company requested bids for renewable energy supply agreements a year ago, then reached a deal with Turnbull after a lengthy negotiation.

“This particular project is very cost effective, very favorable to customers,” she said.

The green power will help NorthWestern meet the state’s renewable energy standards, which require public utilities to procure a minimum of 10 percent of their retail sales of electricity from renewable resources by 2010, and 15 percent by 2015, Rapkoch said.

KARL PUCKETT, Great Falls Tribune –


Power from Nothing: Northwest’s 20-year energy plan stresses conservation October 26, 2009

The Bonneville Power Administration paid Woody Guthrie $266.66 to write 26 songs in 30 days in 1941 to promote what the BPA was selling, hydroelectricity. The songs celebrated the Columbia River, Grand Coulee Dam and “electricity runnin’ all around, cheaper than rainwater.” One of Guthrie’s best, Roll on, Columbia, Roll on, became Washington’s official folk song.

If Guthrie hired on today, he might warble about efficient washing machines, compact fluorescent bulbs and ductless heat pumps. Roll on, conservation measures, roll on.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, created by Congress in 1980 when the region was suffering from ill-fated investments in unneeded nuclear plants, will soon adopt a plan intended to guide energy development in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana for the next 20 years.

In Guthrie’s day, electricity was not only as cheap as rainwater, but as plentiful as well. Today, power generation is suppose to be easy on the environment, too. With the dam-building era over and the climate-change epoch beginning, the power council says conservation will be the No. 1 way the region will keep up with the demand for electricity.

According to a draft of the 20-year plan, conservation measures will not only cost a fraction of new power plants, it will reduce the release of greenhouse gases.

Besides conservation, the council says the region can meet its energy needs with more wind turbines and natural gas-fired power plants, though the council doesn’t rule out emerging forms of green energy and even the re-emergence of nuclear plants.

Environmental groups praise the council’s emphasis on conservation and wind power.

“This is the best plan they’ve ever put out,” Northwest Energy Coalition spokesman Marc Krasnowsky, whose organization nevertheless complains the council didn’t take a strong enough stand against coal plants, the electricity sector’s top emitter of greenhouse gases.

The council estimates that between 2010 and 2030, the four-state region will need enough new electricity to power five cities the size of Seattle. Four of those cities, according to the council, could be energized by simply using less electricity to run everything from traffic lights to irrigation systems.

By conservation, the council does not mean turning down the thermostat and putting on a sweater. Energy savings will come as businesses and homes gradually switch to energy-stingy lights, appliances, electronics, motors, pumps, fans, etc. “There is nothing pie-in-the-sky here,” council spokesman John Harrison said. “We’re not assuming any unusual consumer behavior.”

Regionwide, according to the council, the greatest savings will come in homes. In Guthrie’s day, aluminum smelters drove up the demand for electricity. Now, lifestyles push up consumption. Televisions per household (2.73) outnumber people (2.6). Nursing homes and assisted-living centers will become massive users of electricity as baby boomers age. An increasing number of air conditioners will make the region’s summertime use of power nearly as high as in the winter.

In industry-heavy Cowlitz County, though, energy savings primarily will come from 27 industrial customers, which consume three-quarters of the electricity supplied by Cowlitz PUD.

Over the next decade, the PUD hopes to do its part and conserve enough electricity for 13,000 households. Some 80 percent of the savings are expected to come in the industrial sector, PUD energy conservation manager Jim Wellcome said.

“We’re going to have to look more to industries. We can’t get the kind of numbers we’re looking at just from the residential and commercial sectors. Not even close,” he said. “That’s the difference between our utility and other utilities.”

The PUD already spends $2 million a year to reward ratepayers who take energy-saving measures such as insulating attics, installing weather-tight windows and buying efficient appliances. The utility plans to approximately double the amount it spends on incentives to help industries pay for energy-saving projects and to give rebates to industries that cut energy consumption.

“They need these incentives because they’re businesses concerned about the bottom line,” Wellcome said.

The PUD says ratepayers will benefit by subsidies to businesses because lower industrial consumption will hold down residential rates. “It’s cheaper to conserve than to build a plant to generate power,” PUD spokesman Dave Andrew said.

Conservation will become all the more important to PUD and it’s customers in 2011. That’s when BPA will limit the amount of low-cost federal hydropower it will sell utilities such as Cowlitz PUD. The more customers conserve, the less the PUD will have to shop around for expensive non-BPA power, Andrew said.

Even if utilities meet conservation goals, however, the Northwest still will need new sources of electricity.

In assessing where that electricity will come from, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council concluded that it’s unlikely more coal plants will be built in the region unless greenhouse gases can be permanently stored underground rather than released into the air. So far, the technology is unproven on a large scale.

Critics complain the council should be bolder in charting how the region can retire its existing coal plants.

“It’s become clear we have to reduce carbon emissions and holding them steady is not enough,” Krasnowsky said. “There’s no way to do it without dealing with coal.”

Coal plants emit 85 percent of the carbon dioxide from the region’s energy generators while supplying 18 percent of the electricity.

In comments to the council, Kennecott Energy, which operates coal mines in Wyoming, Montana and Colorado, argued the coal industry is becoming less damaging to the environment and that there is no cheaper or more reliable source of energy than coal. Coal should play a greater role in the Northwest, according to Kennecott.

The council’s power plan, however, observes that even the cleanest new coal plants can’t meet carbon-emission limits set by Washington, Oregon and Montana.

Washington’s law scuttled plans to build a coal plant in Kalama. Before that happened, the plant’s proponent, Energy Northwest, distanced itself from coal by saying the plant would probably use primarily petroleum coke, a byproduct from refining oil that actually emits more carbon, sulfur and metals than coal.

Harrison, the council spokesman, said the council has no authority to regulate coal plants, but it foresees the possibility that a carbon tax or federal cap on emissions will curtail output from those plants and help states meet their goals to roll back carbon emissions.

“I think we can assume there will be some control of carbon emissions,” he said.

Main sources of Northwest energy in the next 20 years


Conservation measures, such as installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, will meet 85 percent of the Northwest’s demand for more electricity over the next 20 years.


Laws mandating investments in renewable energy guarantee wind farms will continue to sprout in the Northwest.

Natural gas

The region may need to build more natural gas-fired plants to reduce the use of coal and pick up the slack when calm weather cuts the output of wind turbines.

Green energy

Small-scale renewable energy plants, such as ones that burn wood debris, could supplement and back up wind turbines.


It’s unlikely more coal-fired power plants will be built unless technology can be perfected that will allow carbon emissions to be stored permanently underground instead of released into the air.


The Trojan cooling tower (above) was imploded in 2006, and only one Northwest nuclear plant remains. A new-generation of nuclear plants could be a source of energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change.


Hydroelectricity supplies nearly half of the energy used in the Northwest. Additional large hydro projects appear unlikely, but there could be new small-scale development.


BPA hearing on new transmission line is Thursday

Higher natural gas prices, carbon taxes on coal plants and mandates to invest in renewable energy likely will gradually push electric rates up.

The Bonneville Power Administration is holding a public meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at Mark Morris High School to discuss a proposed new transmission line extending from Castle Rock to Troutdale, Ore.

The federal agency says it’s seeking to build the line between two new power substations to meet growing power demand along the Interstate 5 corridor.

The transmission system in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon is approaching capacity, according to the BPA.

For more information on the proposal, visit

The Daily News –


Oregon Utility seeks to add turbines despite roadblocks October 20, 2009

Filed under: Micro Hydro,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 8:03 pm
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Amid the nation’s headlong rush for clean energy, two projects in Lane County show just how hard it can be to develop new sources of eco-friendly hydroelectric power.

Efforts to add electricity generating turbines to two flood-control dams on Willamette River tributaries are bogged down with environmental and financial problems. The turbines would generate enough electricity to power about 2,700 homes.

The Emerald People’s Utility District wants to add turbines to the Dorena dam on Row River and the Fall Creek dam on the Middle Fork of the Willamette. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the two dams, which were built decades ago to rein in devastating seasonal flooding.

EPUD, which buys 98 percent of its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration, wants its own hydroelectric sources in order to increase its portfolio of renewable energy and to help keep down customer costs as BPA hikes its rates. The member-owned utility serves about 20,000 customers, mostly residential, in an area that roughly surrounds Eugene-Springfield.

The utility has partnered with Symbiotics Inc., an Idaho-based corporation that specializes in adding hydropower to existing dams. A unit of Symbiotics, Dorena Hydro LLC, received a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission almost a year ago, and EPUD had planned to begin construction on the project last summer.

But the economic downturn has altered that, EPUD officials said.

“The market right now has dropped tremendously for wholesale power,” said EPUD General Manager Frank Lambe. Coupled with construction costs that haven’t dropped, the project has become financially challenging, he said.

On the plus side, in the intervening months the federal government has begun providing stimulus money for a wide range of projects.

Stimulus money for energy projects can only go to private companies, while state funds to encourage clean energy projects come in the form of tax credits, requiring that companies have a tax liability to benefit from them, EPUD officials said.

So, EPUD and Symbiotics need a private company to build the Dorena project and take the tax breaks, then sell the turbine system to them once it is constructed, said EPUD power resources manager Pamela Hewitt.

State and federal financial help could shave as much as 35 percent off construction costs, Hewitt said.

EPUD previously has estimated the cost of construction at between $12 million and $15 million. More recent estimates are higher than that, she said.

But the clock is ticking on Dorena. To take advantage of the stimulus money, construction has to begin by 2010 and be completed by 2014, officials said.

The Fall Creek hydro project also is snagged — but in a different way. Unlike the Dorena hydropower proposal, which already has been licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, EPUD’s proposal to add power to the Fall Creek dam is still going through pre-license regulatory hoops, and one of them may be a deal-breaker for EPUD.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t trust the fish screens proposed at the three power-generating turbines to keep imperiled juvenile salmon on their downstream passage from going through the turbines and being harmed or killed in the turbulence.

Federal regulators want EPUD to do a preliminary study on the effectiveness of the screens. The commission estimates the study would cost $500,000, and wants it done before issuing a preliminary license.

Here’s how the federal agency put it in a recent letter to Symbiotics:

“Given the importance of being able to provide safe and effective passage (for the fish), it is imperative that we work through the unknowns before the project is licensed. The alternative of issuing a license with performance standards is unacceptable since we have no basis for the assumption that the proposed protection measure will be effective.”

EPUD estimates the study at closer to $1 million and says the project can’t move forward without some confidence that the investment will pay off and that EPUD will win the license.

“It is not reasonable to expect an applicant to pursue final detailed design work before they are reasonably assured by a FERC license that no other hurdles will prevent development of the proposed project,” EPUD wrote in its appeal of the FERC decision.

If the commission insists on the study, that could jeopardize the project, Hewitt said.

“That’s going to be a decision our board is going to have to weigh in on,” she said.

Currently at Fall Creek, salmon heading upstream are captured by the corps below the dam, trucked above it and released. Salmon heading downstream go through a dangerous chute in the dam that injures many of them.

The utility expects the Dorena project to provide 15.5 million kilowatt hours per year, enough to power about 1,200 homes.

Fall Creek, if built, would provide 18.7 million kilowatt hours per year, or enough for about 1,500 homes.

EPUD’s goal is to obtain 15 percent to 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2011.

Susan Palmer, The Register-Guard


Work begins on Juniper Ridge micro-Hydro project October 18, 2009

Filed under: Micro Hydro,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 4:44 pm
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A thunderous roar from a small explosive charge marked the official start of construction Monday on the $26 million Juniper Ridge Project, an unprecedented project that will return water supplies to the Deschutes River and generate carbon-free energy.

U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, along with state officials, representatives from the Central Oregon Irrigation District, Deschutes County, the Deschutes River Conservancy and Portland General Electric Company attended the groundbreaking ceremony five miles north of Bend along Highway 97.

Immediately following the ceremony, construction crews began replacing 2.5 miles of open irrigation canal, owned and operated by the Central Oregon Irrigation District, with underground steel pipe and an innovative, small hydropower system.

By conserving water supplies previously lost through the porous canal, the Juniper Ridge Project will benefit Deschutes River salmon and reintroduced steelhead.

Walden called the project a step forward for the environment: “The amount of water that will be going into the Deschutes River, for fish, equals 11 Olympic swimming pools per day – 11 per day.”

Unlike the Swalley Irrigation District canal piping, this project has not drawn an uproar from nearby residents, because there aren’t many.

COID will have to shell out $100,000 during construction, to provide eight landowners supplemental water.

Board Chairman Carroll Penhollow said the district will finance a six-day per week water-hauling service to landowners. “They’ll water their cattle then by hauling the water in by truck, so that they have that water available to them through the Winter.”

Approximately 20 cubic-feet per second of water presently diverted from the Deschutes River for irrigation purposes by COID will be permanently returned to the river, increasing instream river flows for fish and wildlife species.

Once the new pipe is in place, a small hydropower unit will be installed in the summer of 2010. This state-of-the-art unit will generate up to 3.37 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity annually, or enough power for roughly 2,000 homes.

Irrigation district patrons will also benefit because the project will modernize district conveyance facilities and improve overall system efficiencies.

“We appreciate the support we’ve received from the State of Oregon, the federal government and many others,” said Carroll Penhollow, chairman of COID’s board of directors. Penhollow added, “Our farmers, ranchers and everyone else who relies on our district should be proud that we’re improving district efficiencies while protecting the environment.”

The State of Oregon, along with several business and conservation groups played an instrumental role in financing the project.

“We are very pleased to help fund this important project through a state tax credit and small energy loan,” said Mark Long, Director of the Oregon Department of Energy. “This project not only benefits fish and wildlife species, it will provide economic benefits to the local community.”

“This project will improve water quality and fish habitat in a very important part of Oregon,” said Dick Pedersen, Director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. “DEQ is pleased to work with a group of people who share our goals of improved water quality. The collaboration between the irrigation district, Oregon Department of Energy and DEQ worked very smoothly.”

“This project is a great example of how we can generate clean renewable local power in Oregon,” said Betsy Kauffman, senior program manager with Energy Trust of Oregon. “We’re happy to be involved with a project that has benefits for the district, the community, and the watershed.”

“The city felt it was important to step forward as a partner in this project,” said Bend City Manager Eric King. “The benefits to the community and the environment are truly significant.”

“Projects like this don’t come along every day. It is gratifying to see so many people come together to make the project happen,” said Julie Keil, Director of Hydro Licensing for PGE. “PGE and the Confederated Tribes are happy to be a part of the effort.”

Total project costs are estimated at $26 million. Oregon’s Department of Energy has provided a $4.2 million Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) to COID, and a $12 million low-interest loan. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality awarded the District a $2 million grant, along with a $2 million zero-interest loan from federal stimulus funds.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board awarded COID a $1 million grant and the Deschutes River Conservancy is providing a $1 million grant for the project from federal Bureau of Reclamation stimulus funds. Energy Trust of Oregon is providing a $1 million grant.

The City of Bend is contributing $278,000 and the Portland General Electric Co. is contributing $250,000. The District is financing $5 million in upfront capital costs and will repay approximately $19 million in loans and debt service.

During the project’s construction in 2009/2010, COID will provide eight landowners with a supplemental water supply to compensate for the shutdown of the irrigation canal.

These eight landowners have large livestock herds and no alternative water supply. The District will finance a six-day per week water hauling service to each landowner; the hauler will provide a 2-day supply. District costs for this service are roughly $100,000.

The project’s construction will be managed locally by the Slayden Construction Group along with Jack Robinson & Sons. Materials for the project are being produced by the Northwest Pipe Company of Portland, and the James Leffel & Company of Central OH. All of the project’s materials are made in the U.S.

The Juniper Ridge Project is scheduled to be complete and producing energy by next summer.

COID Manager Steve Johnson said, “So together with this plant, and the existing plant, we’ll be providing carbon-free energy to 5,000 homes, in the Central Oregon area. That’s roughly 10 percent of the Bend market.”


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Hydropower: It’s Renewable, But Is It Green? May 11, 2009

A federal judge in Portland is considering how the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia iRver interact with salmon.

At the same time, environmentalists continue to push the Obama Administration to remove several of the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River.

And that leads us to the next installment in our energy series, The Switch.

Hydroelectric power has long been part of the Northwest’s fabled history. In fact, Woody Guthrie wrote a whole album about building the Columbia River dams.

But in our clean energy future, is hydropower really “green” enough?

Ethan Lindsey explores the issue.
Hydro power and the Northwest. They’re nearly synonymous, even for people who’ve never heard Guthrie’s “Roll on Columbia.”

In fact, when Fran Halpin graduated from college in Massachusetts, it just made sense to move West and work on one of the country’s biggest renewable energy projects.

Fran Halpin: “I came here and got a job with Bonneville, and I said, this is like my dream job. I get to do engineering and I get to be environmentally conscious, and work with fish survival and renewable energy and conservation. Being an engineer, I am not that much of a braggard. People have to pry this stuff out of me. It is a job I am very proud to be doing and happy to be doing. I’ve loved it ever since I came out here.”

Halpin works in the Portland offices of the Bonneville Power Administration.

Today, he heads up a team that watches the water flow of the Columbia River system and markets power accordingly.

Through Halpin’s eyes, the hydroelectric power generated along the Columbia is one of the best answers we’ve got to our energy questions.

His office sits next to a trading floor and monitoring room – both of which feature banks and banks of computer screens.

Fran Halpin: “I have a couple of displays here that I can show you if you want. Ok, so this is about midnight here. So we’re at 1500 megawatts or 1700 megawatts at Grand Coulee. And then it’s dropping off between midnight and 1 o’clock. Turning off the Late Show, electric heaters are turning off. And then, early risers start getting up, so you start seeing the load picking up, people are coming into schools or offices, so the load does come way up.”

The Bonneville Power Administration sells and markets electric power generated from the federally-owned energy projects in the Northwest – that includes wind and nuclear power, as well as BPA’s bedrock business: hydroelectric dams.

On a tour of the Bonneville Dam, the sheer scale of the engineering is breathtaking.

The dams are operated by federal agencies, notably the Army Corps of Engineers.

Dams make up the biggest piece of the Northwest’s hydroelectric pie.

They’re a reliable source of base load power. That and their ability to respond to increased demands at peak times are key selling points of hydro.

Longtime Oregonians remember when hydro constituted more than 90 percent of the state’s power a few decades ago.

Inside the dam, next to the energy turbines, it’s hard to believe that hydro’s share of the regional power mix has now been cut in half.

Population and energy growth has been coupled with a push to sell cheaper power to California.

So now, Oregon gets just 42-percent of its energy from hydroelectric power.

Still, hydro is one of the cheapest – if not the cheapest – power source we’ve got.

The Bonneville Power Administration says its average price per kilowatt-hour over the past year was 2.73 cents.

The only rival is coal – but hydro supporters like to point out the dams don’t pump any pollution into the sky.

And on top of all that, it’s renewable.

Steve Wright: “Well, hydro is clearly renewable. I don’t think there’s any question about that. The fact of the matter is, it’s the cycle of water that we are able to take advantage of.

Steve Wright is the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration.

He says it’s also sustainable, and in his mind, green.

Steve Wright: “I believe the fundamental value of the electric power system in the Northwest resides in that river. This is a huge river, and it sits on the side of a very steep hill. And that’s a unique opportunity. Hydro power is the best renewable resource because it is the lowest cost and most reliable renewable resource. And I think that’s why so many people in the Northwest feel connected to the Columbia.”

But Wright, as well as anyone, knows and acknowledges the environmental costs of the dams.

They damaged the nearby habitat, forever changed cultures, and killed lots and lots of fish.

And to Brett Swift at the conservation group American Rivers, a label like “green” or “sustainable” or “renewable” just doesn’t fit.

Brett Swift: “Dams absolutely have an adverse impact on the environment. The important question is ‘what is the role of hydropower in the future of our energy mix. And how we label it doesn’t necessarily inform that.”

Swift says American Rivers knows that hydropower will be a part of the region’s future energy reliance – but says that doesn’t mean we should start building new dams or dismiss getting rid of old, inefficient ones.

One model for future hydro is small-scale, low impact dams.

Jerry Bryan stands next to a small hydroelectric project in the Farmers Irrigation District outside Hood River

The entire facility is about the size of a 7-11.

Jerry Bryan: “You are looking right now at the control panels for both of those generators. I still think that I am staring at engineering technology from the 40s and 50s.”

Unlike a traditional dam, this project allows fish to swim by unimpeded and yet provides local irrigators with the water they need to grow their crops.

Many in the state say little hydro projects like this could serve as models for low-impact, small scale power generation in the future, but Bryan is reluctant to take any praise.

Jerry Bryan: “If I am going to stand here and say a project I am working on is a model for everyone, I am justly accused of affected arrogance. So I am not willing to say that, but what I am willing to generalize is that if people sit down, then wonderful models emerge.”

Bryan says his project isn’t perfect. Every energy source has drawbacks.

And that’s the crux of the hydro debate, says Angus Duncan, with the non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Angus Duncan: “There’s a tendency to exalt some sources of energy, and demonize others. And for better or worse, hydro has been demonized in the Northwest. Right now, a far greater threat to salmon runs generally, is global warming. That is a bigger threat than the hydroelectric system.”

Duncan says inefficient and destructive dams are being torn out around the region right now. And that should continue.

But he says if we tear out the big dams,we’ll need to replace that energy with something else.

And until hydro power can be replaced by something other than coal, it’s “green” enough for most.



NV Energy offers incentives for renewable power March 5, 2009

Filed under: Farm/Ranch,Micro Hydro,Nevada,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 6:05 pm
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NV Energy Inc. is offering cash incentives to farmers and ranchers to offset the costs of installing wind or hydro power generating sources.

Officials say the new WindGenerations and HydroGenerations programs are an expansion of the company’s solar program that provides cash incentives to offset costs for installation of solar panels.

Similar incentives are already provided to all utility customers who install wind turbines.

Company officials say the rebates can offset up to 60 percent of the cost of the installed system.

HydroGenerations incentives for agricultural customers are paid by NV Energy according to the size of system installed.

Associated Press –


Hydrokinetic river generator gives power to remote villages in AK February 5, 2009

481-42069076871originalstandaloneprod_affiliate71A technology almost as simple as a Yukon River fishwheel could one day power the laptop computers and microwave ovens of Alaska’s river people. In Ruby it’s beginning to do just that.

Last summer, the Western Alaska village on the banks of the Yukon became the first community in America to tap into the power of an in-stream hydrokinetic generator, a submersible turbine that looks a bit like a tipped-over fish wheel.

In-stream power also gets called “low-impact hydro” and “hydro without the dam.” By any name, it may be an idea whose time has finally come.

A 100-kilowatt turbine about 20 times larger than Ruby’s is scheduled to be installed later this year in the Upper Yukon River village of Eagle, where it’s expected to power all the homes in town from breakup to freezeup.

That could eventually provide a fuel-free alternative to Eagle’s present practice of burning about 80,000 gallons of increasingly costly diesel fuel each year to generate electricity.

In-stream hydro is no longer just a quirky, renewable energy concept, Ruby project director Brian Hirsch said Tuesday, displaying a slide-show image of four generators now in production during a workshop on the subject at the 2009 Alaska Forum on the Environment under way in Anchorage.

“Every one of these devices that you see up there are not just an artist’s rendering anymore but actually a device that is made of steel and now producing electricity,” Hirsch said.

Admittedly not a whole lot so far. Unlike increasingly popular wind farms and geothermal power plants, in-stream hydro is still a costly technology in its infancy, with lots of unanswered questions. Especially in Alaska.


Can the turbines floating on the surface of the Yukon withstand bombardment by the huge logs that regularly drift downstream? Will the Yukon’s notoriously silty water damage their intricate mechanism? Or might the turbines cause problems of their own, disrupting river navigation or posing a threat to migrating fish?

The Ruby generator, a mere 5-kilowatt turbine capable of powering only two households, was an experiment. After one month of operation last summer, Hirsch can report that it works.

“But there’s a lot to improve,” he said.

On the plus side, in-stream hydro is a simple, highly portable technology that can be up and running in a matter of weeks and might be ideal for remote riverbank communities.

The Ruby project, sponsored by the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (Hirsch serves as the council’s energy program manager), was partly assembled in Fairbanks, then barged downstream from Nenana. Its price tag was $65,000.

That included the cost of the turbine itself, manufactured by a Canadian firm, as well as the cost of a pontoon boat to float it, gear to anchor it, a debris boom to protect it and underwater transmission cables to connect the generator to Ruby’s power grid.

Ruby was selected as a test case partly because diesel-generated power there is so expensive, and partly because its residents enthusiastically supported the project, Hirsch said. Ruby also satisfied some technical requirements.

In-stream turbines ideally get placed in the part of a river where the current is strongest. That’s usually on the surface near the middle, where the river is deepest. But placing it in the middle of a river increases the length of the transmission lines required and possibly creates navigational hazards. Ruby proved ideal because the fastest, deepest current was close to shore.

To protect the turbine from floating driftwood, the construction team fashioned a simple A-frame prow out of two logs. That was only halfway successful, Hirsch said. It diverted everything that floated on the surface. But some debris on the Yukon floats beneath the surface, and it accumulated on the vessel’s anchor chain. Eventually all the snagged flotsam began to shield the turbine from the current and lowered its electrical output.

“It’s a challenge, and it’s something we’re working on,” Hirsch said.

The larger in-stream hydro turbine waiting to be installed in Eagle this summer may offer an answer to that problem. It’ll come equipped with a heavy, metal sieve-like prow that will extend deep into the river, deflecting subsurface debris.

Underwritten by a $1.6 million grant from the Denali Commission, the Eagle project was proposed and advanced by the Alaska Power & Telephone Co., a Washington-state- based utility that provides Eagle residents with electricity. The company chipped in some seed money of its own.

But it’s still “really expensive” per kilowatt to put a hydrokinetic generator in the water when you compare the new technology with more mass-produced renewables like wind power, said Benjamin Beste, an AP&T engineer who also addressed the forum.

Even so, Beste thinks in-stream hydro is a viable summer source of power for Eagle, as well as other small, isolated river communities in Alaska. He doesn’t think the turbines could avoid damage in winter or spring, when break-up occurs. Like Ruby, the in-stream hydro operators in Eagle plan to remove their turbines from the river each fall.

And its effect on migrating salmon? “The fishery impact is not really well known yet,” Beste said.

What is known is that adult salmon that migrate upstream favor the slowest current in the river, rather than the fastest, where in-stream turbines are typically placed, said Gwen Holdman, director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

So adult salmon might be OK, as well as the fishing vessels that pursue them. But juvenile salmon migrating downstream to sea as smolts prefer the faster current to expedite their journey, and they represent a potential concern, Holdman said.

The university’s energy center plans to study such issues if and when a 50-kilowatt in-stream generator is installed this summer as planned in the Tanana River at Nenana.

And Ruby might receive another turbine — a 25-kilowatt generator large enough to satisfy about half the village’s summer energy needs — if a renewable energy appropriation previously approved by the Alaska Legislature survives the current session.

By GEORGE BRYSON, The Anchorage Daily News