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 –


Wind tunnel breezes onto Portland State’s campus February 15, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,University Research,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:34 pm
Tags: ,

A new wind tunnel at Portland State University could bolster the city’s green cache by bringing top-level researchers to the city.

The custom-designed wind tunnel is being constructed in Wisconsin and will be shipped to PSU in March. It will be installed in a first-floor lab of the school’s new engineering building, 1930 S.W. Fourth Ave.

The tunnel is generating excitement in Portland design circles. Sustainability advocates expect the $500,000 tunnel to encourage high-level research into wind energy.

Having a research-grade piece of equipment in Portland will be immensely helpful to architects and engineers, said John Breshears, associate partner with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.

ZGF designed rooftop wind turbines for downtown Portland’s Twelve|West office-and-apartment project for Gerding Edlen Development Co. The four wind turbines installed in 2009 were among the first to be placed in an urban setting in the U.S.

For that project, ZGF and its partners did their research at Oregon State University’s two wind tunnels. Bringing precision research equipment to Portland will encourage similar innovation.

“I don’t know that many universities or cities that have that level of research. It will enable us to do more of the kinds of research we need to do,” said Breshears, who said the firm is interested in researching wind patterns so it can install turbines at its other projects.

ZGF also is interested in using it to study green roofs, an increasingly popular feature in sustainable design. Little is known about how they interact with the environment.

NASA and the National Science Foundation are providing the initial funding to operate the equipment and direct research, though the school is looking for additional partners and projects.

Raúl Bayoán Cal, an assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, leads the wind-tunnel project.

The effort is getting an assist from Oregon BEST, which has pledged to match any grants he secures and is linking him with industry, said David Kenney, president and executive director. The 2007 Legislature created the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center to develop and promote Oregon’s green industry cluster.

Kenney said that as the North American home to wind energy leaders such as turbine manufacture Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. and wind power provider Iberdrola Renewables, it’s important for Portland to gird its favorite new business sector with solid research capabilities.

“It’s a great connection,” he said.

The wind tunnel channels carefully controlled wind through a five-meter chamber where researchers duplicate the conditions they’re trying to study — temperature, pressure, ground configuration and so forth.

Lasers record how the air moves through the chamber.

Doctoral candidates will use it for high-level research, but it is also a teaching and recruitment tool to attract undergraduates and high school students to the hard sciences by giving them a hands-on experience.

“There’s nothing cooler than that,” he said.

It already has helped attract talent to Portland.

Max Gibson, a Ph.D. candidate studying under Cal, came to Portland from Mississippi by way of Canada. The wind tunnel, he said, is hugely attractive to students.

“This is going to put us on the map,” he said.

Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal^2877541


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
Tags: ,

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 –


Bend Based Geothermal company ready to drill

Filed under: Geothermal,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 2:19 pm
Tags: ,

Vulcan Power Co., a Bend-based geothermal energy company, expects to start construction on its first power plant within the year in Nevada.

The company was scheduled to start new drilling near Patua Hot Springs, east of Fernley, Nev., this week, with construction of a 60-megawatt power plant projected to begin in January, said Bob Warburton, Vulcan’s acting CEO.

Founded in 1991, Vulcan holds leases on about 170,000 acres of federal and private land in five states, giving it one of the largest portfolios of geothermal properties in the nation, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, an industry group.

A recent infusion of $108 million from Denham Capital, a private investment firm, will get the drilling started, Warburton said.

While it’s headquartered in Bend, Vulcan houses engineering and other operations in Reno and Fallon, Nev.

The company employs 49 people, but will be adding about 50 to 60 more to drilling crews over the next several months, Warburton said.

The company does not expect to add staff at the headquarters, located near Colorado and Columbia avenues.

Vulcan has several other projects in development, and in October, the company received a $3.8 million grant, which it must match, from the U.S. Energy Department to research methods for finding hidden geothermal reservoirs with potential to generate commercial power.

Fueled by government policies, geothermal energy development has soared in recent years.

After reporting no increase in geothermal electricity capacity from 2001 to 2004, the U.S. reported 3.5 percent growth in both 2007 and 2008, according to the Energy Department.

Last year, it grew 6 percent, with six geothermal plants coming online.

In 2009, geothermal accounted for about 2,800 construction-related jobs and 750 new full-time jobs, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.

“We feel very good about being in this market right now,” Warburton said.

Vulcan’s plans call for a second 60-megawatt geothermal plant at Patua, with additional 60-megawatt plants at three other sites in Nevada, the location for 85 percent of the company’s holdings.

Nevada, which has 21 operating geothermal power plants, has more projects in development than any other state, according to the association.

“It has become … a focal point for geothermal energy in the Western United States,” Warburton said.

Nevada and California increased their future requirements for renewable energy in 2009. The federal government started a loan program to fund innovative technology in geothermal and opened up other renewable energy financing, and the Bureau of Land Management has been selling geothermal leasing rights on federal land for several years.

Between June 2007 and November 2009, the agency sold leases on more than 723,000 acres in six Western states, reaping more than $73 million.

The BLM is currently conducting an environmental impact statement on a 127-acre site east of Fallon, where Vulcan proposes to build up to six 30-60 megawatt geothermal power plants. The review will also cover proposals by two other companies, one seeking to build a geothermal plant and the other requesting right of way for transmission lines.

“We think there’s a lot more there,” Warburton said. “We’ll find out as we continue drilling.”

Vulcan also has made sure it has customers for the power it expects to produce. It has contracts to supply power to two major utilities in California and Nevada and is presently negotiating a third contract, Warburton said. He could not name the company involved, but he expects negotiations to conclude in six to eight weeks.

Along with its lease holdings, Vulcan has branched into other aspects of geothermal exploration. It has a proprietary interest in software, started its own drilling company and has built its own crew to cement the wells, work previously done by a company out of Bakersfield, Calif.

Vulcan also has an application before the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to erect a nearly 350-mile transmission line, which would start east of Reno and extend to Las Vegas, although Warburton said the proposal is on hold.

Right now, he said, Vulcan wants to concentrate on producing electricity.

“We prefer to utilize our capabilities to get our power plants built,” Warburton said.

Tim Doran, Bend Bulletin


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

Filed under: Biofuels,Farm/Ranch,Legal/Courts,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 5:02 pm
Tags: , ,

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