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 –


Consultants’ study touts benefits of Antekope Ridge wind farm plan

The company hoping to build a second wind farm in Union County says annual revenues to local governments from both facilities would range between $2.7 and $6 million.

Not only that, the two winds farms combined will account for more than 300 construction jobs and more than 90 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

But not everybody is buying it.

Horizon Wind Energy opened the 101-megawatt Elkhorn Valley wind farm at Telocaset in 2007. The company has applied to the Oregon Department of Energy to build a 300-megawatt facility, the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, near Union in 2011.

Citing a study done recently by the economic consulting firms Pareto Global and ECONorthwest, Horizon said the two facilities combined will have significant long-term benefits to the local economy.

“Our modeling showed that wind farms have a positive economic impact, create job growth and increase revenue to local governments,” said Jules Bailey, the principal consultant for Pareto Global.

The study estimated that Elkhorn Valley created 150 construction jobs, and says that 15 people are employed at the facility now.

The work of maintaining and operating the facility has indirectly created another 24 jobs, the study says.

Also according to the study, revenue impact to  Union County and other local governments from Elkhorn Valley is estimated at $664,000 a year.

The study says Antelope Ridge would create about 165 construction jobs and 20 full-time jobs at the facility after construction.

In addition, the study claims the facility will indirectly create 32 more jobs and that revenue impact from the wind farm itself and resulting economic activity to governments will be about $2 million.

The proposed Antelope Ridge facility has stirred much controversy in the county. Some individuals and at least one local government — the City of Union — have expressed concerns about possible effects on real estate values, scenery, tourism, wildlife and more.

Dennis Wilkinson, head of the local effort to stop construction of Antelope Ridge, sharply disputed claims made in the study.

In a letter to Horizon, Wilkinson said a release about the study sent to news outlets was “full of spin and incorrect information.” He accused Horizon of having a policy of not providing facts.

Among other things, Wilkinson asked Horizon to document its claims about job creation and revenue impacts.

“These quotes of dollar revenue and job claims are exaggerated to put it mildly and it continues to be the policy of Horizon to attempt to fool the public about the wind projects,” he said.

“It is a proven fact by hundreds of reports that wind farms are inefficient and would not be built if not for the subsidy and all the tax write-off.”

Horizon consultant Bob Applegate said Monday that the study’s conclusions are based on economic models.

He said the amount of money Horizon spends on construction, operation and maintenance is the primary factor. Outside of direct employment, the Pareto study did not pinpoint employment at local companies.

Applegate said that direct jobs are jobs held by workers at a facility. Indirect jobs are jobs at businesses that support operation and maintenance, and induced jobs are those created at businesses like restaurants and retail stores.

“It is a fair thing to say that absent the wind farm, there would be fewer jobs,” he said.

Applegate said that Horizon employs two full-time workers at Elkhorn, with plans to add a third. He said turbine manufacturer Vestas employs 12 people at Elkhorn.

Applegate also said that the study’s estimate of revenue impacts to governments is broad because those impacts depend on what agreements are worked out.

He said that if Horizon reaches a Strategic Investment Program agreement with Union County, the smaller figure would apply.

“I think it’s fair to say that the revenue impact to the county would be at least $2.7 million,” he said.

He said Horizon and Union County are currently in negotiations regarding an SIP agreement.

Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer


Senator Tester Spends Presidents’ Day in the Flathead Valley February 15, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Montana,Renewable Energy Projects,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 4:43 pm

Senator Jon Tester talks jobs and renewable energy in the Flathead Valley.

The Senator started his day at F.H. Stoltze Lumber in Columbia Falls. The mission? To learn more about a biomass energy project the mill is hoping to push forward.

It’s called the Woody Biomass Combined Heat and Power Project. It’s basically a facility that would us leftover wood projects to generate clean, renewable electric power for the Northwest.

Stoltze’s Vice President says it would create 13 new jobs, but also hold on to about 200 current jobs in the forest industry.

The lumber company needs about $54 million dollars to build the facility, but managers say the end results outweigh the initial investment. County Commissioners were there to back up the project.

“This is an instance where I would be wiling to take some risks, because I do think the economic vitality of the forest industry, which is vital for Flathead County, whether people know it, for lots of reasons depends on innovative thinking and use of the biomass that’s out there,” Flathead County Commissioner Joe Brenneman said.

After Stoltze, Senator Tester went on to the Flathead County Landfill to talk more renewable energy. He toured the Flathead Electric site that turns methane gas from the landfill into electric energy. As the trash rots, it produces gas containing methane. The methane is then captured, and used to generate renewable energy. Right now, the landfill’s “Gas-to-Energy Plant” creates enough power for about 900 homes, with the ability to expand.

“This may not be the first in the country, but it’s the first in Montana and I think that if people come here and look at this,it’s really impressive and we’re getting something from a resource that was a liability and make it into an asset,” Senator Tester said. “And that’s really what’s important and I think it’s one of those things that, if we can create a few jobs and make this country more energy independent, it’s a win win deal.”

While in the Flathead, Tester also met with Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher and spoke with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.

Maritsa Georgiou, KECI (TV)–Day-in-the-Flath/6365577


Plan for Shelton, WA biomass plant is great news for region

Filed under: Biomass,Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 4:28 pm

Plans are under way to build a $250 million biomass plant near the Shelton Airport with an objective of turning 600,000 tons of wood debris into enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.

A joint venture of Duke Energy and a global energy firm called Areva has a long, long way to go to get the plant off the ground, but it’s exciting to think about the potential to turn mounds of leftover logging debris — stumps and tree limbs — into electrical energy.

We’re a little surprised that company officials rolled out the project without firm contracts with timber companies for the woody debris or contracts with electrical companies to purchase the power generated from the biomass plant. But make no mistake, we’re excited at the possibility of a new source of alternative energy in South Sound.

Today, after a logging company moves through a stand of trees, the remaining woody debris is generally pushed into huge piles that are burned. So-called slash burns pollute the air and pose a serious health risk for individuals suffering from breathing problems. Slash burns are a terrible waste of natural resources. There’s increased pressure from regulatory agencies to reduce slash burning to protect air quality.

State lawmakers and Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, recognized that fact, and are proceeding with a handful of pilot projects to turn logging debris into energy. The state is proceeding with those test projects, but the joint venture involved in the Shelton project is proceeding on its own and is not part of the Department of Natural Resources pilot project.

At the launch announcement in Olympia recently, officials said they hope to break ground by late this year on the power plant on Port of Shelton property near the airport.

The first order of business is to lock up contracts with suppliers of woody debris. “We’re contacting all the major landowners within 50 miles of the plant site,” said Reed Wills, president of the energy startup firm, Adage LLC.

One of the major timber companies in the Shelton area — Green Diamond Resource Co. — is in talks with Adage about supplying feedstock for the plant. “We’re very interested in a biomass plant in our community,” said Patti Case, public affairs manager for Green Diamond, which traces its linage to Simpson Timber Co., founded in 1890 by Solomon Simpson in the tiny town of Matlock.

Adage officials said the power plant would be built to produce 55 megawatts of electricity.

After suppliers are lined up, the next step is to garner environmental and land use approval, then enter into contracts with electrical suppliers willing to purchase the alternative power at competitive prices.

On the environmental front, Adage officials have had preliminary talks with officials at the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency that regulates emissions.

“We’ve had discussions with the company, but they haven’t applied yet for a permit,” said Fran McNair, executive director of the clean air agency. She said the equipment the company plans to use to control emissions appears to meet the agency’s emissions requirements because it is the best available technology.

Community and political leaders were quick to praise the woodwaste-to-energy plan because it’s expected to generate 700 direct and indirect jobs during the two-and-a-half year construction.

The daily operation would require about 100 employees collecting and transporting the woody debris with another couple dozen workers operating the plant.

“There’s a great labor force here — ready, willing and able to work,” said state Rep. Fred Finn, a Democrat whose district includes Mason County.

“This is part of the next chapter in the forest products industry,” said Mason County Commissioner Lynda Ring Erickson.

We would hope the energy company would have little trouble lining up contracts with public utility districts or other energy suppliers who need to add to their inventory of alternative energy sources.

Initiative 937, which was adopted by Washington voters in the 2006 general election, requires PUDs and electrical companies with more than 25,000 customers to focus on conservation and produce certain percentages of alternative energy by specific target dates. The Shelton plant will fill that requirement.

The plan to turn renewable natural resources into energy — energy that reduces both our dependence on foreign oil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions — is a real plus and should be embraced by the entire South Sound.

The Olympian –


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 –


Bend Based Geothermal company ready to drill

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