Northwest Renewable News

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Oregon Farmers examine biomass crops and power generation February 10, 2010

Local farmers Monday were invited to be involved in the renewable energy field, not only as producers of a crop that could be turned into a fuel, but also as owners of the power generation facility that would burn the crop to produce electricity.

The question is “are we going to be in the driver’s seat?” Randon Wilson, an attorney who specializes in forming agriculture co-ops, said. “We have to decide where we are in charge.”

Wilson told the group, gathered at the Boulevard Grange near Ontario, as members of a proposed co-op for production of biomass crops, they could own the whole process from farm to processing to generation, or they could just do a portion of it. That would include producing the biomass crop that would be turned into fuel or producing the crop and the processing facility that would turn the crop into pellets.

It would take about five months to construct a processing plant to make the pellets, Wilson said. Construction of a power plant will take 18 to 24 months, Renewable Ag Energy Inc. President Kirk Christensen said.

The meeting was hosted by representatives of Renewable Ag Energy, Inc., an Ontario company assisting a group of local farmers, Agri Energy Producers, to bring a new crop to Malheur County.

While there is more than one crop that would produce the biomass, the co-op proponents were mainly discussing high biomass sorghum.

The high biomass crops would be planted in late May. Irrigation and fertilizer applications would be similar to corn. It would be harvested in September or October. Chopped green, it would be hauled to a conversion facility, where it would be stored, dried, cubed and shipped.

Harvesting, hauling and processing costs will be absorbed by the co-op, Christensen said.

“We’re not playing the fuel market,” Christensen said.

The farmers would be paid for growing the crop and participate in the profits from the conversion plan and profits from the generation facility, he said.

“We can’t survive on just what is produced on the farm,” Wilson said. “We need more bites. We have to take a look at energy.”

It was estimated the power plant would support 17 to 20 family-wage jobs, Christensen said.

Choices include full integration, wholly owned by the farmers, or partial integration, linked with other joint ventures or investors, Wilson said. But, it becomes difficult when you mix producers and investors, Wilson said, because eventually there are tensions between the two interests.

“We would like to get the jump on creating a state-wide co-op,” he said, adding that different groups of growers could act as separate divisions.

Such a large co-op would give the producers a lot of clout, Wilson said.

“There is a significant market,” he said.

Wilson, Christensen and others were also meeting with representatives from state agencies this week to discuss the permitting processes, land-use and other regulation issues.

Larry Meyer, Argus Observer – http://www.argusobserver.com/articles/2010/02/10/news/doc4b72f4004d160870392186.txt

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Oregon House Approves Scaled-Back Green Tax Credits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Lehman, OPB News – http://news.opb.org/article/6706-house-approves-scaled-back-green-tax-credits/

 

Wind farm complex in works 10 miles outside Othello, Wash.

Adams County’s first wind farm could give Othello a job boost.

Portland-based Horizon Wind Energy is working to build a $120 million wind complex about 10 miles southwest of Othello.

The Saddle Mountain Wind Farm’s 32 turbines would produce about 57 megawatts — enough to power about 17,100 homes annually, said Elon Hasson, project manager for Horizon Wind Energy.

The company recently received a conditional use permit from Adams County to build the project, but construction won’t start until it firms up a buyer for the power.

Loren Wiltse, Adams County building and planning director, said the project still needs to get building and construction permits, but the overall project has been approved.

The start of construction is at least a year out, Hasson said, but once its starts the work will take six to eight months and involve about 120 employees.

Othello City Administrator Ehman Sheldon said the construction will bring workers to Othello’s restaurants, gas stations and motels. “It will be a big boon to our economy here,” he said.

Once the wind farm is done, Horizon will need six to eight full-time employees to operate it, Hasson said.

State regional labor economist T. Baba Moussa said he doesn’t expect those jobs to have a large impact on the county as a whole. Adams County has about 5,380 non-farm jobs.

But Mike Bailey, Othello’s finance officer, said, “For us, everything helps.”

Bailey said Horizon Wind Energy’s presentation this week to the Othello City Council made him comfortable with the project.

He said it seems well engineered and the company appears to be doing what it can to minimize environmental impacts.

Horizon Wind Energy also built the Wild Horse Wind Farm in Ellensburg, which is now owned by Puget Sound Energy. And the company is working on a wind farm in Kittitas County and has three in Oregon.

Hasson said the Othello wind farm site, which is smaller than its other projects, was chosen to minimize harm to wildlife and the community.

The company worked with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife on a conservation plan for the sandhill cranes, he said.

Thousands of the birds use the area around Othello as a stopover while migrating from California to Alaska. The farm fields are rich in nutrients and attract the cranes, which hang around for a month or more.

The wind farm plan includes teaching people about wind turbines, siting the farm where it will least affect the cranes and collecting data on the birds during and after construction.

Sheldon said city officials have been told the wind farm will be visible from the city on a clear day.

Kristi Pihl, TriCity Herald – http://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/896160.html

 

Bozeman company proposes solution to wind’s variability February 8, 2010

Carl Borgquist’s vision started with a whiteboard and a marker in his hands.

Five years later, the president of the Bozeman-based Grasslands Renewable Energy still flourishes a marker and sketches on the whiteboard to illustrate his plan for wind power in the Northern Plains.

Borgquist doesn’t build wind farms, rather he’s got a plan for collecting and transmitting wind power. Ultimately, he hopes to gather enough wind-generated electricity to equal the output of Hoover Dam, or two coal-fired power plants at Colstrip.

Borgquist refers to Grassland’s Wind Spirit Project as part of the theorized “smart grid.” What makes it “smart” is that it could solve the inherent problem of wind’s variability.

Should Borgquist’s vision come to fruition, he and his team at Grasslands are looking to build a system that will gather renewable energy from Montana, North Dakota and Canada and export a dependable 1,000 megawatts to markets in the Southwest and Northwest.

Grasslands has set a target date of 2017 for full build-out.

The project would involve roughly 1,300 miles of collector transmission lines, mostly in Montana, and a novel energy storage system. The two components together could cost $4 billion.

Add on the related wind farms and trunk transmission, which are not part of Grasslands’ project, and the entire package is likely to run in the $12 billion to $15 billion range.

“We have to do this big,” he said. “There’s no mileage in doing this small.”

Yet, Borgquist’s venture started small, literally “on a whiteboard.”

A tax attorney by training, with stints as a district attorney and U.S. Naval Judge Advocate in California, he was lured into the world of transmission while working with a client interested in developing a wind farm.

Borgquist knew that lack of transmission was the bottleneck that prevented the state from developing its plentiful wind resource. He saw the deficiency as a problem that needed fixing.

“Putting the wires in is not the sexy part of this,” he said. “But the way we move power is key. We need to get that figured out.”

Wind power, however, poses another drawback. Even if transmission were available, the erratic nature of wind threatens its economic feasibility.

Wind farm network

Even before Grasslands Renewable came into existence, Borgquist and founding group Absaroka Energy LLC were testing ideas. (Absaroka Energy later partnered with the Calgary-based Rocky Mountain Power to form Grasslands.)

By tracking wind at a variety of locations, they discovered that they could tap different wind sources to modify the peaks and valleys associated with individual wind farms. When wind was dead in Dickenson, N.D., for example, a gale could be blowing in Cut Bank, he said.

They postulated that, by packaging wind from several wind farms, the reliability of the resource would be enhanced.

Though the model proved promising, the data still failed to achieve the team’s desired result: to make wind power as reliable as a coal-fired power plant.

To approach their goal, they added a virtual 600-megawatt pump storage facility to the model.

The proposed closed-loop pump storage facility, which is planned for a site in central Montana, would consist of two large reservoirs of water, one of them 1,000 vertical feet higher than the other.

When wind blows in excess, the extra energy is used to pump water from the lower to the upper reservoir. When the wind dies down, water is released from the upper reservoir, creating hydropower for the grid.

“It’s like a big battery,” Borgquist said. “It’s clean and it’s environmentally friendly.”

The size of the reservoirs determines the hours of reliability, he said, and the vertical distance between the reservoirs determines the amount of energy that can be stored.

Though the concept is not uncommon in Europe, he said, the United States has only one utility-scale pump storage facility, built several decades ago in Virginia.

Lacing up the grids

As Grasslands refined its concept, the company drew the attention of Elecnor, a Spanish company that specializes in energy projects around the globe.

Founded in 1958, Elecnor employs nearly 5,000 people and saw $2.69 billion in sales in 2008.

“Elecnor found us, tracked us down,” Borgquist said, noting that the two companies are working on a deal that gives Elecnor the option to buy half of Grasslands.

Over the past few years, Borgquist and his expanding team have directed their efforts to all aspects of the project, from generation to delivery. He firmly believes the success of the Wind Spirit Project depends on coordinating all of the pieces together in one package.

As proposed, Grasslands’ large collection system would serve the eastern half of Montana and north-central Montana, with spurs branching out into Canada, North Dakota and possibly Wyoming.

The North Dakota line, a high-voltage 500 kilowatt direct current line, would cross from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council grid to the Midwest Reliability Organization grid, thus opening a new market for Montana wind and bringing additional reliability to the entire system, he said.

Once “lassoed” together, the power from many wind farms would be shipped to hubs planned for Toston and Harlowton. From there, trunk transmission lines such as the Mountain States Transmission Tie and TransCanada’s Chinook project, now in different stages of development, would move the electricity to population centers along the West Coast and in the desert Southwest.

“There’s no load to service in Montana,” Borgquist said, explaining why the power would go out of state.

“Montana will grow, but it won’t grow consistently with the amount of resource we have to develop,” he said.

Ready for FERC

With its feasibility study complete, its preliminary permit filed for the pump storage facility and its application set to go out to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next week or so, Grasslands is ready to introduce the project to a broader audience.

So far, Borgquist said, Grasslands has talked to 60 renewable energy developers, most working on wind projects. Already, they’ve completed initial agreements with seven of them and look forward to working with others.

Simultaneously, they’re poised to begin talks with landowners regarding right-of-way for the proposed collector line. Environmental analysis of transmission siting is also on the to-do list.

“We haven’t crystallized the map,” Borgquist said. “We’re still looking for resources to connect and ways to connect into the grid.”

Linda Halstead-Acharya, Billings Gazzette – http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_056320b6-1462-11df-a965-001cc4c002e0.html

 

Oregon’s Steens Mountain could soon have wind farms February 7, 2010

Ruggedly beautiful Steens Mountain stands in an area of southeast Oregon so isolated that it’s barely changed since cattle king Pete French arrived in the late 1800s.

Coyotes yelp at sundown. Drivers are so few that they wave to each other as they pass. Campers, hunters and bird-watchers trek from across the state to breathe in the majestic emptiness and to gaze from the Steens summit across a seemingly endless tapestry of high desert and open range.

But soon, the scenery will change.

Harney County has cleared Columbia Energy Partners of Vancouver to build a wind farm on the mountain’s north slope. By year’s end, 415-foot turbines could start rising from the juniper and sagebrush, among thousands of towers that developers are stampeding to build across eastern Oregon.

In addition, Columbia Energy has two more wind projects in the works for the Steens slope, plus another for Riddle Mountain to the northeast. A Houston company is scouting 18,000 acres to the south for a wind farm in the Pueblo Mountains, and more could follow.

“There are a number of sites being prospected by developers,” said John Audley of Portland’s Renewable Northwest Project, a coalition of companies and groups that promotes renewable-energy projects. “These prospectors are like old gold miners.”

Aside from wind farms, thousands of acres on Steens Mountain are open to homebuilding.

“We counted over 90 sites that you could come in tomorrow and make application to put homes on,” said Steve Grasty, chairman of the Harney County commissioners. One landowner won clearance to build hundreds of homes near the Steens’ Fish Lake.

But while some environmentalists are dismayed by the prospect of development on Steens Mountain — even if it’s green-friendly wind turbines — county officials are thrilled.

“We have an opportunity to put a $1.25 billion investment into this community,” said Grasty, referring to the value of Columbia Energy’s four wind projects and an accompanying transmission line.

“Holy mackerel, and it is an environmentally sensitive way to do it.”

To outsiders, it may seem unthinkable to build on the flank of an Oregon treasure. But to Harney County, it’s simple math.

A century after the close of the Western frontier, the county retains its gun-rack rawness. Residents are self-reliant, a necessity in a county bigger than nine states but with just 7,700 residents.

But the economy, long struggling, has been trampled in the recent recession. December’s jobless rate nudged 18 percent (compared with 11 percent statewide), not far from 1980’s record 21.8 percent, said Jason Yohannan, a state labor economist in La Grande.

The demise of RV-maker Monaco Coach in 2008-09 left Harney County with no manufacturing, Yohannan said, a change from the late 1970s when more than 1,000 residents worked as loggers or in the old Edward Hines Lumber Co. sawmill.

Columbia Energy unfurls the promise of a new industry — and jobs: 150 during an estimated four years of construction, plus 50 to 75 for maintenance after that, said Chris Crowley, Columbia Energy’s president.

Audley said that’s hard to pass up. “There hasn’t been a significant economic investment in Harney County in a long time,” he said. “For better or worse, this is the only industry I know of that’s investing (an average of) $700 million (per wind project) in rural Oregon.”

Grasty said he’s not worried about losing tourism because of the wind turbines. County tourism has grown only 5 percent in 20 years, he said, and the wind farms will be contained.

“They are islands of private property in a sea of public land,” he said.

So far, only Columbia Energy’s first wind farm has been approved: the $300 million Echanis Wind Project, with 40 to 60 wind turbines across 10,000 acres. It’s expected to produce 104 megawatts, enough to power some 30,000 homes.
The project hinges on U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval of the transmission line, which has two possible configurations: a 29-mile line possibly paralleling an existing line that crosses the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge just northwest of Steens Mountain, and a 46-mile line across mostly private land. Crowley expects to gain approval in the fall and launch construction on Echanis soon after.

Columbia Energy recently shelved its West Ridge and East Ridge wind projects headed for the Steens’ north flank, in the face of opposition from the Audubon Society of Portland and the Oregon Natural Desert Association in Bend.

Liz Nysson, spokeswoman for the desert association, said visitors will be appalled to find “industrial-scale wind development” on the slopes of Steens Mountain. The Echanis project, she said, also will be built on habitat for falcons, golden eagles and sage grouse, which is being considered for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Bob Sallinger, the Portland Audubon Society’s conservation director, called the area “an incredibly valuable landscape from a wildlife standpoint.”

“We have a gold-rush mentality in this state about wind,” he said. “We could look back in 10 or 15 years and wish we had done it differently and more thoughtfully.”

Both groups also accuse Columbia Energy of dividing the Steens projects into three pieces of about 104 megawatts each to skirt the state scrutiny that kicks in for projects of 105 megawatts or more.

But Crowley insisted the projects are legitimately separate: “They are on separate pieces of property. They will have separate substations. They will have separate financing.”

He also said Columbia Energy won’t sit on the West and East Ridge projects for long. The company expects to begin construction on one in 2012 and the other in 2013, when it also plans to launch construction on the Riddle Mountain project. All three will be about the same size as Echanis.

Crowley marveled at the area’s wind power. During a 24-hour test Jan. 10, the company clocked an average wind speed on the Steens’ north side of 41 mph.

“There is nowhere else with a resource like this in Oregon,” he said.

Cattle rancher Hoyt Wilson, meanwhile, has mixed feelings about his decision to lease land to Columbia Energy for the Echanis project.

“It’s not something I’m looking forward to,” said Wilson, 67, as he stood in a chilly breeze last week outside the shop and office for his 28,000-acre Mann Lake Ranch.

He remembers when cattle ranching was lucrative. “It used to be a lot of fun to ranch,” he said. “All you had to worry about was Mother Nature.”

But environmental lawsuits have forced the BLM to cut back on the number of cattle and amount of time they can graze on federal lands, pinching him and other ranchers, he said.

“It does you no good if you can run 1,000 cows on your own land for nine months, but you can only run 500 on BLM land for three months,” Wilson said. In other words, what happens to the other 500 cattle? Cows need so much room to graze, that even ranchers with significant land holdings rely on leasing federal lands for part of the year.

Wilson also worried that, after he and his wife die, his son and two daughters wouldn’t be able to afford the taxes on a property worth $4 million but generating no more than $60,000 a year in revenue.

The Columbia Energy deal will enable the family to keep the ranch intact and in the family. In exchange for a 20-year lease, he’ll receive a percentage of the gross sales from the wind farm’s output — about $5,000 to $7,000 a year per turbine.

“Windmills came along,” he said, “and, yeah, that is the way to make a buck.”

The economy comes into play for housing development as well. Under Measure 37, passed by voters in 2004 (and later scaled back by Measure 49), landowners could seek to develop their land under the rules in place at the time of purchase, or be compensated by county government for their economic loss.

But in Harney County, compensation is all but out of the question.

In 2007, for example, landowner Dan Jordan of Burns won the right under Measure 37 to build 640 homes below Fish Lake, a popular recreation site on Steens Mountain’s west side, after the county concluded it could hardly afford to pay him $6.4 million. Grasty said those plans were later scaled way back, and so far, Jordan hasn’t built anything.

Still, those who love the Steens’ open vistas and assume that the mountain is protected as wilderness might be surprised to learn how much of it rests in private hands.

The BLM manages 428,000 acres, including the 170,000-acre Steens Mountain Wilderness Area, and the state administers 1,000 acres. But an additional 67,000 acres on and around the mountain are privately owned, and most of that is at low elevation suitable for homes.

The county’s land-use plan allows ranch or farm dwellings on tracts of at least 160 acres, said Grasty, the county chairman. Owners are expected to maintain some farming or ranching operations, but a local real estate broker, Randy Wilson, said keeping horses or a cow or two is enough.

Wilson, a broker with United Country-Clemens Real Estate in Hines and no relation to Hoyt Wilson, said he’s seeing interest among urbanites eager to escape to Harney County.

“Every week, I get people looking for property,” he said. “A lot of hunters, a lot of people looking to retire.” If they can get access to electricity and county approval to build on or near the mountain, he said, “people are going to jump all over it.”

John Witzel, an outfitter and former rancher who lives in Frenchglen just west of Steens Mountain, said he’s seen a marked shift in attitudes toward development.

Witzel, 51, and his wife, Cindy, were denied permission in 1997 to build 15 guest cabins and a 25-room lodge on the mountain’s west side. After they won Harney County approval to build a “career school” instead, the state Land Use Board of Appeals in 2001 overturned the decision.

“We couldn’t do that because of the viewshed,” Witzel said. “Things have changed, obviously.”

For hard-pressed ranchers, wind turbines are “a way to carry on and keep going,” he said. “I don’t think any of them want to look at windmills, but that’s the way it is.”

Richard Cockle – The Oregonianhttp://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/oregons_steens_mountain_could.html

 

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 – http://www.tdn.com/news/local/article_96fa57b8-139c-11df-9924-001cc4c03286.html

 

Energy Storage: Utah company aims to store energy with compressed air

A Utah company plans to dig a series of underground caverns that it hopes to one day fill with compressed air, releasing it to generate electricity by turning a turbine and solving one of the most vexing problems facing the clean-energy industry – how to store power.

Under a barren patch of Utah desert, a private-equity group is bankrolling the project to hollow out a series of energy-storage vaults from a massive salt deposit a mile underground. It promises to make a perfect repository for storing energy and, in effect, creating a giant subterranean battery.

Energy storage is catching on as a way to make wind and solar power more useful.

Without energy storage, the output of solar and wind power is so erratic – the wind doesn’t always blow; cloud cover can shut down solar cells – that utilities can take only so much of it, said Jim Ferland, senior vice president for operations for PNM Resources, the New Mexico utility.

If renewable power makes up too big a part of a utility’s energy mix, it can make the delicate act of balancing loads on a power grid difficult. The lack of storage is one of the things holding back clean energy, say scientists for Sandia National Laboratories’ energy systems group in Albuquerque, N.M.

“Storage is the key here,” said Charlie Hanley, manager of Sandia’s photovoltaic and grid integration group. “We have to find a way to overcome intermittent swings from cloud cover.”

The only commercial-scale, compressed air power plants are in McIntosh, Ala., and Bremen, Germany. Other projects are under development in Norton, Ohio, and Ankeny, Iowa.

Initially, because of market needs, Salt Lake City-based Magnum Energy LLC will store natural gas for Rocky Mountain producers, taking it from a nearby interstate pipeline, in an “energy hub” near Delta, Utah. It hopes to start dissolving the first cavern within a year.

Later, the company is looking to dig other caverns at the site for compressed air, which could store excess energy generated by a nearby wind farm and then release it later when demand is high to turn turbines and create electricity, and possibly for carbon storage, which could trap a neighboring coal-fired power plant’s emissions.

Still other caverns could be devoted to liquid petroleum; yet another pipeline for liquid fuels, passing through the same part of Utah, is close to receiving federal approval.

The company filed for federal approval in December to build its versatile “energy hub.”

A futuristic type of energy storage could involve putting the battery capacity of plug-in electric vehicles to work for the electric grid. It could take extra power from vehicles when needed, while ensuring a vehicle is properly charged overnight, said Daniel Laird, a researcher for Sandia’s wind energy technology group.

That will work only when plug-in cars make up a big part of the U.S. vehicle fleet, however.

For now, “we’ve got to find a way to store renewable energy for when people need it,” said Steve Michel, a former utility executive who works for Western Resources Advocates, a Boulder, Colo.-based nonprofit law firm.

Other forms of energy storage involve lumbering flywheels or banks of batteries, but they have limited capacities and can be costly.

“In terms of storing bulk energy – lots of megawatt-hours – compressed air is cheaper than anything else out there,” said Paul Denholm, lead analyst for energy storage at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab in Boulder, Colo.

In Utah, Magnum snapped up rights to the largest known salt deposit in the American West, a bed one mile thick by several miles wide. It has the advantage of being close to several energy producers; another company is planning a major solar farm in Utah’s west desert.

“The physical location of that salt deposit is just tremendously valuable, said Scott Jones, managing director of Houston-based Haddington Energy Partners III, which is backing the project. “It’s the only one everybody knows about or has been found. We’re excited about it.”

Each impermeable cavern will hold the volume of an Empire State Building, said Craig Broussard, another Magnum partner.

That’s billions of cubic feet of storage capacity of natural gas, liquid petroleum or compressed air.

The company would take excess energy from wind or solar farms or other energy producers, use it to pump compressed air underground and let it out to generate power during peak-use times.

The system would lose some energy to pumping, and the released air would need to be mixed with some natural gas to power air expansion turbines. Still, “this is far more efficient than a conventional power plant,” Broussard said.

“The power industry is like being in an ice-cream business without a refrigerated warehouse,” he said. “This kind of storage provides a warehouse of energy.”

PAUL FOY, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.keprtv.com/news/business/83766377.html