Northwest Renewable News

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

ProjectDX acquired by Renewable Funding February 9, 2010

Renewable Funding, which finances clean energy projects, has purchased ProjectDX, a technology company that automates processes for governments seeking to increase participation in local sustainability programs.

The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

All Portland-based ProjectDX staff, business and technology will be absorbed by Oakland, Calif.-based Renewable Funding.

ProjectDX is an online property of Transformative Sustainable Solutions Inc., an Oregon corporation founded in 2007 by Portland-based professional and civil engineering firm David Evans Enterprises Inc.

Renewable Funding will use ProjectDX’s online services for education, awareness, and community-building in conjunction with its financing program. ProjectDX also brings with it an extensive GIS database and analytical systems help property owners make cost-effective choices about energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy improvements.

Project DX is already working with a number of communities across the country, including Portland, Seattle, Sonoma County, Calif., and Baltimore.

Renewable Funding, led by Cisco DeVries, grew out of a popular public funding program for renewable energy that launched in Berkeley, Calif. The Berkeley FIRST program set up a bond-financed Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) district, allowing residents to borrow from the district to finance solar installations and pay that loan back on their property tax bill over 20 years. The concept has taken off across the country and expanded to energy efficiency and water conservation. So far 16 states and hundreds of cities are starting their own programs.

The technology created by ProjectDX allows property owners to integrate renewable energy project planning with a marketplace of qualified vendors, online financing applications, and back-office support for program administrators. Renewable Funding and ProjectDX partnered on San Francisco’s Sustainable Financing energy efficiency and water conservation program, which is scheduled to launch in early 2010 and will be financed and administered through Renewable Funding.

Portland Business Journal – http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2010/02/08/daily19.html

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PSE expanding renewable energy grant program

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Renewable/Green Energy,Utility Companies,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 12:09 pm

Puget Sound Energy’s work in bringing renewable energy demonstration systems to Washington state schools is expanding its reach this year. Monday, Feb. 8, the utility opened the application period for schools and, new to the program this year, select institutions that educate the public about renewable energy and the environment, to apply for a small scale solar array or wind turbine grant.

Between $5,000 and $20,000 in funding will be available for renewable energy demonstration systems ranging from 900 watts to 2 kilowatts to be installed in 2010.

PSE’s Renewable Energy Education (formerly the Solar Schools Program) and voluntary Green Power programs have already funded 20 educational solar power projects in the Puget Sound region in the last six years. The programs promote understanding and acceptance of renewable energy technologies and expand the range of options available to local educators, students, families and communities in PSE’s nine county electric service area.

Three new features to the 2010 Renewable Energy Education Program have been added:

All institutions with a renewable energy education focus are now eligible to apply, previously the program had only been open to school districts with Resource Conservation Managers.

Applicants will be required to have utilized a PSE energy efficiency program in the past 36 months.

An electronic application is available for online submittal, applications can be found on PSE’s Web site at: www.pse.com/community/educationalprograms/Pages/SolarSchools.aspx

Successful applicants will receive grants to fund renewable energy education demonstration projects at their educational facility. The grant will provide supplemental funds or in approximately four cases cover the entire cost of a renewable energy demonstration system.

In addition to the rooftop-mounted solar panels or wind turbines, the grants support Web based monitoring software that allows students and interested community members to track how much energy is being generated as the weather changes. Also provided are educational materials and support including science teacher training, classroom activity guides and renewable energy science kits.

Small-scale renewable energy demonstration systems require no fuel and minimal maintenance while generating enough power, on average to operate 10 to 20 notebook computers, each consuming 33 watts for eight hours a day. The wind and solar equipment has a typical system lifespan of 20 or more years.

Schools and education institutions qualifying for the grant will submit plans detailing their educational goals and objectives for a solar or wind demonstration project. All proposals must be received by PSE no later than 5 p.m. on March 22, 2010.

In 2009, Puget Sound-area schools received more than $110,000 in grants for the installation of solar systems:

• Green River Community College, Auburn

• Liberty High School, Renton

• Hazen High School, Renton

• Coupeville Middle and High School, Whidbey Island

Since 2004, PSE has funded the installation of other systems at Redmond High School, Port Townsend High School, the Bellingham Environmental Learning Center, Depot Market Square in Bellingham, the Puget Sound Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee’s Training Center in Renton, the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Western Washington University in Bellingham, the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, JG Commons Building and Vashon Household building all on Vashon Island, Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way, Marshall and Washington Middle Schools in Olympia, Interlake High School in Bellevue, South Whidbey High School and Sakai Intermediate School on Bainbridge Island.

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For more information, visit www.PSE.com.

Auburn Reporter – http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/south_king/aub/business/83910027.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

 

Idaho Power plans more generation from wind

Idaho Power’s new plan for meeting anticipated customer energy needs for the next two decades shows the utility’s energy portfolio will grow increasingly diverse with a heightened emphasis on renewable sources.

Idaho Power filed its integrated resource plan for 2009 with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in December.

// Wind energy is slated to become an increasingly substantial energy source for Idaho Power. Spokeswoman Stephanie McCurdy said the utility put out a request for proposals in May seeking 150 megawatts of wind power generation.

Now, Idaho Power has 192 megawatts of wind capacity in its system, and by 2012, McCurdy said the company expects to have more than 600 megawatts of wind power.

To ensure a stable power source at times when wind power wanes, Idaho Power plans to build a natural gas combined cycle combustion turbine capable of producing 300 megawatts of power, called the Langley Gulch plant, in Payette County. Construction on the project is scheduled to start this August, and the plant should be on line by July 2012.

Idaho Power’s plan also calls for 40 megawatts of geothermal power — about 20 megawatts of that total are part of a contract that’s awaiting approval by the IPUC.

The plan is updated every two years with input from Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Council, made of members from the general public, the government sector and environmental stakeholders.

The plan also outlines the company’s steps to promote energy efficiency. McCurdy noted Idaho Power has 17 energy efficiency programs and two educational initiatives pertaining to energy efficiency.

One is a credit of $7 per month for customers who allow Idaho Power to install devices on their air conditioners that cycle off air conditioning at peak hours.

Customers are free to share their opinions about the utility’s future plans or ask questions about the plan by emailing  irp@idahopower.com, but the public comment will not affect the 2009 integrated resource plan.

John O’Connell, Idaho State Journalhttp://www.idahopress.com/news/?id=29870

 

Clean energy backers tout jobs at Tri-City conference

The expansion of clean energy represents the next major source of economic development and job growth in Washington, and the Tri-Cities is at the epicenter, a Washington congressman said Sunday.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., told attendees during the opening day of the 10th Harvesting Clean Energy Conference that more than 11,000 jobs in the state are associated with the production of clean energy — including hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, biomass and more.

The goal of the conference, which runs through Tuesday at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, is to promote rural economic development in the Northwest through clean energy development and production, organizers said.

And passage of energy legislation by Congress this year will help spur creation of even more jobs, said Inslee, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Agriculture and the development of the aerospace and software industries represented the first three waves of job creation in the state, with clean energy technology the newest rung, he said.

“The Tri-Cities is perfectly positioned for the next great wave of technological development,” Inslee said, citing in particular electrical generation work by Energy Northwest and solar technology by Infinia Corp. of Kennewick.

The House already has passed an energy bill. In the Senate, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John Kerry, D-Mass., are developing bipartisan energy legislation, Inslee said.

Approval of energy legislation is crucial, Inslee said, and not only for job growth and climate protection. America also is in a research and development race with China to create clean energy technology.

“They have made the decision they want to dominate the clean energy industrial base in the next 10 years,” Inslee said.

Conference workshops Sunday included sessions on hydropower, tapping the resources available to farms and rural communities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the promise of biochar — charcoal prepared from biomass that is used to generate energy and improve the productivity of soil.

In agriculture and industry, electric vehicles quietly are becoming more commonplace because they don’t pollute and have lower long-term maintenance costs.

There are plug-in electric buses and hybrid school buses, short-haul trucks, tractors, forklifts used in agricultural warehouses and an electric utility vehicle — similar to an ATV — made by an Oregon-based company.

The electric utility vehicle made by Barefoot Motors of Ashland is being used by ranchers and those involved in vineyards and orchards, electric utilities and forestry companies, among others, because of its workload capacity, low energy and maintenance costs and quiet operation, said Barefoot’s Bob Acheson.

Electric vehicles, however, tend to be expensive because of the cost of lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory are working to improve battery technology, said Tim Murphy, who is involved with the lab’s advanced vehicle testing effort.

“The potential payoffs for cost-effective batteries are huge for us,” Murphy said. “I look at it as a real energy, security and quality of life issue.”

Conference workshops today will include sessions on biomass, wind power, Smart Grid technologies and generating energy from food processing waste.

Richard Wynne, director of geopolitical and policy analysis for Boeing, will give the keynote address this morning on agriculture’s potential role in developing renewable energy sources for aviation.

Kevin McCullen, TriCity Heraldhttp://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/893449.html

 

Oregon Bill would classify burning garbage as renewable poweron February 7, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy — nwrenewablenews @ 4:44 pm
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Garbage — it’s generated day after day, in ever increasing amounts, and Marion County wants it considered a renewable resource.

Under a bill being considered this session, the electricity created when the Brooks incinerator burns garbage would be classified as renewable.

It puts burning garbage for electricity in Marion County on par with turning turbines on a wind farm and capturing the sun’s power with solar panels.

The designation is coveted because Oregon requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2025.

“We want the classification in four more years when we have to go out and market the energy we get from garbage in the county,” said Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano. “I am banking that we will be able to sell it at a premium.”

Even though renewable energy advocates support the bill, they say that the inclusion of municipal solid waste is misguided.

“Just because we have a lot of garbage and we will continue to have a lot of garbage does not make it a renewable resource,” said Jeff Bissonette, a spokesman for the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon. “When we talk about renewable energy, we are usually talking about a fuel source that is naturally occurring and unlimited. If you think about wind, wind happens by itself, and the wind is going to blow long after we are on this planet.”

While not specifically named in the bill, the Covanta garbage incinerator at Brooks likely will be the only beneficiary of the bill’s solid-waste language.

The municipal solid waste language was included in the bill at the request of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

Courtney said it is typical to include municipal solid waste in renewable energy legislation that covers biomass, including wood waste.

Courtney’s adviser Phil Bentley said the waste-to-energy industry in Oregon is still in its infancy and that this legislation is not likely to create a rush in facility construction.

Courtney said the “significant restrictions” on a facility such as Covanta’s eases any concerns he has — particularly regarding air quality.

Covanta officials count more than 20 states that define municipal solid waste as renewable.

Of seven western states that also have a renewable energy standard, five states specifically exclude garbage burning, said Kip Pheil, a senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy.

Nevada allows it but doesn’t have any such facilities.

California’s law excludes municipal solid waste except for electricity generated from a single facility.

House Bill 3674 also allows the burning of wood waste to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.

The caveat is that the electricity generated from garbage or wood waste can’t be considered renewable until 2026 — a year after utilities must have25 percent of their energy from sources such as wind, solar and wave.

It’s still a boon to the Covanta garbage burner and wood waste facilities because utilities will have to maintain that 25 percent renewable energy load in the face of increasing electricity needs and population growth.

Utilities can “bank” the renewable energy as early as 2011 by purchasing a renewable energy certificate for the electricity.

The legislation is a revision of a 2009 bill that the governor vetoed last summer.

Renewable energy advocates and the governor are satisfied with the revised bill because it still means that about 1,800 average megawatts of new renewable energy — from traditional sources such as wind — will be developed for Oregon.

Beth Casper, Statesman Journal http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100206/GREEN/2060328/1001/NEWS

 

OR Legislators rewrite state renewable energy tax break

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:24 pm
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A legislative panel has agreed to rewrite a tax break that has spurred alternative energy projects — but also has threatened to put a big hole in the state budget.

A compromise bill that sets limits on business energy tax credits, particularly for large wind projects, drew approval from all 10 members of the House Revenue Committee at 8 p.m. Friday. It heads for a House vote this week.

“I am brain-dead, and I am terrified there is something awful in here we have missed,” said Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, who sits on the committee.

“That being said, we will have a chance to correct anything we missed as it moves through the process. I would caution that I do not want to see major shifts in the policy ideas we have articulated here, because that will cause me unending heartburn. … This is the perfect thing to do tonight.”

The bill helps plug what has threatened to be an additional loss of $100 million to state tax coffers.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he was satisfied with what lawmakers did to limit the credits, which are subtracted directly from income taxes owed by businesses. He had vetoed a 2009 attempt to set limits.

“Every tax credit has a shelf life and should be routinely reviewed to ensure it is still necessary to achieve its primary objective,” he said in a statement after Friday’s vote.

The issue stems from lawmakers’ 2007 expansion of the business energy tax credit, which was created in 1979, from 35 percent to 50 percent of a project’s cost with a cap of $10 million per project.

To help balance the current budget and limit projected tax losses to about $120 million, lawmakers last year proposed some restrictions, including a cap of $3.5 million on larger projects.

Kulongoski vetoed the bill, and the tax loss was estimated at $143.8 million.

Lawmakers were told by their tax analysts Wednesday that under current law, overall credits would cost the state an estimated $235 million in this budget cycle — nearly $100 million more than Kulongoski’s figure, and nearly twice the amount lawmakers planned.

For wind-related projects, the Oregon Department of Energy last month listed 34 applications for tax credits since the 2007 expansion. At Kulongoski’s direction, the agency took steps to restrict the credits.

To Associated Press news executives in Oregon, including Statesman Journal editors, Kulongoski defended his veto last week as a way to encourage alternative-energy projects. But he also accepted some of the responsibility for the ballooning credits, as reported in news accounts last year.

“I still think it was the right decision,” he said. “But I should have been more careful.”

House Bill 3680, which blends provisions of the vetoed bill and recommendations from the Energy Department, would reduce those tax losses by $55 million in the current budget and $98 million in 2011-13.

In addition to limiting tax credits on wind projects larger than 10 megawatts that receive pre-certifications this year, in 2011 and 2012, the new bill will cap overall credits for renewable-energy projects at $300 million for the current budget cycle and$150 million in 2011-12.

It also proposes to stretch out to six years, instead of the current five years, tax credits for large renewable-energy projects exceeding$10 million.

“What happened with this credit gives us a cautionary tale that even good ideas need to be managed appropriately,” said Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis.

One of the concerns addressed in the new bill was the breaking up of large projects into several small projects for businesses to get additional credits. That practice will be curtailed by the bill.

Advocates for renewable energy had urged lawmakers not to be too restrictive.

“Oregon should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” wrote Matt Blevins, a vice president of M&R Strategic Services, working with Renewable Northwest Project, and a former lobbyist for the Oregon Environmental Council.

“It must uphold its commitment to projects that have received preliminary incentive certifications to provide certainty to the market and encourage additional investment in the state.”

Blevins’ comments were in a column posted on the BlueOregon Web site.

Other portions of the new bill extend the tax-credit program in the renewable-energy manufacturing sector, which has created an estimated 1,800 direct jobs since 2006 and thousands more indirect jobs. Those numbers are expected to double in the next two years.

Jon Bartholomew, a policy advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, urged more transparency for the applications for such tax credits.

“The public trust in our government and programs like the business energy tax credit is predicated on being able to see what is going on,” he said.

Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, said the bill achieves a balance.

“We are protecting job creation in this state and a clean-energy future for Oregon,” he said. “At the same time we are adding accountability, using taxpayers dollars wisely, and having the program meet standards that the people of Oregon expect from their state government.”

Peter Wong, Statesman Journal http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100207/LEGISLATURE/2070348/1042/STATE