Northwest Renewable News

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

Solar project forum Feb. 21 in Yakima February 11, 2010

Filed under: Solar,Utility Companies,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 2:12 pm

The public is invited to a presentation on forming a community solar project on Feb. 21 at Wesley United Methodist Church.

The featured speaker is Gary Nystedt, who created a successful community solar program for Ellensburg. He will share Ellensburg’s experience in setting up the nation’s first community solar project in 2006 and what steps Yakima would need to take to set up a similar project.

Ellensburg’s project has received attention from around the world. Community members invested in solar panels that were installed in a park near town. Investors get a return on their investment in clean energy through a credit on their electric bill.

Wesley United Methodist is at 14 N. 48th Ave. in Yakima. The presentation begins at 10:15 a.m.

Yakima Herald Republic –


Bend startup’s product Simplifying solar power installation February 9, 2010

Filed under: Emerging Technology,Manufacturing,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 12:34 pm
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A year ago, Bend solar-power startup AC Solar Technology did not even exist.

Last week, CEO Glenn Harris presented his company’s product, a solar module, to industry representatives from the United States, France and Switzerland at a startup conference in San Francisco.

And this week, AC Solar Technology expects to receive its ETL Listed Mark, which shows the modules meet Underwriters Laboratory safety standards, and which will allow the company to start production.

AC Solar Technology’s Blue Leaf 210W AC module, which is essentially a small solar electrical system, has the potential to open up the solar market to small commercial and residential users, Harris said. It simplifies solar power installation.

Photovoltaic systems produce DC, or direct current. Most electrical appliances in a home use AC, or alternating current. So most solar systems need wires that lead from the solar panels to an inverter, which converts direct current into alternating current. The wires continue from the inverter to the building’s electrical system.

The Blue Leaf module essentially removes the direct current portion. It has no DC wiring or components and uses AC from the modules to the power grid, according to a company news release. It has a single AC line leading from the inverter on the back panel. It’s like an extension cord, Harris said.

“We think the market is going to like a little 200 watt solar system,” he said. “That’s not something that’s been done before.”

Removing the DC part of the equation also simplifies installation for electricians, he said.

Costs for solar electric systems can vary, depending on the size, the system rating, installer and other factors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. On average, the costs run $8 to $10 per watt, before rebates or tax credits.

Harris estimates a Blue Leaf module, which measures about 5 feet by 3 feet, will cost $5 per watt installed, or about $1,500, after rebates and credits.

Before his work with AC Solar Technology, Harris worked for Bend-based PV Powered, which makes inverters, both as its president and also a consultant. He also served as CEO of SunCentric, a Grants Pass company that provides a variety of services for solar power firms.

Harris does not believe AC Solar will compete with PV Powered, at least not directly. PV Powered does not make small-sized inverters or modules, he said.

Founded in the middle of last year, Harris said AC Solar Technology does not have a real office.

But it’s looking to get one.

With its certification in hand, the company will be able to start manufacturing, first at a temporary location, he said. AC Solar, which expects to employ about 150 workers by the end of its third year, also has been seeking a permanent site, but Harris said he’s not optimistic it will be in Oregon.

The climate in the state has become uncertain with the debate over the Business Energy Tax Credit, sparked after its estimated $4 million cost expanded to $167 million in lost revenues .

Harris understands, he said, how that leaves lawmakers to make tough decisions, balancing the state’s need for tax revenue with its desire to encourage renewable energy.

Other criteria also factor into the decision on where to locate, Harris said, not just government incentives. Along with Oregon, he said, other states in the running are Arizona, Delaware and Michigan.

Arizona, with its abundant sunshine, major population centers and transportation infrastructure, is attractive, Harris said. In one morning in Phoenix, he saw about 10 buildings and 1 million square feet of real estate.

“Some of the other states are chomping at the bit,” he said.

Harris expanded on his company’s product and market in an interview with The Bulletin.

Q: What makes your product different?

A: The new technology is the box on the back. It takes the DC power right at the back and turns it into … AC. You could put one on your back fence. … You could put one on your roof and wire it right into a 110 (volt line). It’s just three regular wires going into your fuse box. You could walk into Costco and buy this thing. Basically, you enable everybody.

Q: Where does it fit within the solar power market.

A: (It has the) potential to open up lots of different markets. Our interest is expanding the residential market. (It’s a) market expansion device.

Q: Where is AC Solar Technology located presently?

A: We don’t have official offices at the moment. We’re looking for a place to call home. It’s time to put the stake in the ground. We’re going to build the modules. I think we’re pretty well ready to start manufacturing. The question will be where.

Q: What are the considerations?

A: It’s really not a competition, per se. It’s not like they walk in and hand you a check and say thanks for being here. It really comes down to: Is it a great place to build? How’s the transportation system? What the state does is icing on the cake.

Tim Doran, Bend Bulletin


Gresham celebrates solar facility opening February 4, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Solar,Utility Companies — nwrenewablenews @ 5:02 pm

Gresham is celebrating its new claim to fame: Being home to the largest ground-mounted solar facility in the Pacific Northwest.

A grand opening of sorts is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, 20015 N.E. Sandy Blvd.

REC Solar Inc. installed the solar panels at no cost to local ratepayers. The panels cover an entire acre on the wastewater treatment plant’s southeast corner, which faces busy Sandy Boulevard.

The array is considered a benchmark project because while other municipal buildings have installed solar array projects, none are as large as Gresham’s, said Laura Bridges-Shepard, the city’s spokeswoman.

Seventy percent of the power used by Gresham’s wastewater facility is already considered sustainable — 50 percent is produced on site by converting methane gas into energy and another 20 percent is from wind power purchased from Portland General Electric.

The solar panels are expected to generate on average 8 percent of the plant’s annual electricity usage.

Gresham has entered into a 20-year power purchasing agreement with solar electricity company SunEdison, which owns, operates and maintains the solar array, valued at approximately $2 million. In return, the city is buying the power it generates.

Over the purchasing agreement’s 20 years, the cost savings to the city is estimated at $102,500.

Mara Stein, The Outlook –


Cle Elum council concerned over solar plant January 27, 2010

The Cle Elum City Council has added its voice to those raising concerns about the potential impact of the Teanaway Solar Reserve (TSR) proposed for a site four miles northeast of Cle Elum.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the council directed Community Development Director Matt Morton to meet with the council’s UGA Committee to draft a letter of concerns about the proposed solar farm and directed Morton to attend a hearing on it before the Kittitas County Board of Adjustment.

The council’s action came in response to a written report from Morton to the council regarding his concerns about the project.

Teanaway Solar Reserve LLC, a partnership of investors, plans to use about 500 acres within a 982-acre project site to construct an array of 400,000 solar panels that, when operational, would have the capacity to generate 75 megawatts of electricity. Proponents of the project, which was announced last summer, initially hoped to begin construction in early spring and aimed to have it operational by 2011.

Developers are seeking a conditional use permit (CUP) from the Kittitas County Board of Adjustment. But the effort to obtain a CUP ran into hurdles in the form of concerns from state agencies and surrounding landowners about the project’s impact on the environment and wildlife. TSR is now working on a mitigation plan.

Tuesday night, Morton told the council he has serious concerns about the project and believes the city needs to be on board as a stakeholder in the discussion.“I have concerns that the Teanaway Solar Reserve proposal is moving toward a final public hearing before the Kittitas County Board of Adjustment and impacts faced by the city of Cle Elum have not/will not be adequately addressed,” he said in a written report.

Among his concerns: an economic impact analysis prepared by CH2M Hill, a consulting firm, in October 2009 for TSR which he believes paints an unduly rosy picture of the project’s economic impact on the county.

The report’s summary predicts that Kittitas County “will benefit from substantial property and sales tax collected during construction and operation.” Morton termed that “a qualified assertion with no basis in fact or experiential relevance to Kittitas County.”

In fact, Morton asserted, “the perceived ‘benefits’ of the project are calculated as a net positive and are not reduced or compared to actual costs of the project born by the county.”

Despite a boon in property tax valuations in the billions of dollars in the past decade and substantial one-time collections in construction sales tax related to Suncadia, wind farms, residential developments and huge infrastructure projects, county and local municipality budgets are worse off now than they were before the supposed “windfall,” he said.

Clearly taking the county to task, he wrote that “this stems from the unwillingness or inability of Kittitas County to understand and properly associate the cost of development impacts and infrastructure requirements to the nexus of development.”

Morton also said that the economic impact analysis prepared for TSR was misleading and not put in proper context when it stated that “county revenues have exceeded expenditures” from 2004 to 2009.

In fact, Morton argued, the required annual maintenance and operations obligations of the county “far exceed revenues” the county takes in. The county’s budget is ballasted by outside sources, he argued, saying it only took a look at the “millions of dollars in grant awards, state and federal pass-through monies and other ‘reimbursements’” the county receives to realize that “the budget is not as rosy as painted by the developer.”

He noted that Kittitas County is still listed as a “distressed county” by the Washington State Department of Commerce and, as such receives tax breaks and incentives.

“Why is the county content to rely in the analysis provided by the developer?” he wrote. “Where is the cost of service analysis for this project to determine public works cost, construction impacts costs, policing costs, fire protection costs and storm water costs?”

Pointing to the county’s current economic situation, he said, “despite millions in ‘one-time’ collections in the past decade the county is gutting (its level of staffing) across the board and telling citizens to expect ‘much lower levels of service.’”

Morton called TSR and CH2M Hill’s assertion that the county is net revenue positive “simply a perversion of our reality. Every bit of experiential evidence we have tells us one-time development revenues and property tax assessments do not pay their fair share of impacts,” he wrote.

Morton said the county should require the developer to fund an independent fiscal analysis of the project to determine the cost of services to the county and that the county should select and manage the consultants preparing the study. The city of Cle Elum, the closest municipality to the project, should be involved and consulted, he said.

The county should require monitoring and mitigation for construction and development-related impacts to county roads, sheriff and fire services, he said. The county should also require a shortfall agreement with the developer to cover costs related to TSR, he said. “On Day One, Cle Elum must be ready to accept increased traffic and service,” he wrote. “This should be a developer expense, not an expense of the general taxpayer nor Cle Elum.”

Impact mitigation should be provided to the city of Cle Elum, he said.

“A trucker cannot fill his tank with diesel in the Teanaway. A construction worker will not eat dinner and sleep on the work site. When these folks start drinking beer in local bars or driving heavy trucks to our service stations, this creates yet another cost to us from, which we will not receive any or very little of the supposed windfall.

That Cle Elum (or other service centers) had not been consulted about the impact of the development on their communities is “shameful and unacceptable,” he said.

Morton said that a development agreement between the county and TSR “is the county’s best tool to mitigate impacts and obtain remuneration and protection.” But the draft development agreement between the two parties favors the developer and lacks the teeth to properly protect the county and its public, he said.

“Yet it appears not a single request (financial or otherwise) is made of the developer in the development agreement,” Morton wrote. Apologizing for what he acknowledged was sarcasm, he suggested the draft development agreement should be renamed “Developers Hall Pass.”

It would be “a colossal tragedy” for the county to accept the development agreement without negotiation to address fiscal, environmental, educational, aesthetic and other concerns, he argued. At a minimum, he wrote, the agreement should be drafted in a way that binds the developer “to the many promises they have made to our schools, university, local municipalities and constituents.”

Morton said while he respects the efforts of the citizens who serve voluntarily as members of the Kittitas County Board of Adjustment, he does not believe they are “technically or legally capable to deal with the complex technical, legal and environmental implications of the project.”

He said the county either needs to provide sufficient legal and educational resources to the Board of Adjustment so that it has the tools it needs to make an informed decision on the project or the county needs to hire a special land use hearings examiner to consider the issue.

MARY SWIFT, Daily Record


Intel to install 800kw of solar at Oregon facilities January 26, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 8:13 pm
Tags: ,

Intel said today that it plans to add 800 kilowatts of solar power at its Oregon facilities over the next seven months, adding to 100 kilowatts already at its Jones Farm campus in Hillsboro.

The new solar capacity is equivalent to the power used by 80 homes, according to Portland General Electric. The new solar power is being supplied by First Solar Inc., headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.

The pending installation in Hillsboro is part of a broader solar commitment by Intel, which is also adding solar panels in Arizona, California and New Mexico — 2.5 megawatts altogether.

Additionally, Intel said it will increase its consumption of renewable energy credits to 1.43 billion kilowatt hours — more than 51 percent of its total annual electricity consumption. Intel said its Oregon power bill is about $55 million annually.

Intel employs more in Oregon than any other business, with more than 15,000 working for the company in Washington County.

Mike Rogoway, Oregonian –


Water bureau to flip switch on biggest solar station in the NW January 21, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Solar,Utility Companies — nwrenewablenews @ 10:04 pm
Tags: , ,

The Pacific Northwest’s largest water utility-powered solar station will go online next week in Northeast Portland.

The Portland Water Bureau will flip the switch for “Solar on the Slough” at the Columbia South Shore Well Field, Portland’s groundwater supply source, next Tuesday.

The more than 1,200 panels near NE Airport Way will generate nearly 300,000 kilowatts of electricity each year, about 1.5 percent of the power used by the bureau.

The panels can also generate up to 9,000 watts even on cloudy days.

The electricity runs to a meter, then to a pump station. Energy not used by the pump station is sent to the PGE utility grid.

Checkout the Live cam

David Krough, KGW


Oregon solar operations get $87M in tax credits January 13, 2010

Filed under: Manufacturing,Oregon,Solar — nwrenewablenews @ 12:40 am
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Three companies have gotten a total of $87 million in tax credits to boost clean-energy technology in Oregon.

They include the SolarWorld wafer plant in Hillsboro and a German company, Centrosolar, reported to be interested in a photovoltaic operation in Gresham.

The SolarWorld plant got the largest amount of credits — $82 million — for an expansion.

Spokesman Ben Santarris called the credits a welcome addition as the company struggles to compete with panel manufacturers that get substantial government backing in countries such as China.

He said SolarWorld, also based in Germany, is hiring eight to 10 workers a week for the Hillsboro plant. The company plans to invest $500 million, have 1,000 employees and be able to produce solar panels with 500 megawatts of generation capacity.

A representative of Centrosolar told The Oregonian newspaper an announcement was expected Monday about the company’s plans. It got $4.7 million in credits.

The Oregon Department of Energy has approved a $6.2 million loan in October for CentroSolar America to finance construction of a 100-megawatt-capacity photovoltaic manufacturing facility in Gresham, although the money has not been disbursed.

Pacific Metal Fab got $304,000 in credits for producing parts for solar hot water systems in Eugene.

The Obama administration announced a total of $2.3 billion in tax credits Friday.

The credits are part of the federal stimulus program. The amounts are not cash grants, but would offset the companies’ tax liabilities.

Ashland Daily Tidings –