Northwest Renewable News

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

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 –


Solar project forum Feb. 21 in Yakima

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 –


NW power plan: No coal, only wind, gas, efficiency February 10, 2010

The latest energy plan for the Pacific Northwest has been adopted with the goal of limiting greenhouse gas pollution by increased conservation and wind power development.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously adopted the regional energy plan Wednesday at a meeting in Portland.

The plan covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana for the next 20 years. But the council revises it every five years to keep up with changes.

The new plan says most of the increased demand for electricity in the Northwest can be met with improved efficiency, conservation and wind power.

Associated Press –


PSE expanding renewable energy grant program February 9, 2010

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:

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.


For more information, visit

Auburn Reporter –


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 –


Biomass option still on the table for Flathead Electric February 2, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Montana,Utility Companies,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 3:55 pm

Flathead Electric Cooperative managers say they have long been exploring the potential for the development of a biomass cogeneration plant, but so far it has penciled out as the most expensive source to meet future power needs.

With the recent closure of the Smurfit-Stone container mill in Frenchtown, there has been a renewed interest in biomass cogeneration in the Flathead to serve as an alternative and productive destination for the region’s wood-waste products.

Chuck Roady, vice president of F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co., outlined plans to build a cogeneration plant at the company’s sawmill facility west of Columbia Falls during a recent panel discussion at Flathead Valley Community College.

Roady said one of the biggest obstacles to the project is the relatively high cost of continually gathering biomass material to power the plant.

“We have the same interests as Chuck does in biomass,” said Kenneth Sugden, the cooperative’s general manager. “We’ve worked with Stoltze for about three or four years.”

It is true that the co-op will be faced with the need to meet a rising curve in future power loads because hydropower from the Bonneville Power Administration has been capped. The problem is that simply having BPA purchase power from other sources to meet power needs over the next 17 years would cost about half as much as the cost of local biomass generation.

The co-op estimates that adding a 15 megawatt biomass cogeneration plant to the local power grid would lead to electricity rate increases of more than 12 percent.

But Sugden stressed that the cooperative’s board of directors has never shut the door on the possibility.

“One of the misconceptions we hear is that our board has voted [on biomass cogeneration] and it hasn’t,” Sugden said. “Our board has said all along that we are interested.”

He said the board has instructed management to pursue all kinds of alternative energy sources. There is a state-directed goal of having 15 percent of the co-op’s power coming from renewable sources by 2015.

Sugden said the co-op worked with Plum Creek Timber Co. on a potential biomass cogeneration plant for several years, but the company suspended those plans in early 2008.

Now the Stoltze project has taken on a higher profile, largely because of the closure of the Frenchtown pulp mill.

“This has become a big issue and people want to talk about it,” said Mark Johnson, the utility’s assistant general manager. “It has become a more popular item.”

Johnson and Sugden said they will meet with Roady for more discussions on how to make biomass cogeneration more economically feasible.

“We’ve got to either make the project smaller or we have to get the costs down,” Sugden said, acknowledging that some form of government subsidy could advance the project.

Johnson said there currently are better government tax incentives and grant programs available for solar and wind energy projects than there are for biomass projects.

“If it were treated on par with solar and wind … it would be able to lower the cost of the Stoltze project,” Johnson said.

Solar and wind have won political favor because they are carbon-free energy sources. While biomass advocates maintain it is a “carbon-neutral” energy source, it is not considered to be as clean as wind and solar.

Johnson noted that wind and solar have the drawbacks of not being consistent sources of power and they are not likely to be significant energy sources in Northwest Montana. He said it is obvious to the co-op’s board that the region has abundant timber resources.

“For us, it is the major renewable in our area,” he said.

Sugden and Johnson acknowledged that many people would consider a 12 percent power rate increase to be palatable, particularly if it helped save jobs and the wood-products industry.

However, they said the board must account for the people who could not afford such an increase, particularly during an economic recession. Electricity rates already are slated to go up 3 to 5 percent this spring, an increase that the co-op incurred in October but intentionally deferred over the winter months.

“We have seen an incredible increase in people having a hard time being able to pay their bill,” Sugden said.

Johnson added that the co-op’s billing department is “talking to people they’ve never had to talk with before.”

They said the board must find “a balance” in new energy sources and affordability.

JIM MANN, The Daily Inter Lake –


Study suggests burning wood pellets in place of coal can be cost-Effective February 1, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Farm/Ranch,Oregon,Utility Companies,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 2:15 pm

A recent study concludes that burning biomass in place of coal, such as Portland General Electric is considering for its Boardman power plant, can be cost-effective.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, looked at replacing all or part of the coal supplying power plants in Ontario, Canada, and it found that co-firing with wood pellets and coal was a realistic way to reduce a plant’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A mix of 90 percent coal, 10 percent pellets would increase the cost of electricity from the two test plants’ by 0.6 and 0.9 cents per kilowatt hour, the study says, while significantly reducing the amount of climate-changing gasses they produce.

“If 10% co-firing were to be implemented in all coal (plants) in the United States and Canada, electricity generation from biomass could contribute approximately 4% of annual generation of the two countries (185 of 4660 TWh), reducing GHG emissions by 170 million metric tons/year, 5% of emissions from the two countries’ electricity sectors,” the study says.

Read about PGE’s plans for biomass at its Boardman coal-fired power plant here.

“The results suggest that electricity produced from biomass in existing coal GS should be considered, along with other alternatives, as a means of achieving near-term GHG reductions,” it says.

But there are limits to how many pellets forests can sustainable supply, the study cautions.

(Hat tip to Green Inc.)

Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian –