Northwest Renewable News

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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 –


Clean energy backers tout jobs at Tri-City conference February 8, 2010

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 Herald


Winds of change: Port looks beyond recent green boom February 7, 2010

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 –


Clean energy the focus of conference in Kennewick

Filed under: Renewable/Green Energy,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 3:45 pm

Energy experts, researchers, business leaders, farmers and politicians are converging in Kennewick for a conference focused on developing clean energy sources to help rural economies.

The 10th Harvesting Clean Energy Conference runs today through Tuesday at Three Rivers Convention Center, where organizers have scheduled workshops and sessions on everything from the future of hydropower and electric vehicles in agriculture to transforming crops and farm waste into energy.

The goal of the conference is to promote rural economic development in the Northwest through clean energy development and production, said Rhys Roth, one of the conference organizers and director of strategic innovations at Climate Solutions, a Northwest nonprofit focused on promoting practical and profitable solutions to coping with global warming.

“We’d like to see clean energy and clean energy technology become job-creating pillars of our economy,” Roth said. “There’s a broad range of technologies that hold the potential for economic development: Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass and solar.”

He said the conference is geared to farmers and ranchers, agricultural landowners, food processing companies, energy and agricultural companies, representatives of state and local governments and more.

Richard Wynne, director of geopolitical and policy analysis at Boeing, will deliver the keynote address Monday morning on the potential role agriculture could have in developing renewable energy sources for aviation.

“That could have an enormous impact,” Roth said.

Other sessions will explore the future of solar technologies, wind farms and transforming wood and food processing waste into energy.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., will speak today at a congressional leaders forum on ways to advance economic development through clean energy.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is to speak Monday.

The annual conference, which rotates among Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, was last held in the Tri-Cities in 2002. The scope of the sessions has grown considerably since then, as have the number of sponsors.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratories is one of the major sponsors this year. Some of the others include the Benton and Franklin PUDs, Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Northwest, Infinia and the Tri-City Development Council.

One of PNNL’s key research and development missions is to increase U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil through research of hydrogen and biomass-based fuels and to reduce the effects of energy generation and use on the environment, said Gary Spanner, manager of PNNL’s economic development office.

PNNL researchers will be presenters at a session on biochar — charcoal prepared from biomass that is used to generate energy and improve the productivity of soil.

Researchers from PNNL also will speak on a panel on smart grid technologies, a system designed to improve power delivery and reliability and increase efficiency by using intelligent, two-way communication technologies.

Members of the Tri-Cities Tea Party plan to rally outside the conference from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today to advocate for production of all forms of energy, including oil and nuclear, said coordinator Leon Howard.

Registration fees for the three-day conference are $110 for individuals and $190 for professionals, Roth said.

For more information about the conference, go to

Kevin McCullenk, TriCity Herald


Manure digester not all that Zillah dairy expected February 5, 2010

Filed under: Farm/Ranch,Methane Digesters,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 7:38 pm
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Dan DeRuyter doubts he would do it again if he knew what he knows today.

The 42-year-old dairy producer east of Zillah operates the only manure digester in Eastern Washington, one of four currently operating in the state.

His 1.2-megawatt capacity digester may ultimately be the only one in a county where facilities like his that turn manure into electricity and usable products would appear to be a natural.

With 61 dairies and about 139,000 cows, Yakima County has the highest concentration of milk producers in the state, which carries with it the dubious distinction of being a large producer of manure.

A single dairy cow produces nearly 150 pounds of wet manure a day.

As a result, dairies are considered one of the culprits contributing to a groundwater contamination problem in the Lower Yakima Valley, where one out of every five wells has nitrate levels above what the federal government considers safe.

While the federal Environmental Protection Agency is trying to pinpoint the source of the contamination, some dairies are trying to find their own solutions, which led DeRuyter to explore what kind of a difference a digester could make on his manure output.

He was encouraged by local and state policymakers, but things aren’t turning out quite the way the models envisioned when he built the $3.8 million facility and began producing power more than three years ago.

DeRuyter, whose dairy has 3,000 cows, has run into a problem with Pacific Power, which has a contract to market his power at a rate of about 6.1 cents per kilowatt hour this year, or more than $1,700 per day. It is a six-month contract that began in November.

The utility argues that a tariff it proposed – ultimately approved by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission – prohibits it from paying him for more than 1 megawatt of electricity at that set rate.

The rate is designed to assure small start-up generators a firm rate to support their operations.

As it stands now, an interim renewal agreement allows DeRuyter to be paid for no more than 1 megawatt, enough power to light about 500 homes.

But DeRuyter needs to be able to market electricity at his capacity of 1.2 megawatts to make the project pencil out and provide a return on his investment.

His operation averaged under 1 megawatt during its first three years. Efficiencies have boosted his ability to generate more power.

Now he finds paying for and operating the digester is a draw on the equity in his farming operation. And it is occurring at the worst time, as dairy producers try to slog through a downturn in milk prices. Prices to dairy producers dropped nearly in half to $12 for 100 pounds early last year. Prices have since rebounded some.

“It’s a situation where they have me over a barrel and just don’t care,” argued DeRuyter, who has taken his case to state lawmakers.

Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt in Portland responded the utility is operating under rules established for it that can’t be ignored.

“Those are the rules we operate by. They can be changed and there are processes involved. We have been talking to the Legislature and talking about the administrative rules to make alterations,” he said. “I don’t think we are opposed to making changes. Until they happen, we have to work with the rules we have.”

“It’s not in our power to make an exception and pretend 1.2 megawatts is 1 megawatt,” he added.

State law and regulations that set out what utilities must do raise public policy questions about the role the state should play in encouraging renewable energy sources, especially in light of Initiative 937.

The initiative, approved by voters in 2007, required utilities such as Pacific Power to meet targets for the use of renewable energy resources in their portfolios.

The ultimate target is 15 percent renewables in the portfolio by 2020.

The commission, which regulates electricity, could modify the tariff rate by rule, but has not done so. Commissioners have to make sure that utility customers receive the best rates possible for power service.

Efforts to modify the system in the Legislature have failed because the various parties – producers and utilities – can’t agree, according to a state lawmaker who is working on the issue.

State Rep. John McCoy, a Tulalip Democratic lawmaker and chair of the Technology, Energy and Communication Committee, said he sympathizes with DeRuyter’s predicament. But right now there’s not consensus to move forward.

“I want to fix that. We have to keep plugging away,” McCoy said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want the DeRuyters to go away. I have talked about anaerobic digesters for years. Now, legislators are starting to get it. I still can’t get the utilities to come around.”

Dairy operators in Yakima County and elsewhere are watching.

Jay Gordon, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, said DeRuyter’s experience is sending the wrong message to others about building a digester to expand uses for the huge amount of manure created every day in Yakima County.

“It needs to be where we can show this will give you a return on investment and not lose your shirt,” Gordon said. “This sends a loud message to farmers and energy companies there is some risk.”

The digester on DeRuyter’s dairy is composed of a huge concrete-lined digester, a 3.3 million-gallon tank that mostly sits below ground level and an engine room with two 900-horsepower motors.

About 150,000 gallons of manure are flushed into the system every day.

Heat is applied to activate microbes that feed on the manure, creating methane. The methane is used to power the motors that turn a generator and create electricity.

Byproducts include a bedding material he uses for his cattle and fertilizer. The bedding material also could replace peat moss for nursery companies. Other uses for the byproduct also are being looked at, such as wood pellets and plywood.

DeRuyter also said the digester has reduced odors from the dairy, something about which his neighbors have commented to him.

Other digester operators in the state are faring better, primarily because they are in the Puget Sound Energy service area.

Kevin Maas, president of Farm Power Northwest LLC, a company that is operating a digester for two farmers in Mount Vernon in Skagit County, said Puget Sound is paying for power up to two megawatts – Puget’s tariff limit – at a rate that started last year at 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour and rises over the next nine years to 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The other two digesters are located in Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

The cap of two megawatts represents what is known as Puget Sound Energy’s avoided cost, what the investor-owned utility would have to pay to generate the energy itself or purchase the energy from someone else.

In Pacific Power’s case, its avoided cost is 1 megawatt.

Pacific Power officials say any production above the 1 megawatt must be submitted under a request for proposals process by which rates are set on a competitive basis and generally are lower.

But Maas argues Pacific Power is doing only the minimum it is required to do.

“The regulations don’t require them to do anything more than the minimum and that is what they are doing with Dan,” Maas said.

DeRuyter said Pacific Power could approach the commission to modify its existing tariff or seek an exception to allow it to go beyond the 1-megawatt limit.

But the utility would have to do that for all producers, said Tom Schooley, accounting manager in the commission’s energy section.

Maas points to Oregon, where utilities are required to offer longer-term contracts and accept power from generators up to 10 megawatts.

“The state government could change all of this by doing the same thing as Oregon,” he said. “It is something the Legislature could solve if it weren’t distracted by a $2.6 billion shortfall.”

The issue is getting a renewed look by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The last chance for a legislative fix died last week when a McCoy bill that sought to modify Initiative 937 died.

The dairy federation’s Gordon said should nothing change in the current, short legislative session, he may try to start a between-session dialogue on the issue.

“My plan is to put together a letter to the UTC and send it out to the utilities asking why we have such a low tariff rate on renewables and can we change that to what we have in Western Washington?”

DAVID LESTER, Yakima Herald-Republic


Saddle Mountain Wind farm gets go ahead February 4, 2010

Filed under: Legal/Courts,Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:46 pm

The Saddle Mountain Wind Farm is a go.

That was the decision following a unanimous vote by the Adams County Board of Adjustment granting permission for Horizon Wind Energy to begin construction of a wind farm on the ridge of Saddle Mountain southwest of Othello.

The public hearing was held Tuesday, Jan. 19, with a packed house in the district courtroom.
County planner Loren Wiltse presented the board with a staff report that included the findings and facts related to the codes for wind farms, along with the comments and letters his office received from concerned citizens.

“A couple years ago, the code was added to address wind facilities standards,” Wiltse said.
The project, which has been in the works for five years, will require leasing ground from several landowners.

Elon Hasson, project manager, said there are six pieces to the project — turbines, roads, a laydown yard for parts during construction, met towers, an electrical substation and an operation and maintenance building. Power produced will interconnect to the Benton-Othello transmission line.
Steve McDonald, of Blue Bird (formerly Peshatin Fruit), was at the hearing to discuss the impacts to the entrance into the orchard on Kuhn Road, which is the road that will lead to the entrance of the wind farm.

“It’s very steep in and out of the farm,” he said. “Even a six-inch change to the road bed elevation would be detrimental.”

Wiltse said any county road used by Horizon would be brought up to all weather standards in accordance with the county engineer’s decision.
“I’d ask we get some input as those decisions are made,” McDonald said. “I’ll be happy as long as my fruit can come and go.”

Colin Meskell, Horizon project manager for construction, said any improvements would utilize digging down rather than building up the road bed.

“We’re not looking to raise the height of the road,” Meskell said. “We will work to make entrances easier and find ways to make the road work for everybody.”

Hasson said because Horizon will develop, own and operate the wind farm for the life of the project, the company wants to work with its neighbors, like Blue Bird.

Now that the project has been approved, engineering work will begin. Construction should start in October or November with the building of roadways over irrigation canals and ditches.
Along with the new roads, there will be upgrading to existing roads and the installation of culverts and fords.

Local contractors will have the opportunity to bid on three parts — erection, roads and foundations and electrical work. The winning bidders will be able to subcontract for smaller pieces, such as fencing.

Hasson expects the company to employ six to eight full-time family wage jobs once the wind farm is on line.

Staff structure will consist of management and maintenance people. Technical schools are available and some on-site training will be conducted.

LuAnn Morgan, Othella Outlook


Bioenergy company to build plant in Shelton

A Maryland-based company bioenergy company has plans to build in Shelton a $250 million plant that converts wood waste from logging into energy.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, ADAGE company officials and others are scheduled to announce details of the project Thursday afternoon at the Port of Olympia.

The biomass power plant is expected to support 275 direct and indirect jobs per year, generate enough renewable energy to power 40,000 homes and pump some $70 million annually into the local economy.

The plant will use green technology to ensure lower greenhouse gas emissions and water use than a traditional power plant, according to advance information about Thursday’s announcement.

John Dodge, The Olympian