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Consultants’ study touts benefits of Antekope Ridge wind farm plan February 16, 2010

The company hoping to build a second wind farm in Union County says annual revenues to local governments from both facilities would range between $2.7 and $6 million.

Not only that, the two winds farms combined will account for more than 300 construction jobs and more than 90 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

But not everybody is buying it.

Horizon Wind Energy opened the 101-megawatt Elkhorn Valley wind farm at Telocaset in 2007. The company has applied to the Oregon Department of Energy to build a 300-megawatt facility, the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, near Union in 2011.

Citing a study done recently by the economic consulting firms Pareto Global and ECONorthwest, Horizon said the two facilities combined will have significant long-term benefits to the local economy.

“Our modeling showed that wind farms have a positive economic impact, create job growth and increase revenue to local governments,” said Jules Bailey, the principal consultant for Pareto Global.

The study estimated that Elkhorn Valley created 150 construction jobs, and says that 15 people are employed at the facility now.

The work of maintaining and operating the facility has indirectly created another 24 jobs, the study says.

Also according to the study, revenue impact to  Union County and other local governments from Elkhorn Valley is estimated at $664,000 a year.

The study says Antelope Ridge would create about 165 construction jobs and 20 full-time jobs at the facility after construction.

In addition, the study claims the facility will indirectly create 32 more jobs and that revenue impact from the wind farm itself and resulting economic activity to governments will be about $2 million.

The proposed Antelope Ridge facility has stirred much controversy in the county. Some individuals and at least one local government — the City of Union — have expressed concerns about possible effects on real estate values, scenery, tourism, wildlife and more.

Dennis Wilkinson, head of the local effort to stop construction of Antelope Ridge, sharply disputed claims made in the study.

In a letter to Horizon, Wilkinson said a release about the study sent to news outlets was “full of spin and incorrect information.” He accused Horizon of having a policy of not providing facts.

Among other things, Wilkinson asked Horizon to document its claims about job creation and revenue impacts.

“These quotes of dollar revenue and job claims are exaggerated to put it mildly and it continues to be the policy of Horizon to attempt to fool the public about the wind projects,” he said.

“It is a proven fact by hundreds of reports that wind farms are inefficient and would not be built if not for the subsidy and all the tax write-off.”

Horizon consultant Bob Applegate said Monday that the study’s conclusions are based on economic models.

He said the amount of money Horizon spends on construction, operation and maintenance is the primary factor. Outside of direct employment, the Pareto study did not pinpoint employment at local companies.

Applegate said that direct jobs are jobs held by workers at a facility. Indirect jobs are jobs at businesses that support operation and maintenance, and induced jobs are those created at businesses like restaurants and retail stores.

“It is a fair thing to say that absent the wind farm, there would be fewer jobs,” he said.

Applegate said that Horizon employs two full-time workers at Elkhorn, with plans to add a third. He said turbine manufacturer Vestas employs 12 people at Elkhorn.

Applegate also said that the study’s estimate of revenue impacts to governments is broad because those impacts depend on what agreements are worked out.

He said that if Horizon reaches a Strategic Investment Program agreement with Union County, the smaller figure would apply.

“I think it’s fair to say that the revenue impact to the county would be at least $2.7 million,” he said.

He said Horizon and Union County are currently in negotiations regarding an SIP agreement.

Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observerhttp://www.lagrandeobserver.com/News/Local-News/Consultants-study-touts-benefits-of-wind-farm-plan

 

Wind tunnel breezes onto Portland State’s campus February 15, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,University Research,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:34 pm
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A new wind tunnel at Portland State University could bolster the city’s green cache by bringing top-level researchers to the city.

The custom-designed wind tunnel is being constructed in Wisconsin and will be shipped to PSU in March. It will be installed in a first-floor lab of the school’s new engineering building, 1930 S.W. Fourth Ave.

The tunnel is generating excitement in Portland design circles. Sustainability advocates expect the $500,000 tunnel to encourage high-level research into wind energy.

Having a research-grade piece of equipment in Portland will be immensely helpful to architects and engineers, said John Breshears, associate partner with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.

ZGF designed rooftop wind turbines for downtown Portland’s Twelve|West office-and-apartment project for Gerding Edlen Development Co. The four wind turbines installed in 2009 were among the first to be placed in an urban setting in the U.S.

For that project, ZGF and its partners did their research at Oregon State University’s two wind tunnels. Bringing precision research equipment to Portland will encourage similar innovation.

“I don’t know that many universities or cities that have that level of research. It will enable us to do more of the kinds of research we need to do,” said Breshears, who said the firm is interested in researching wind patterns so it can install turbines at its other projects.

ZGF also is interested in using it to study green roofs, an increasingly popular feature in sustainable design. Little is known about how they interact with the environment.

NASA and the National Science Foundation are providing the initial funding to operate the equipment and direct research, though the school is looking for additional partners and projects.

Raúl Bayoán Cal, an assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, leads the wind-tunnel project.

The effort is getting an assist from Oregon BEST, which has pledged to match any grants he secures and is linking him with industry, said David Kenney, president and executive director. The 2007 Legislature created the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center to develop and promote Oregon’s green industry cluster.

Kenney said that as the North American home to wind energy leaders such as turbine manufacture Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. and wind power provider Iberdrola Renewables, it’s important for Portland to gird its favorite new business sector with solid research capabilities.

“It’s a great connection,” he said.

The wind tunnel channels carefully controlled wind through a five-meter chamber where researchers duplicate the conditions they’re trying to study — temperature, pressure, ground configuration and so forth.

Lasers record how the air moves through the chamber.

Doctoral candidates will use it for high-level research, but it is also a teaching and recruitment tool to attract undergraduates and high school students to the hard sciences by giving them a hands-on experience.

“There’s nothing cooler than that,” he said.

It already has helped attract talent to Portland.

Max Gibson, a Ph.D. candidate studying under Cal, came to Portland from Mississippi by way of Canada. The wind tunnel, he said, is hugely attractive to students.

“This is going to put us on the map,” he said.

Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2010/02/15/story7.html?b=1266210000^2877541

 

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 – http://www.tri-cityherald.com/1154/story/895843.html

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Portland Based Element Power acquires 1.4GW in wind assets February 9, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 12:30 pm
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Element Power announced Tuesday that it picked up a 1.4 gigawatt portfolio of U.S.-based wind development assets from EcoEnergy for an undisclosed price.

The acquisition is part of Portland-based Element Power’s strategy to build its North American portfolio.

“By adopting a targeted and highly selective project acquisition strategy in key markets, we have created excellent 2010 and 2011 build opportunities in both solar and wind,” said Element Power’s president and COO for North America, Raimund Grube in a statement.

Element now has nearly 4 gigawatts in wind and solar assets in more than 25 states. Element also has operating and development-stage wind and solar assets in Europe and South America.

Portland Business Journal – http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2010/02/08/daily18.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