Northwest Renewable News

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

Landfill to provide clean energy to Seattle area April 9, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Landfill Gas,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 5:30 pm
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Methane from a Seattle-area landfill will soon be used to provide clean natural gas power for area residents.

This week, Puget Sound Energy and Bio Energy-Washington announced a plan to power 24,000 nearby homes with methane gas from the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.

“We are reducing carbon dioxide emissions roughly equal to taking 22,000 average passenger cars off the road each year, and we’re creating a valuable commodity from what was previously considered a useless byproduct,” King County executive Ron Sims said in a statement.

According to PSE, the power output from the landfill project will be equivalent to a 35 megawatt natural gas plant, and the third-largest facility of its kind in the nation. The methane will be transported to PSE-owned natural gas plants, reducing the landfill’s carbon footprint by nearly two-thirds in the process. The company also indicated that the landfill gas is actually cleaner than that from conventional wells because of the processing steps involved.

While there are over 100 of these landfill energy projects nationwide, this isn’t the only non-traditional energy source gaining traction. Dane County in Wisconsin recently issued an RFP for manure-digesters that will help the local dairy industry by generating natural gas and keeping manure-related pollutants out of area lakes.

Washington Energy Services –


Governors envision eco-friendly fuels at I-5 rest stops March 11, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Northern California,Oregon,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:18 am

Gov. Chris Gregoire and her counterparts in Oregon and California are considering a plan they hope would help transform Interstate 5 from a freeway ruled by gasoline burners to a haven for eco-friendly cars and trucks.

The three governors envision a series of alternative fueling stations stretching from the Canadian border to Mexico, creating what has been dubbed a “green freeway.”

As the plan stands, motorists eventually would be able to pull off at I-5 rest stops for more than a cup of coffee and roadside relief: They also would be able to charge, or swap out, their electric-vehicle batteries or fill their tanks with biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen or compressed natural gas.

The idea is drawing opposition from interest groups that say the state-approved stations would compete with nearby private businesses.

But supporters say services for alternative-fuel vehicles are often tough to find near the 1,382-mile interstate. If approved, the project could begin in Washington as early as this coming summer.

It would mark the first time U.S. drivers could travel a long stretch of freeway with easy access to alternative fuel.

“We originally coined it the B.C.-to-Baja green highway,” said Jeff Doyle, director of public-private partnerships at the Washington State Department of Transportation. “The three states are trying to find out if we can all march forward together.”

The fueling stations and battery swap-out docks would be the first businesses allowed by West Coast states to operate at rest stops, Doyle said. To help companies with their initial costs, they would not be charged rent until they started turning a profit, he said.

The move would need to clear layers of local and federal approval. Supporters say the plan would fit with the nationwide push for green jobs and alternative-energy development, and put the states in line for some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus money dedicated to energy-related programs.

Marty Brown, Gregoire’s legislative liaison, said Gregoire, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski are beginning to figure out how to make the plan work. The three briefly discussed the idea last month during a meeting in Washington, D.C.

Priming investment

Doyle said he has been working with the Oregon and California transportation departments for months in developing a way to “partner with next-generation fuel providers to spur private investment.”

He said Oregon and California are not likely to start on their ends of the project as soon as Washington, which also is looking at setting up alternative-fuel stations at Park-and-Ride lots.

Separately in Olympia, Rep. Deb Eddy, D-Kirkland, is sponsoring a bill that would give businesses a sales-tax exemption to establish battery charging and exchange stations, as well as create the infrastructure to transform the state automobile fleet from gasoline to electric.

“If we expect to ever meet our state greenhouse-gas goals, we will have to tackle transportation,” Eddy said.

Eddy said she is not working with Gregoire and the California and Oregon governors in her efforts, but she said she’d like charging and battery swap-out stations at rest stops by the end of 2015.

Eddy said her proposal, House Bill 1481, is likely to be voted out of the House in coming days.

Business opposition

Jim Whitty, manager of the Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding office in Oregon, said his state wants to push forward with the rest-stop fueling stations but is tied up by opposition from the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) and national gasoline distribution groups.

NATSO contends the stations would draw potential customers from truck stops, hotels, restaurants and other businesses near rest stops.

The owner of a Eugene, Ore., company that works with I-5 tractor-trailer drivers to reduce greenhouse emissions by upgrading their vehicles, remains hopeful for the rest-stop businesses. Sharon Banks, CEO of Cascade Sierra Solutions, said the proposal would appeal to truckers who choose rest areas over truck stops as places to pull off the freeway.

In the Puget Sound region, Susan Fahnestock, who co-owns Bellevue’s Green Car Co., which sells electric, plug-in hybrid and biodiesel vehicles, said the proposal is timely because numerous types of electric cars are hitting the market.

“I think people know this is coming. We have got to start somewhere,” Fahnestock said.

Doyle said he’s slogging through the legalities of getting the federal government to approve commercial development alongside an interstate. He said that if the plan is approved, the rest stops would not resemble some East Coast rest areas that feature fast-food restaurants and souvenir shops.

Doyle said the state wouldn’t want alternative-fuel stations to disrupt rest-area traffic, so contract companies would have to provide small, low-profile setups. Doyle added that rest-stop fueling sites would be self-service and likely to have little or no on-site staffing.

There already are dozens of compressed natural gas, ethanol and biodiesel stations in Washington and Oregon, but the closest hydrogen station is at Humboldt State University in Northern California.

Company interested

Doyle said no contracts for the fuel stations have been signed. But the head of a California-based company that has electric-car service stations in Israel, and is in the midst of expanding to Hawaii, the Bay Area, Australia and Ontario, Canada, has met with Gregoire, Brown said.

The company, Better Place, is led by Shai Agassi, a former Silicon Valley software executive who has been traveling the world touting his vision of a network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

Jeff Miller, who works in global development at Better Place, said that if the company were hired it would build charging stations in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and battery switch-out stations at rest areas about every 40 miles along the I-5 corridor. Electric vehicles, he said, have a battery life of about 100 miles.

Better Place’s stations are fully automated and require about five minutes to switch out a battery, which can be less time than it takes to fill up a gas tank, Miller said.

Jennifer Sullivan, Seattle Times


Pacific Ethanol closing 2 plants for now February 28, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Idaho,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 1:39 pm
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Corn-based fuel – The company seeks new terms from its lenders, but its Boardman site is still running “full out”

Pacific Ethanol said Friday that it is temporarily closing down its ethanol plants in Burley, Idaho, and Stockton, Calif., leaving only a partially owned plant in Colorado and its Boardman plant along the Columbia River to produce the corn-based fuel.

The Sacramento-based company, the West Coast’s largest ethanol producer, also suspended operations at its Madera, Calif., plant in January.

The down economy, lower prices for petroleum gasoline, and a tighter spread between ethanol and corn prices have all hit ethanol hard, though mandates for ethanol content in gasoline still help the industry.

In a news release, Pacific Ethanol said it is trying to negotiate new loan terms with its lenders. The lenders will “refrain from exercising their rights and remedies” through March 31, the release said.

The Boardman plant, opened in 2007, has a 40 million-gallon-a-year capacity. Rail cars carry the corn in from the east, and barges take the distilled fuel down the Columbia River to distributors in Portland.

Paul Koehler, a Pacific Ethanol spokesman, said the company is “operating Boardman full out.” Koehler said he couldn’t comment on whether an inability to negotiate new loan terms would affect the Boardman plant.

The company said it will continue serving its ethanol customers through production from Boardman and ethanol suppliers to Kinergy Marketing, Pacific Ethanol’s wholly owned marketing arm. Pacific Ethanol also owns a 42 percent interest in Front Range Energy, which owns an ethanol plant in Windsor, Colo.

The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry group, said this week that 23 of 171 ethanol plants are currently idled, but 21 more are under construction.

SCOTT LEARN, The Oregonian


Oil Demand is slowing, growth in Renewable fuels main reason December 17, 2008

Filed under: Biofuels,Renewable/Green Energy — nwrenewablenews @ 3:23 pm
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The government is predicting virtually no growth in U.S. oil consumption between now and 2030.

The Energy Information Administration attributes this trend to increases in conservation, a greater use of renewable fuels and an expected rebound in oil prices. The agency also said Wednesday that overall energy use will continue to increase, but at a slower rate.

Its long-range forecast projects a 3% annual growth of renewable energy use, including solar, wind and biofuels such as ethanol. It also expects a sharp increase in sales of hybrid cars.

While oil prices have fallen recently, the report says that prices will rise again as economies rebound and global demand increases.


SeQuential Biodiesel Expanding Production at Salem Plant November 21, 2008

Filed under: Biofuels,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 10:20 pm
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Oregon could see another boom in biodiesel. One plant in Salem is expanding production in a big way. General manager, Tyson Keever, showed off the new expansion at SeQuential Pacific Biodiesel in Salem. The expansion meant this Salem plant, which got much it’s cooking oil from fast food joints, could now process five times more biodiesel, 5 million gallons a year — a significant number for Oregon.