Northwest Renewable News

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Oregon Bill would classify burning garbage as renewable poweron February 7, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy — nwrenewablenews @ 4:44 pm
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Garbage — it’s generated day after day, in ever increasing amounts, and Marion County wants it considered a renewable resource.

Under a bill being considered this session, the electricity created when the Brooks incinerator burns garbage would be classified as renewable.

It puts burning garbage for electricity in Marion County on par with turning turbines on a wind farm and capturing the sun’s power with solar panels.

The designation is coveted because Oregon requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2025.

“We want the classification in four more years when we have to go out and market the energy we get from garbage in the county,” said Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano. “I am banking that we will be able to sell it at a premium.”

Even though renewable energy advocates support the bill, they say that the inclusion of municipal solid waste is misguided.

“Just because we have a lot of garbage and we will continue to have a lot of garbage does not make it a renewable resource,” said Jeff Bissonette, a spokesman for the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon. “When we talk about renewable energy, we are usually talking about a fuel source that is naturally occurring and unlimited. If you think about wind, wind happens by itself, and the wind is going to blow long after we are on this planet.”

While not specifically named in the bill, the Covanta garbage incinerator at Brooks likely will be the only beneficiary of the bill’s solid-waste language.

The municipal solid waste language was included in the bill at the request of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

Courtney said it is typical to include municipal solid waste in renewable energy legislation that covers biomass, including wood waste.

Courtney’s adviser Phil Bentley said the waste-to-energy industry in Oregon is still in its infancy and that this legislation is not likely to create a rush in facility construction.

Courtney said the “significant restrictions” on a facility such as Covanta’s eases any concerns he has — particularly regarding air quality.

Covanta officials count more than 20 states that define municipal solid waste as renewable.

Of seven western states that also have a renewable energy standard, five states specifically exclude garbage burning, said Kip Pheil, a senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy.

Nevada allows it but doesn’t have any such facilities.

California’s law excludes municipal solid waste except for electricity generated from a single facility.

House Bill 3674 also allows the burning of wood waste to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.

The caveat is that the electricity generated from garbage or wood waste can’t be considered renewable until 2026 — a year after utilities must have25 percent of their energy from sources such as wind, solar and wave.

It’s still a boon to the Covanta garbage burner and wood waste facilities because utilities will have to maintain that 25 percent renewable energy load in the face of increasing electricity needs and population growth.

Utilities can “bank” the renewable energy as early as 2011 by purchasing a renewable energy certificate for the electricity.

The legislation is a revision of a 2009 bill that the governor vetoed last summer.

Renewable energy advocates and the governor are satisfied with the revised bill because it still means that about 1,800 average megawatts of new renewable energy — from traditional sources such as wind — will be developed for Oregon.

Beth Casper, Statesman Journal


Sutherland will lead Central Wash. renewable energy partnership January 31, 2010

Kittitas County officials have announced that former Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland is taking the helm of a new public-private partnership focused on renewable energy jobs and research.

The partnership is called the Central Washington Resource Energy Collaborative, which was formally recognized by the state Commerce Department in October.

It is the first Innovative Partnership Zone in the state since Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the initial designation of 11 such zones in 2007. Such zones are designed to build on the success of so-called “research parks” around the world such as the The Triangle in North Carolina and Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

In a news release Friday, Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell said Sutherland has agreed to accept the position as interim executive director of the new partnership and is expected to refine the agency’s organizational structure and direction over the next 12 to 18 months.

“We are extremely excited to have someone with Doug’s qualifications and experience to guide this project during its critical startup stage,” Jewell said.

Sutherland’s credentials include stints as the Pierce County executive, city manager of the city of SeaTac, and mayor and city council member of Tacoma. As a Republican, he served two terms as public-lands commissioner before he was defeated by Democrat Peter Goldmark in 2008.

In taking the job, Sutherland noted that he is a graduate of Central Washington University and thus familiar with the area.

“This is a great opportunity to assist in building a lasting organization,” he said. “The fact that I have ties to the area was a bonus that made it even more attractive.”

CWU is one of several organizations that are taking part in the partnership, along with Kittitas County and the nonprofit Economic Development Group of Kittitas County.

Also on board is Puget Sound Energy, which owns the Wild Horse wind farm east of Ellensburg, and enXco Development Corp., the French-backed company that is building the 95-turbine Desert Claim wind farm eight miles northwest of Ellensburg.

Kittitas County officials touted the partnership as the first in the state to focus exclusively on resource-based technologies.

According to the county’s news release, the partnership’s goal is to create a “hub” for renewable energy research and to strengthen the county’s job base by nurturing technology based companies.

Sutherland is expected to start Monday and will work out of the Economic Development Group’s offices in Ellensburg.

CHRIS BRISTOL, Yakima Herald-Republic


ISU gets grant for renewable energy training program January 30, 2010

The federal government has awarded Idaho State University $1.5 million to establish a new program for training technicians suited to work in the renewable energy industry.

The U.S. Department of Labor grant will be funneled to ISU’s Energy Systems Technology and Education Center. Administrators will use the money to create a nine-month to certify technicians who can pursue careers in wind energy and other renewable energy fields.

Students completing the program will be certified as renewable energy technicians. With additional classes, they can obtain an associates degree in wind engineering or mechanical engineering technology.

The center hopes to begin offering classes in the renewable energy program in the fall of 2011.

Associated Press –


Forecast: NW Energy prices likely to rise modestly January 24, 2010

Energy prices in 2009 reflected both good and bad news for consumers; the good news was that prices for natural gas and oil were much lower than the previous year; the bad news was that a severe recession was part of the reason for the lower prices.

Looking ahead to 2010, I expect a modest recovery of energy prices, the extent of which depends to a large degree on the economy. A robust recovery from the recession would put more upward pressure on energy prices. A sluggish recovery would moderate energy price increases.

Oil prices should increase moderately during 2010. They remain high by historical standards even during the recession. The outlook for oil prices, however, must always be conditioned on developments in the Middle East. Changes in world oil prices quickly find their way to the gasoline station and consumers’ pockets.

Natural gas prices fell by about 50 percent between 2008 and 2009. Many consumers have seen the effects of this reduction in their natural gas bills as distributors pass along cost reductions in rates. I expect moderate natural gas price increases this year.

However, a new development is at work in the U.S. natural gas market that could affect future prices. A couple of years ago, natural gas supplies were expected to decline for the U.S. and Canada. Yet, improved drilling and recovery technologies have unlocked natural gas supplies from shale and other non-conventional formations. The result was a substantial increase in natural gas supplies that, combined with the recession, contributed to the collapse of prices in 2009. While there are questions remaining about the future of these non-conventional supplies, they are likely to help contain price increases for years to come. Nevertheless, the higher cost of developing these supplies will prevent large decreases in natural gas prices in the long term.

Electricity prices for consumers are less volatile than oil and natural gas prices. They are regulated to a greater extent and more insulated from market fluctuations. This is especially true in the Pacific Northwest, where hydroelectricity supplies a large share of our electricity. Hydroelectricity cost does not change directly based on fuel prices.

Future costs of electricity are increasingly likely to be affected by policies addressing climate change concerns. It is important to understand that, nationwide, electricity generation accounts for 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Because of the large presence of hydroelectricity in the Pacific Northwest, the electric generation share of carbon dioxide emissions is only 23 percent. For example, electricity generation in Washington state produces only 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions per kilowatt-hour of the total U.S. electricity generation.

Nevertheless, efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are likely to significantly affect the cost of electricity. Electric utilities in Washington are subject to renewable portfolio standards that require growing shares of electricity supplies to be renewable. Renewable electricity generation is more expensive than existing generation and new natural gas-fired electricity generation. Proposed cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gases would raise the cost of existing carbon dioxide-emitting generation, especially existing coal plants that account for 85 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the Northwest power system. Even improved efficiency of electricity use can raise electricity rates, while at the same time reducing electric bills for homes and businesses that participate because less electricity is consumed.

Conservation vs. new power

Carbon emissions and electricity costs were issues that the Northwest Power and Conservation Council addressed in its new draft Sixth Power Plan for the Pacific Northwest. The resource strategy advocated in the plan is an aggressive pursuit of improved efficiency (conservation) in homes, businesses, and factories.

The council found that much of the region’s expected growth in electricity needs could be met with conservation at far lower cost and risk than building additional generation. In addition, renewable electricity generation acquired to meet renewable portfolio standards in the region will help reduce carbon emissions. The region should improve the operational procedures of the power system to better integrate variable generation sources such as wind, but also should look for other small-scale renewable opportunities in local communities. After renewable power requirements are met, natural gas-fired generation is the next best source, if necessary. In the long-term, other forms of generation, efficiency, energy storage, or operational changes should be considered, researched, and demonstrated, including smart-grid technologies.

Such an energy strategy requires that the region’s citizens and businesses, working with their local utilities, participate in securing their own energy futures. Low-cost supplies of energy can no longer be taken for granted. But energy that is available can be used far more efficiently, reducing the impact of rising costs and resulting in a more sustainable economy.

Terry Morlan, Columbian forecaster; The Columbian


Troutdale explores alternative energy to fuel sewer plant January 20, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects,Renewable/Green Energy — nwrenewablenews @ 12:35 pm

Troutdale leaders are looking at alternative energy options to save some of the $100,000 the city spends each year to treat wastewater.

Mayor Jim Kight is in talks with Oregon Department of Energy officials and organizations including the Oregon Way Advisory Group about the possibility of funding a $5 million wind-energy program. The tentative plan calls for eight wind turbines to generate electricity to power the city’s wastewater treatment plant north of downtown on the Sandy River.

Ideally, the operation would generate more energy than the plant typically uses, said Troutdale Mayor Jim Kight. In those cases, the city could receive financial credits for excess power the system sends back out to the grid for use by others.

“The council is looking for energy alternatives to help us save money and generate money for the city’s general fund,” he said, noting the options of wind, solar and biomass as possible sources. “We hope to generate (renewable energy) credits.”

Commonly known as “green tags,” renewable energy certificates represent 1 megawatt-hour of electricity generated from an eligible renewable energy resource, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kight envisions a wind-driven version of what the city of Gresham has done with an acre-covering array of solar panels recently installed to fuel its wastewater treatment plant off Sandy Boulevard. The panels are expected to generate on average 8 percent of the plant’s annual electricity usage, or about 400,000 kilowatt-hours.

Through a combination of converted methane gas and 20 percent of wind power purchased from Portland General Electric, 70 percent of the power used by Gresham’s wastewater facility is already considered sustainable.

The city of Troutdale seeks to form a subcommittee to explore the best combination of alternative energy sources.

Once the best energy source is determined, securing funding from available state and federal sources to install the turbines is the next step. In addition to the Oregon Department of Energy, Kight said he’s talked with lawmakers including Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., about eligible funding.

Kight recently presented the city’s proposal to the Oregon Way Advisory Group, an organization that identifies green projects in Oregon that serve as models to other parts of the country and assists with seeking federal competitive grants.

Kight said it might take up to four months to receive feedback on funding possibilities.

“At end of day, if we don’t have money for project,” he noted, “it’s all for naught.”

Shannon Wells, The Outlook


Feds award $12M to plot out power lines in West December 18, 2009

Filed under: Renewable/Green Energy,Smart Grid,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 3:29 pm
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The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $12 million to the Western Governor’s Association to plan for new electricity transmission lines.

As the West’s population grows and electricity demand increases, companies and government agencies are poised to sink billions of dollars into power lines that would crisscross the region.

But it’s been a challenge to find the best routes and balance their construction against potential environmental harm.

The $12 million in federal funds announced Friday will be used to identify areas with potential for large-scale development of renewable resources. States will also receive money to determine which transmission routes could interfere with wildlife habitat and migration corridors.

Linda Davis with the Western Governor’s Association says the group hopes to narrow down possible routes by mid-2011.

Associated Press, KTVZ (TV) –


OMSI gets big grant for permanent exhibit on renewable energy and sustainable practices December 11, 2009

Filed under: Oregon,Renewable/Green Energy — nwrenewablenews @ 3:40 pm
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The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will receive a $2.3 million grant to help finance a display about renewable energy and sustainable practices.

Michael Lloyd/The OregonianOMSI received a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a permanent, interactive installation that encourages the public to use sustainable practices.The National Science Foundation grant almost covers the $3.3 million cost of the project, which will include a 1,500-square-foot bilingual, permanent exhibit in OMSI’s Earth Science Hall. The interactive display is designed to engage the public in sustainable practices, such as better energy use, conservation, low-carbon transportation and reducing waste through recycling and composting.

The grant will pay for community outreach and events. It also will support programs geared towards museum industry professionals, including a Green Exhibit Guide that outlines sustainable practices in development, design and fabrication of exhibits.

“We cannot begin to solve complex problems like climate change until we become aware of the footprint of human activity and the impact of the decisions we make,” said OMSI president Nancy Stueber. “This project will help us see that footprint more clearly and make informed choices based on science in our everyday lives.”

The sustainability project — “Sustainability: Promoting Sustainable Decision Making in Informal Education” — also is supported by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Metro, Portland Community College, Verde and the Coalition for a Livable Future.

Abby Haight, The Oregonian –