Northwest Renewable News

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Blaine County continues to wrangle with wind ordinance November 18, 2009

The Blaine County Commission will hold at least one more meeting on an ordinance regulating allowable wind energy facilities within the county that would either be freestanding or set on rooftops.

The commission met yesterday at the Old County Courthouse to tackle one of the most controversial issues regarding wind energy facilities, namely whether or not wind turbines would be allowed within the “scenic corridor,” or visible from state Highway 75.

While the commissioners seemed amenable to this idea at their last meeting on this issue in August, they all spoke against having turbines in this area on Tuesday. This issue drew plenty of public comment, with those against arguing that wind turbines along the scenic corridor would negatively impact the natural beauty as people drive through the valley. Those in favor of having turbines there said that wind energy is becoming more accepted around the world and that people not only wouldn’t mind seeing the turbines, but would hail them as evidence that the community is taking progressive steps for energy conservation.

The commission is slated to continue deliberating on this issue on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m.

JON DUVAL, Idaho Mountain Express – http://www.mtexpress.com/vu_breaking_story.php?bid=8152

 

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State council OKs Desert Claim wind project November 17, 2009

A state energy council on Monday recommended approval of the 95-turbine Desert Claim Wind Power Project but also put conditions on its future construction and operation eight miles northwest of Ellensburg.

The approval is a recommendation to Gov. Chris Gregoire who will make the final decision on the project, which has been sought since January 2003 by the French-owned firm of enXco USA Inc.

Gregoire is expected to formally receive the recommendation in early December and has until early February to make her decision.

The seven-member state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, in a 30-minute meeting in Ellensburg gave a unanimous OK for the estimated $330 million wind farm.

Although all EFSEC members signed off on the recommendation in the form of an order, EFSEC member Ian Elliot, representing Kittitas County communities, read comments indicating he believes the state’s EFSEC wind farm review process is “flawed” because the state council is limited by state law in what issues it can consider in making its decision.

Elliot said there were other issues he and other EFSEC members would have wanted to pursue but couldn’t because they were not formally brought before EFSEC as part of evidence or expert testimony from the applicant or intervenors during the trial-like adjudication process.

Issues brought up as opinions during the general public hearings did not have legal weight for consideration, Elliot said, without study data or other expert evidence.

Yet, within the limits of what EFSEC members could by law consider, they acted appropriately and professionally, Elliot said.

Pleased

David Steeb, Desert Claim project director, after the meeting was visibly pleased with the long-awaited decision from EFSEC. He said the unanimous decision was a major hurdle for the project.

The wind farm, when it sought approval only from Kittitas County government, was initially turned down with its 120-turbine version of the project.

Kittitas County Superior Court subsequently upheld the rejection, but enXco later reconfigured the project on 5,200 acres north of Smithson Road, downsized it and submitted it to EFSEC, the second pathway to gain project approval.

In making its decision Monday, EFSEC members agreed enXco Inc. made a good-faith effort to work with county government to make it comply with local land-use rules and plans.

EFSEC also said that county government representatives, in the July adjudication process, stated that the county considered its issues with the project resolved.

The Monday decision included EFSEC’s decision to pre-empt or overrule local county government land-use rules to recommend approval of the wind farm.

The project is estimated at $330 million.

Steeb said EFSEC members “did their job thoroughly and fairly” in a balanced, professional manner.

“EFSEC’s ringing endorsement takes us one step closer to bringing much-needed new green jobs to Washington state, with the majority of them in Kittitas County,” Steeb said in a statement. “Desert Claim offers a shot in the arm to the economy when it most needs it.”

He said enXco is hopeful the governor will “expeditiously” approve the project.

Steeb declined to estimate when construction may begin saying the governor’s decision must come first before those announcements can be made.

He did say that the governor’s  “timely approval will facilitate the construction of Desert Claim in 2010, driving dramatic economic benefits to the county and the state at large.”

EFSEC officials said enXco Inc. has 10 days to ask EFSEC to reconsider all or parts of its decision including conditions that the international firm must meet to build and run the wind farm.

Although Steeb said he will closely study EFSEC’s order and other documents, he doesn’t foresee asking EFSEC for reconsideration on any issue.

The full text of the order and other documents are at the EFSEC Web site: http://www.efsec.wa.gov.

EFSEC response

Jeff Tayer, regional administrator of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said enXco has approved an agreement with the department on how to lessen the impact of the project on wildlife and habitat.

Tayer, and EFSEC member, said the site, on the floor of the Kittitas Valley in a mostly farming and ranching area, is a “relatively good site” for the project in its limited impacts on wildlife.

In summary comments, EFSEC’s administrative law judge reviewed highlights of the council’s 37-page order and lengthy site certification agreement.

The order said the EFSEC conditions and requirements strike a balance between protecting the health and safety of local residents and the environment, with the need for energy at a reasonable cost.

Some of the conditions included:

• EFSEC agreed with enXco provisions to turn off certain turbines, atop 410-foot towers, during the time of the day when non-participating residences experience shadow flicker, although a report indicated flicker is not expected to be noticeable at distances of more than 1,500 feet.

• A Technical Advisory Committee will closely monitor any habitat, wildlife and environmental concerns during construction and ongoing operations. This includes bird and bat kills and other issues.

• As enXco determines the exact location of each wind turbine tower, enXco in the “micro-siting” process is required to reduce to one the number of turbines located within 2,500 feet of any non-participating residence (the owner of which is not receiving financial benefits from the leasing of his land to the wind-power firm).

The company, in reconfiguring the project, reduced to seven the number of non-participating residences that are within 2,500 feet of a proposed turbine location.

 

Radar Ridge wind project meetings in Pacific County November 16, 2009

Community members and public officials gathered at the Grays Harbor PUD in Hoquiam last week for a public scoping meeting on the planned Radar Ridge Wind Project in Pacific County. The meeting was a chance for officials to inform the public on where the project stands and to give citizens a chance to comment publicly on the project.

Two more meetings are planned for this week, the first on  Tuesday at Naselle High School from 6 to 9 p.m. and then again Wednesday at Raymond High School from 6 to 9 p.m.

“It’s really about getting information to the public and getting their comments,” said Liz Anderson, community and government relations director with the Grays Harbor PUD.

The Radar Ridge Wind Project is a partnership between four pubic utilities — Grays Harbor PUD, Pacific County PUD, Mason County PUD No.3, Clallam County PUD — and Richland-based Energy Northwest, the project developer. The project, located on property owned and managed by the Department of Natural Resources approximately 3 mile northeast of Naselle, consists of installing and operating up to 32 wind turbines that will generate enough energy to power up to 18,000 homes, according to project officials.

Partners in the project intend to fulfill renewable energy requirements mandated by Washington’s Energy Independence Act, which passed in 2006. The act requires utilities with 25,000 or more customers to provide 3 percent of the energy needed to serve their customers from non-hydro renewable resources by 2012. By 2016, the number increase to 9 percent and by 2020, 15 percent.

Utilities face penalties for failure to comply.

At the meeting, project officials discussed why wind power was so important to the area, why Radar Ridge was an ideal location, and the minimal environmental impacts the project would have.

Officials also presented wildlife studies that were conducted, including studies on migration patterns and breeding habits of raptors and bats; northern godhawks, and marbled murrelets, an endangered bird with critical habitat in the area. The main concern is whether or not the turbines will cause fatal bird strikes.

While partners hope to have the wind turbines operating by late 2011, the project is in a critical phase. Before construction begins, the project must submit permit applications.

In order to attain the permits, the project must comply with the Federal Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The project must also comply with Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act.

These assessments will take place once all public comments have been collected and reviewed.

“We’re doing our due diligence on the environmental side so that we’re developing a site with the least environmental impact,” said PUD manager Rick Lovely.

Mike Marsh, The Daily Worldhttp://www.thedailyworld.com/articles/2009/11/16/local_news/doc4b01a3aab6349056257560.txt

 

Gig Harbor-based Peninsula Light Company To Enter Power-generating Business November 14, 2009

On Dec.15, if all goes as planned, Gig Harbor’s Peninsula Light Company will start generating electricity for the first time in its 85-year history.

That’s the date Harvest Wind, PenLight’s wind project, will officially begin commercial operation.

The project, a collaboration between PenLight, Lakeview Light and Power, Cowlitz PUD and Eugene, Ore., Water and Electric Board, will generate 98.9 megawatts (MW) of “green,” environmentally friendly power.

It required a $50 million investment by PenLight, funded in part by an 8.5 percent rate increase earlier this year.

“That was the first increase we’ve had in eight years,” said Jonathan White, Penlight marketing manager. “There was virtually no complaint about it from our customers.”

That’s probably because there seems to be widespread support for renewable energy among PenLight customers, White added, citing the fact that more than 400 customers have chosen to pay extra on their monthly power bills to support “green power” projects.

“The electricity from Harvest Wind won’t actually turn on the lights in Gig Harbor homes,” White said. “It will go into the Northwest power grid and be distributed throughout the region.”

He explained that “you can’t separate the ‘green’ electrons generated by renewable energy sources like wind, from those generated by non-renewable sources” like natural gas or coal.

But even though electricity generated by Harvest Wind won’t come directly to Gig Harbor, it will help PenLight meet its I-937 requirements, according to Ray Grinberg, PenLight’s power resources director.

The I-937 initiative passed by Washington voters in 2006, requires utilities with 25,000 or more customers to obtain 15 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2020.

The initiative outlined a three-step process for meeting renewable requirements, Grinberg said.

“We have to have three percent renewable in 2012, nine percent in 2016 and by 2020, 15 percent of our sales must be met by renewables,” he said. “Harvest Wind takes us to our 2016 requirements, so now we need to be planning for 2016 and beyond.”

White said that one of the possibilities the utility is considering to meet its renewable requirements in the future is a project in which “the green electrons would go directly into our own system.”

He mentioned a solar project in central Washington that generates power for a nearby community as an example.

“In a community-based system, you might find a piece of land, like a local park, and build a solar-powered system that would generate power for the whole community,” he explained.

Of all the renewable-energy options, White said, solar seems the most promising at this time.

“The problem is cost. Right now solar costs about $8 per watt. That’s about a $32,000 investment for the average local home that uses 4MW a year,” he said.

“When the cost gets down to two or three dollars per watt, that same 4MW system would cost about $12,000, which seems much more doable for people.”

Grinberg said that in order to anticipate its future needs, PenLight must be ‘”nimble enough to forecast and see the trends coming. In the future, we may just buy our renewable power from somewhere instead of building our own generating system. But it’s always better to own our own system.”

For information on Harvest Wind, go to peninlight.org/harvestwind.

Kitsap Sun – http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/nov/13/gig-harbor-based-peninsula-light-company-enter-pow/

 

Wash. state wind facility adds another 22 turbines November 11, 2009

Puget Sound Energy says its Wild Horse wind farm in the hills of Central Washington has added another 22 turbines producing power.

The new turbines went online Monday and joins the 127 turbines that entered service in December 2006. The new turbines are expected to produce another 44 megawatts of power at the facility.

Initial development of the expanded wind farm began in 2008 and construction was completed earlier this year. Testing and commissioning of the new turbines finished in October.

The wind farm is located atop Whiskey Dick Mountain about 16 miles east of Ellensburg at an elevation of 3,500 feet.

Associated Press – http://www.theolympian.com/business/wire/story/1031381.html

 

Klickitat County wind farm project gets $19.4M in stimulus money

Filed under: Renewable Energy Projects,Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 7:37 pm
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A wind farm project near Goldendale in Klickitat County has received $19.4 million in federal stimulus funds, with the developer expecting a total of more than $170 million in federal grants to help pay for the $1 billion project.

Cannon Power Group of San Diego, which is building the 400-megawatt wind power plant with Windy Point Partners II LLC, said the funds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money targeting renewable energy projects.

When completed, the wind power project will supply power to California municipalities, generating enough power for more than 250,000 California homes per year. The Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA) pre-paid for a 20-year block of power using a tax-exempt $500 million bond issuance.

Last month, the project received $178 million in funds from Siemens Financial Services Inc.

Cannon officials called the Klickitat County project a “win-win” for the local community.

“This project brought more than 300 construction jobs and additional permanent positions. New roads also help area farmers and ranchers, and wind turbine leases generate income and a much needed financial cushion for many area families,” said Gary Hardke, Cannon’s president and managing director, in a statement.

Seattle Business Journal – http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2009/11/09/daily22.html

 

 

‘Not in my backyard’ attitude ruins wind power prospects November 9, 2009

Filed under: Washington,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 2:32 pm
Tags: , ,

If nine out of 10 Americans support wind development, why does it take over a million dollars and seven to 10 years just to assess the feasibility of a wind project?

Wind developers everywhere, from Nantucket, Mass. to our very own Walla Walla, Wash., are discovering that while the vast majority of Americans support the idea of wind development, there is no end to the litany of problems they come up with to stop wind projects proposed in their neighborhoods.

Currently wind energy is only 3% of the total electrical generation in the US. The Department of Energy predicts that we could reach 20% by 2030. If we’re ever going to reach that number, Americans need to start seeing wind turbines for what they are: signs of a cleaner and more equitable future. Now who wouldn’t want that in his or her backyard?

Right now, a lot of people. Environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr.’s opposition to the Cape Wind project near his family’s vacation home in Nantucket because it would “damage the view” is regarded by many as a classic case of NIMBYism.

This “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) syndrome is equally applicable to ranchers in Walla Walla who oppose the proposed wind project on Lincton mountain.

Although the project is still in the hypothetical phase, if sufficient wind is found, the Lincton mountain project could put up to 133 turbines on Lincton Mountain in the Blue Mountains, a location in Umatilla county a quick drive away from Whitman’s campus. Gaelectric Northwest, the company that is proposing the project, estimates that the project would could up to 50,000 homes.

According to Dr. Charles Shawley, Gaelectric’s  research and development expert, most of the ranchers in the area support the project. The majority of opponents live within city limits of Milton-Freewater or Walla Walla and do not own land that would be used for the project.

Whitman biology professor and rancher Delbert Hutchison, a landowner near a protected salmon stream below Lincton mountain, is one of the most surprising opponents to the proposed project. The main problem Professor Hutchison has with the project is that Gaelectric is an Irish-based company and will be likely selling the power to California. As  he put it “the primary benefits (money and energy) are going outside the area while the risks (e.g. damage to streams, etc) will stay here.”

According to Dr. Charles Shawley, Gaelectric’s  research and development expert, most of the major wind developers in the U.S. are foreign.

Although America has been called the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” due to our country’s incredible wind potential, a series of policies have led to great stagnation in the renewable energy sector.

In 1990, the U.S. had 75 percent of  wind power capacity worldwide. By 2003, the U.S. world share was reduced to 16 percent, as markets in Germany, Spain, Denmark, and even India surged due to active support by governments.

This dramatic reduction in the U.S. share comes from the combination of a repeal of government incentives for renewable energy with a plunge in gas prices, a $130 million decline in federal research spending on wind development and aging transmission lines. This deadly mix led to the bankruptcy of most of the American companies.

American wind energy is finally starting to get on its feet again, largely due to concern over climate change. As this industry re-emerges, we’re going to need as much public support as we can muster to catch up with the rest of the world.

Professor Hutchison and other opponents have also expressed concern over the ecological impacts of wind turbines, especially on the recently restored salmon streams.

While Hutchison agrees that his stance against the wind turbines is a classic NIMBY case, as a conservation biologist, he  knows the importance of reducing the impacts of climate change for ecosystem preservation. He finds it annoying that instead of addressing consumption, our society is simply moving towards finding ways to increase our energy outputs. As he wrote in an email “Here we are asking to put turbines in a pristine area that truly might impact streams and wildlife.  Is it worth it?”

Shawley assures that Gaelectric would complete a two-year ecosystem study before building the project, and then conduct ongoing environmental impact assessments once the project is built.

The economic facts are on wind energy’s side. Gaelectric developer Shawley said that although Gaelectric is an Irish company, all of the labor is sourced from the U.S., including the 20 jobs that the Lincton mountain project would create locally. Another major economic boon to the area is the annual payment landowners would receive for letting Gaelectric put turbines on their land. Umatilla county is one of the poorest counties in Oregon and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Although there are some legitimate concerns with the project,  staunch opponents need to think hard about the implications of opposing more renewable energy.  The alternative to meeting our growing energy demand—more coal and nuclear plants—will have to be sited in someone’s backyard too. Statistically, these mercury and radiation producing energy sources are far more likely to be placed in low-income communities where the locals’  protests are simply ignored.

By Lisa Curtis, The Pioneer – http://whitmanpioneer.com/opinion/columnists/2009/11/05/not-in-my-backyard-attitude-ruins-wind-power-prospects/