Archive for October, 2008
Trick or Treat!
by damian | Uncategorized

Iberdrola Renewables has a Halloween gift for the country’s friendly, though spooky, nocturnal mammals. The Portland-based wind power provider this week released its company-wide bird and bat protection plan to serve as a template for wind farm policies.
The plan is a series of best practices aimed at wildlife protection during construction and operation of the turbines. It acknowledges that solid methodology of assessing the risk to bats before a project is built doesn’t exist yet. The company is working with the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative to establish better research methods. The full document is available online .

This infrared video may be a little hard to see, but the little pink dot is a bat flying into a turbine blade and getting batted (pardon the pun) off to the left. You can see more videos on the BWEC web site.

Kulongoski unveils climate change proposal
by damian | Uncategorized

The Governor announced his comprehensive climate change package this morning at OHSU’s LEED-platinum rated building on the South Waterfront. Energy efficiency and conservation measures got the most emphasis, with the governor backing a requirement to build only net-zero energy homes and businesses by 2030. He urged Oregonians to look beyond short-term fixes to falling home values and an economic recession to the potential for long-term savings on energy costs through weatherization of current buildings and new green building requirements.

Here are some of the other policies he’s proposing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transportation:

- Adopt a carbon cap and trade market that would take effect in 2012.
- Establish a new reporting system for carbon emissions.
- Energy performance certificates for existing homes.
- Expansion of the business energy tax credit to 50% from 35% for efficiency projects.
- A new fund to assist low-income homeowners with weatherization.
- A pilot program to install solar panels on homes that feed back into the grid.
-Create a BETC fund, similar to the Oregon Cultural Trust, that allows taxpayers to deduct contributions in order to provide up-front capital for energy projects.
- Develop a low-carbon fuel standard.
- Congestion pricing.
- Shift the hybrid vehicle tax credit to electric plug-in hybrids.
- Adopt least-cost planning for transportation, improve the current system first before investing in new roads and bridges.

Constellation is moving to town
by damian | Uncategorized

The last few days the energy business news has been abuzz with the pending $4.7 billion acquisition of Constellation Energy by MidAmerican Holdings Co., the parent company of Oregon’s very own PacifiCorp. I don’t know what the deal means for Oregon consumers, if anything. But the company is about to get even more ginormous.

Clean energy for a new economy
by damian | Uncategorized

Congressional Democrats told DowJones Newswires today that they’ll try to spin their climate bill as a necessary part of the nation’s economic recovery plan next year. The question is if Dems can get support to spend $6 to $8 trillion over the next decade on green technology and renewable energy when the financial system is in upheaval and the economy is in the tank.
Here in Oregon it seems Sen. Ron Wyden and Gov. Kulongoski are thinking the same thing — the key to economic recovery will be investing in a green future. I spoke to the Governor on Friday on a tour of the new SolarWorld plant in Hillsboro. He said now is not the time to retreat, but to increase the state’s investment in renewable energy job creation.

FERC makes power grab over ocean energy projects
by damian | Uncategorized

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has upped the ante in its yearlong fight with the Minerals Management Service over who gets control over ocean energy projects off the coast. The agency issued an order today asserting its power to permit and license ocean energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, three miles offshore.
The move is roughly equivalent to John McCain or Barack Obama issuing a press release stating “I am now President.” FERC is not the decider. When I talked to Ann Miles, director of hydropower licensing at FERC, in Portland last month, she told me it will be up to the courts or Congress to decide who has ultimate authority. Similarly, Bob LaBelle at MMS told me last month that the agencies have agreed to disagree and will continue to work together amicably until it’s resolved.
So what does this mean for ocean energy developers looking for clarity in the licensing process? Not much. Only that it may now be even more difficult to get a permit, depending on MMS response to the order. FERC and MMS were in the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding on the issue. Now, who knows?

Biggest EVER solar array EVER
by damian | Uncategorized

OK. So everyone’s reporting that PGE is installing a 1.1MW solar array on a ProLogis distribution center in Northeast Portland — the BIGGEST EVER in the Northwest. The problem is, I get press releases every other month that say the “BIGGEST” solar array in _____ (fill in the blank). That’s cool. But what I want to know is how is this better/ different and not just BIGGER? Toyota just completed a 2.3MW installation on its auto parts distribution center in California that covers 242,000 square feet. The ProLogis array will cover 328,000 square feet with about half of the generating capacity. Solar Integrated Technologies manufactured PGE’s solar panels, but the Toyota panels are from SunPower. Is the lower capacity/ sq.ft. due to the technology or the environment?

Clean tech says time to invest
by damian | Uncategorized

I don’t know who on earth has money to invest right now. But Clean Edge consulting’s Ron Pernick said last night that the current chaos on Wall Street means it’s more important than ever to invest in clean energy technologies. Pernick just happened to be presenting his company’s Carbon-free Prosperity report to legislators and business leaders at the Portland Art Musueum (see post below) on the day the Dow fell below 10,000 for the first time since 2004.
He called on state leaders to bring much-needed public resources to the constrained credit market, though he recognized that state funds are limited. Perhaps the biggest blow to the state’s clean tech sector will be limits on the BETC due to tighter state revenues, he said.
“We’ll have to look really carefully about where to focus the BETC dollars,” said Pernick.

60,000 new clean, green jobs??
by damian | Uncategorized

A new report released this morning by Clean Edge and Climate Solutions lays out a 10-point plan for creating up to 63,000 new jobs by 2025 in Oregon and Washington. The “Carbon-free prosperity” report calls for more state and local programs and incentives to spur growth in five clean-energy sectors, including solar PV manufacturing, green building design services, wind power development, sustainable bioenergy, and smart grid technologies.

One of the most ambitious suggestions in the report is that the states can achieve 78 percent carbon-free electricity production by 2025. To reach that goal, Washington would need to raise its RPS from 20 percent by 2025 to 25 percent. Both states would also raise their targets for energy efficiency and conservation by 50 percent.

Standing in the way of clean sector job growth is the region’s limited transmission, lack of academic support, regional planning and venture capital, and low-cost energy that makes renewables less competitive, according to the report.

The report doesn’t, however, estimate the cost to taxpayers of implementing its suggestions. Neither does it give a comparison of what a similar investment in other industries would produce in terms of job growth. Some 60,000 jobs over 15 years seems like a lot, but Oregon has lost more than 25,000 jobs over the past year alone.

Local politicians tackle energy issues
by damian | Uncategorized

On the eve of the VP debates, the nonprofit Future of Energy and the Oregon Environmental Council held their own knock-down forum last night for local candidates focused on energy issues. Several hundred concerned citizens showed up at the Bagdad theater last night to hear candidates for City Council and Multnomah County Commission as well as a few elected officials duke it out over regional energy policies. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits I heard:

City Council candidate Amanda Fritz said one of the best ways to educate Portlanders about greenhouse gas emissions is to provide safe walking and biking routes for kids to school. “We can’t pretend a top-down solution will work.” She also called for reliable public transportation and accountability for the city’s green job programs.

Her opponent, Charles Lewis, said the city and county should lead by example by installing solar panels on all publicly-owned buildings, starting with City Hall. Unlike Fritz, Lewis didn’t see the point to tracking green job creation programs, saying the reports are just bragging, “let’s just do it.” Lewis said the city’s revolving loan program for small businesses is the best way to grow the green workforce.

When asked for his “energy confession”, candidate for County commission Mike Delman said he knows food production is energy intensive and confessed a penchant for eating red meat. But he said he’s trying to cut down on that and he’s installed rain barrels at his house. Delman was against a city green building policy that would penalize developers for not meeting certain energy efficiency standards, saying it would hurt small businesses. He also confessed to recently learning what LEED is.

Judy Shiprack, Delman’s opponent for the commission, admitted she drives to the grocery store. But she said her travels in Europe have opened her eyes to the possibility of biking everywhere and she’d like to create safer city streets for bikers. She suggested a European model that automatically faults the driver in the event of a collision with a cyclist. Shiprack supports rewarding developers for energy efficiency and penalizing them for falling below a city standard. She also supports creating local improvement districts to help homeowners pay for energy efficiency upgrades.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard said he would support a tax in the Portland region to provide free public transportation for all, saying “I don’t think it would cost homeowners much money.”

When asked whether he supports building new LNG pipelines in the region, Metro councilor Rex Burkholder said he didn’t know enough about the tradeoffs to answer that question.