Archive for November, 2008
Kulongoski takes Nissan for a spin
by damian | Uncategorized

Gov. Ted Kulongoski is in Japan this week meeting with auto industry execs about promoting Oregon as a port of entry for electric cars. Today he announced a partnership with PGE and Nissan, which agreed to provide electric cars for the state’s vehicle fleet in 2010. PGE will provide the charging stations (and the power) for the cars.

Nissan posted this video of the governor taking their prototype electric car for a test drive. The governor is promoting electric cars as one solution to reducing CO2 emissions from Oregon’s transportation sector.

FUEL documentary opens tonight in Portland
by damian | Uncategorized

Josh Tickell will debut his documentary film, FUEL, to the public at the Fox Tower Stadium 10 theater today. Tickell has been traveling the country promoting biofuels and railing against Big Oil and the auto industry. His film, which won an audience award for best documentary at Sundance this year, chronicles his journey and digs into the connections between automakers, oil barons and the U.S. government. At a time when the Democrats in Congress are considering an auto industry bailout, it can’t hurt to get a different perspective.

Fox Tower Stadium 10
846 SW Park Ave.
11/14 - 11/20

Showtimes: 11:45am, 2:20pm, 4:55pm, 7:30pm, 10:15pm

Utilities in the business of transportation
by damian | Uncategorized

Oregon’s Transportation Vision Committee released its report to Gov. Kulongoski last week, laying out a multi-year strategy for infrastructure investments and policy changes. Reading through it more closely today, something odd jumped out at me.

The long list of committee members mostly consists of the usual suspects in transportation planning — the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Associated General Contractors, etc. — but somewhat new to the scene are Oregon’s two largest utilities. Pat Reiten, the president of Pacific Power, was front and center in the report, as the author of the introduction and committee chairman.

When I spoke to Pat just before the release he emphasized the report’s focus on plug-in hybrid electric cars and the governor’s proposed retooling of the Residential and Business Energy Tax Credits toward the purchase and development of those vehicles. I was surprised because PGE has been very vocal about its support of hybrid cars, launching its pilot program for electric car charging stations this summer. But Pacificorp has been more cautious.

It now seems that Pacificorp is gearing up for the transition to electric vehicles, too.

Room for Fuel Cells in Oregon’s Clean Tech Strategy?
by damian | Uncategorized

Bend fuel cell producer IdaTech got a shout out in today’s EnergyBiz Insider .

… economic doldrums are dampening energy demand and affecting the level of investment in emerging technologies. In due course, however, that will change. As the demand for power resumes, regulatory bodies around the globe will insist on greater efficiencies and less pollution. And therein lay the possibilities for fuel cells, which have matured and may soon be ready for prime time.

“The time is now,” says Harol Koyama, chief executive of IdaTech, at the Fuel Cell Seminar and Exposition in Phoenix. “The financial issues will go away in 18 months. We will see mass commercialization and consolidation will occur.

Fuel cells haven’t gotten much policy play at a state level in Oregon, where their energy storage capabilities are still considered emerging technology. And in a transportation application, Gov. Kulongoski and the transportation visioning committee have focused instead on plug-in electric hybrid technology. But there’s still quite a bit of interest in them nationally and established companies, including IdaTech and Clear Edge Power, exist right here in Oregon. If the technology really is poised to grow despite the recession, perhaps there is a place for fuel cells in Oregon’s clean tech economic development strategy.

Software developers say smart grid is smart biz
by damian | Uncategorized

VC investors, utilities and tech startups told Portland’s clean tech community last night that the smart grid represents a larger opportunity for software companies than the Internet. With just about every aspect of modern life becoming electrified, be it our cars, health care system or server farms, and limited resources to produce the juice, utilities and consumers are demanding new devices and software for controlling the electric grid.

That means building smart appliances that interact with the grid and a grid that knows how to talk back, as well as control centers that allow for visualization, training and optimization, similar to systems already used by Internet giants.

The smart grid needs “all sorts of things that the folks at Google and Cisco and Qualcomm know all about but have really been applied very rarely to the power grid,” said Jesse Berst, managing director of GlobalSmartEnergy at a smart grid forum held by the Clean Tech Alliance.

Business opportunities lie within every step of transmission along the electric grid from producers to consumers. Now, if utilities would only go along with it…