Making renewable energy ‘work’ – diversification is key

Posted on 12. Oct, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

Balance and diversity are critical cornerstones of making renewable energy an effective solution to our long term energy needs. No one renewable energy resource is the answer to all of our problems. For renewable energy to effectively meet our energy demands, the region needs a mix of resources – wind, solar, geo-thermal and hydro – from diverse points on the system.

Because wind power is currently the most cost-effective, utility-scale renewable resource, the region is experiencing a boom in wind project installations. The media have naturally focused on the impact of this rapidly-growing sector to help the public understand the industry and its impacts.

An article in The Columbian newspaper (”Transmission lines key to BPA wind power plans,” Oct. 11) describes how the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is working to meet the challenges associated with integrating thousands of MW of wind power into a system that has seen few substantial improvements in several decades.

The … (BPA)… has seen energy generated by wind in its four-state service area grow from virtually nil to about 3,000 megawatts — enough to power 750,000 homes — in little more than a decade. With projects in the pipeline, the BPA expects to incorporate up to 6,000 megawatts of power into its grid by 2013.

Altogether, renewable energy now provides enough electricity to power more than one million northwest homes, according to the Renewable Northwest Project.

Such rapid growth has placed strains on the grid, due in part to the concentration of wind projects in the Columbia River Gorge area, The Columbian points out.

The fact that the region’s wind turbines are concentrated on the Columbia River Plateau makes the challenge trickier, said Johnson of the BPA, because a single storm sweeping through the region can pack such a wallop.

“We want to add as much wind as people can find places to put it,’” he said. “It would be helpful to us if there were a little geographic dispersion.”

The Greater Echanis projects can help ‘balance’ the Gorge area projects in that very way – by entering the ‘grid’ well outside of the Gorge and by virtue of their dramatically different production profile. This benefit of the Greater Echanis projects is vitally important in bringing balance to the grid, the resource mix and a struggling local economy.

Boardman coal plant question heats up: winter wind needed for answer

Posted on 07. Oct, 2010 by crowley in General

Today’s Oregonian reports the EPA has announced that Portland General Electric (PGE) faces fines for clean air act related violations at the Boardman coal plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is accusing Portland General Electric of operating its Boardman coal-fired plant without adequate pollution controls since 1998.

The EPA’s “notice of violation,” issued last week, says improvements PGE made to Oregon’s only coal plant in 1998 and 2004 boosted pollution and should have triggered expensive pollution controls for sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain.

This new wrinkle in the ongoing saga of when to close the Boardman plant raises the question, “And replace it with what?”

CEP’s Greater Echanis projects can be a significant part of the answer to that question. Producing more than half of their output during the fall and winter months, the Greater Echanis projects can help replace Boardman’s coal-fired electricity with renewable energy, especially in the winter months. The graph below shows just how well output from the Greater Echanis projects compliments existing and future Gorge projects and can help make renewable resources a more complete, year-round solution for our future energy needs.

Echanis and Gorge Balance

Climate change – problem and action

Posted on 06. Oct, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

A couple of recent news stories of note… First, news (here in Science News, but widely reported in mainstream media) that the earth’s hydrological cycle is accelerating rapidly due to warmer temperatures.

A new study finds evidence that global warming has been speeding up this hydrological cycle recently, a change that could lead to more violent storms. It could also alter where precipitation falls — drying temperate areas, those places where most people now live.

The impact as precipitation shifts away from more densely populated areas to the poles and tropics is one concern, but so is the rise of ocean levels, long predicted, now measured.

Among the new study’s more dramatic calculations: River runoff into the seas has been increasing by some 540 cubic kilometers per year, or about 1.5 percent annually over the period analyzed (1994 to 2006).

A second story actually gives rise to some hope on this front, reporting the progress made by the Canadian province of Ontario to wean itself off of coal-generated electricity.

“The province has added more than 8,000 MW of new, cleaner energy since 2003.

Government figures show that since 2003, when coal-fired electricity use peaked, Ontario Power Generation’s emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are down 81% and 77%, respectively. The coal plants’ carbon dioxide emissions are down 71% from 2003, according to the government estimates.”

Wow.

It can be done… we simply need the will to do it.