Obama: rebuild economy with green energy

Posted on 31. Jan, 2011 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The President’s State of the Union address highlighted a call to rebuild the nation’s economy with investments in green energy.

The New York Times wrote:

President Barack Obama made a big push for clean energy Tuesday, saying the nation should develop 80% of its electricity from clean sources by 2035…

The article continued:

The prime-time focus on clean energy underscores the White House’s belief that domestic production of wind, solar and other types of clean energy—as well as innovative technologies that make them cheaper and more reliable—could provide jobs in a weak economy and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

This week, the President and his Administration have mounted a full court press for renewable energy investment, including a call to back small businesses that drive private sector investment in the sector.

In The Hill, a reporter notes:

The White House is organizing a series of events in the coming weeks to sell the energy agenda President Obama laid out in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and other administration officials will meet with business owners at an event Monday where the White House will launch its “Startup America” campaign. The initiative will focus on “promoting high-growth entrepreneurship across the country with new initiatives to help encourage private sector investment in job-creating startups, accelerate research, and address barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small businesses,” according to the White House.

These calls mirror those from newly-installed Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber who has called for rebuilding Oregon’s economy – and especially that of rural Oregon – with renewable energy investments.

Welcome new Governor, and welcome news

Posted on 11. Jan, 2011 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

John Kitzhaber spoke to the combined House and Senate and all of Oregon yesterday as he began his historic third term as Governor. Following the Senate President and BOTH House Speakers, he spoke of his commitment to work with all Oregonians to lift the state back into renewed growth and long term prosperity.

Particularly heartening for many was his commitment to improving the economies of rural Oregon communities. On this point, he said:

I strongly support one of the central goals of the Oregon Business to create an average of 25,000 jobs a year through 2020 and to increase Oregon’s per capita personal income to a level above the national average. And we must work hard to increase jobs and incomes throughout the state and for all Oregonians. It is important to recognize that adding 18 jobs in Coos Bay will have the same impact on that community as adding 500 jobs in Portland. Rural incomes need to grow as fast as metro incomes… I will use the full power of the Governor’s office to make this aggressive goal a reality and I want — and expect — to be held accountable by the citizens of Oregon for making significant progress during my term.

The full text of his remarks is available here.

On January 7, Oregon Public Broadcasting aired the results of a poll showing overwhelming support for wind power in Oregon.

Pollster Su Midghall asked 1,200 people across Oregon, Idaho and Washington how they would feel if the enormous turbines were erected near their homes.

Su Midghall: “An overwhelming percentage – 80% actually of residents of rural areas of the Northwest — support wind farms being developed within sight of their homes. What’s more interesting is that 50% strongly — not just somewhat — but strongly support this.”

The numbers were even higher in urban areas.

A link to the story is here.

We welcome Governor Kitzhaber to office and wish him and the Legislature the best in dealing with the $3.5billion deficit and many other challenges facing Oregon. The good news for them is that they can rest assured the region strongly supports their goals of rebuilding Oregon’s economy with renewable energy and green jobs.

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.

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.

Harney County Future on Parade

Posted on 17. Sep, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

CEP was proud to be part of the recent Harney County Fair and Parade. The Harney County Fair is like no other for home town atmosphere, with schools closed for the week of Fair and everyone in the community involved. It’s a great place to see and talk with just about everyone in the County and something we look forward to every year.

Harney County Future on Parade

This year, Diana Morris and a group from the local job training center, built a terrific float featuring hand made wind turbines to proclaim their upcoming participation in worker training programs for wind industry technicians. Dianna and her group did a great job, with the support of the Northwest Renewable Energy Institute. Soon, the first students from Harney County will be beginning their training as wind techs.

Harney County identified renewable energy development in its Comprehensive Plan as far back as 1985 – we’re proud to be part of making wind power its future.

Draft EIS for transmission line released

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

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today posted the Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the transmission line to tie our Greater Echanis Wind Energy Projects to the grid.  Although the projects are on private land, since 75% of Harney County is publicly-owned land, our project must cross federal lands to reach the grid. The Draft EIS studies the direct impacts of the transmission line on federal lands, the indirect impacts of our permitted project and the cumulative impacts of some 400 MW of “reasonably foreseeable” future projects possible down the road.

“Our projects will help the region move forward on renewable energy while protecting one of Oregon’s special places,” said Chris Crowley, CEO of Columbia Energy Partners, developers of the renewable energy projects. “Today’s study from the BLM offers the first comprehensive analysis of how our projects minimize their visual and environmental impacts on the Steens while bringing economic vitality to one of the most depressed regions in the state.”

The Draft EIS brings facts and extensive visual simulations to a discussion about the projects’ impacts. As the BLM notes on their web site:

Major issues brought forward during the public scoping process and addressed in the Draft EIS include:

  1. Vegetation;
  2. Wildlife;
  3. Visual and aesthetic values;
  4. Lands with special designations;
  5. Cultural and tribal resources;
  6. Public services and transportation;
  7. Recreation and tourism;
  8. Social and economic effects; and
  9. public safety.

The Visual Resource analysis (Appendix D) is a 121 page analysis, with simulations developed by the technical consultants who prepared the EIS for the BLM.

“About 87 points were initially identified in the field as potential KOPs (“Key Observation Points”). Of these, 35 KOPS were selected for study to analyze the Project’s direct, indirect and cumulative effects.”

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said:

“The Steens Wilderness was designed to fit natural boundaries created by the terrain,” said Judge Grasty. “That’s how these projects can help Harney County create green jobs without sacrificing our natural heritage.”

The Greater Echanis projects offer a county facing 18.9 percent unemployment an opportunity to become part of the renewable energy economy.

“These projects will help expand Oregon’s pool of trained green-collar workers,” said Clif Davis, business manager and financial secretary of IBEW Local 48. “And they will harness some of the best wind resources in the state while driving economic benefits into one of its poorest counties.”

The public will have 45 days to review and comment on the Draft EIS. After the comment period, the BLM and cooperating agencies will work with the independent contractor responsible for the study to analyze and respond in a Final EIS (FEIS). The BLM expects to issue the FEIS in the fall.

Energy Facility Siting Council votes 5-0 to deny ONDA petition

Posted on 15. Jun, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

On June 11, the state Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) voted unanimously to deny ONDA’s petition to include private lands on Steens Mountain in a list of “protected places” off-limits to development.

The petition asserted that The Steens Mountain Act, passed by Congress in 2000, intended to preclude development on all lands within an area designated a “cooperative management and protection area” (CMPA). EFSC weighed volumes of written evidence from ONDA and others, then heard presentations on June 11 from ONDA attorneys, the BLM, Harney County and dozens of citizens. After carefully weighing all that information, EFSC considered six points in determining whether or not to move forward with the request. With five members considering six points, there were 30 times EFSC members could have agreed with ONDA or cited a gray area. They each disagreed with ONDA on each of the six points.

EFSC is a state agency, staffed by the Oregon Department of Energy. Council members are appointed by the Governor, from various interest groups, from around the state.  Among other things, they are responsible for permitting larger energy facilities, including larger wind farms.

This was ONDA’s second petition (see here) to EFSC. Their first petition was also denied by unanimous vote.

From our perspective, this unanimous vote sent a strong signal that the wilderness is composed of those lands set aside by Congress as wilderness, and that private lands outside the wilderness were indeed explicitly protected by the Steens Act.

“Dead lake” at the Refuge, spewing oil in the Gulf

Posted on 07. Jun, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The Oregonian ran a front page story on May 31 about the extraordinary drop in migratory birds visiting the famed Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Waterfowl production is down 75 percent at the refuge and visiting bird numbers have fallen by several million a year, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The cause, apparently, is carp. The non-native species has proliferated to the point where they have eaten the plant and invertebrate life migrating birds have historically relied on.

“It’s a giant carp pond,” said Bob Sallinger, spokesman for the Audubon Society of Portland. “That lake is basically a dead lake.”

The article points out that the US Fish & Wildlife agency, which manages the Refuge, has tried poisoning the Refuge, with temporary, partial success. The fish are back in force within four years, the Oregonian reported. The story also notes that fishing is not allowed in the Refuge. The story says it would take two years to enact a simple fishing season through the federal process. Read the full story here.

Columbia Energy Partners has been working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for an easement across less than 10 miles of federal lands to get power from an approved wind farm off the north side of Steens Mountain to the existing grid. One group that’s expressed strong concern about the project is Portland Audubon, citing fears for birds stopping over in the Refuge.

The Oregonian story suggests there are more pressing problems, such as coping with carp, to deal with. And that oil spill in the Gulf. That project was permitted with a “Categorical Exclusion” (basically an administratively approved permit) unlike the 2 year, $2million process CEP is engaged in to build a power line across open desert.With overwhelming local support.

CEP sees our project as part of the answer, not a problem, and we’re eager to work with Audubon on reducing our country’s reliance on fossil fuels. We’d even help with those carp, if invited to try.

New study shows renewables can be 35% of energy mix by 2017 in western US

Posted on 21. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a study assessing the operational impacts and economics of increased contributions from wind and solar energy producers on the power grid. The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study examines the benefits and challenges of integrating enough wind and solar energy capacity into the grid to produce 35 percent of its electricity by 2017. The study finds that this target is technically feasible and does not necessitate extensive additional infrastructure, but does require key changes to current operational practice.

The study found that if utilities generate 27 percent of their electricity from wind and solar energy across the Western Interconnection grid, it would lower carbon emissions by 25 to 45 percent.

The study can be downloaded at http://www.nrel.gov/wwsis.

3 more climate change reports urge action now

Posted on 20. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

News of three more major reports on global warming hit today from the US National Academy of Sciences. The reports call for immediate action by Congress to put a cost on carbon pollution.

A story in USA Today highlighted the breadth of political views endorsing the urgent call for action.

“The reports reinforce that we know enough, now, to take sensible actions to address climate change,” says James Connaughton, former environment council chief for the Bush administration. (…)

“This is a wake-up call from science telling Congress to get real,” says Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. “Wake up and smell the carbon.”

The numbers are sobering:

Echoing past reports such as those by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers in the new reports expressed confidence that average global atmosphere temperatures were about 1.4 degrees warmer in this decade compared with a century ago and that future fossil-fuel emissions of greenhouse gases and related activities would increase temperatures anywhere from 2 to 11 additional degrees by 2100.