CWEB.044/Aug. 31, 1999
1) PacifiCorp/Scottish Power Commit to Doubling Oregon Conservation Spending
2) BPA Officially Proposes Conservation/Renewables Rate Discount
3) Flathead Electric Subsidiary Challenges Montana Public-Purposes Law
4) Appropriations Bill Jeopardizes BPA's Federal Energy Efficiency Work
5) Klickitat PUD Landfill-Gas Plant Proves Popular Green Power Resource
6) BPA's NeXt House Showcases Residential Energy Efficiency
7) Architecture + Energy Program Promotes Fine, Environmentally Sound Design
8) Alliance Adds Up to Two Customer Representatives to Board of Directors
9) Briefs: Portland Fuel Cell Power Plant; PacifiCorp Wind Project in California; Energy-Efficient Appliance Listing
ScottishPower and prospective merger partner PacifiCorp have agreed to at least double the utility's energy conservation program spending in Oregon--assuming the merger is consummated.
The combined company also plans to assess the potential for cost-effective conservation in PacifiCorp's Oregon service territory, with stakeholder assistance, and to spend more than the promised $6 million annually on energy-saving initiatives if warranted.
These commitments are contained in a conservation stipulation recently agreed to by ScottishPower, PacifiCorp and a host of interested parties, and submitted to the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
They represent near-term promises; if the merger ultimately gains approval, the conservation agreement will be superseded by public-purposes provisions under Oregon's new electric industry restructuring law. "I think we may . . . redirect what we're doing over those two years to kind of be a pilot phase" for restructuring, said PacifiCorp DSM policy manager Brian Hedman. The investor-owned utility will be required to collect from retail customers a public-purposes charge equal to 3 percent of total revenues, of which about two-thirds is allocated to new cost-effective conservation, including market transformation.
Ending a Conspicuous Silence
ScottishPower earlier this year promised to invest $60 million over five years to develop 50 megawatts of additional renewable energy resources, as a condition of its proposed merger with PacifiCorp (see Con.WEB, March 30, 1999). However, the Scotland-based company was conspicuously silent on energy conservation plans.
"ScottishPower/PacifiCorp explained that the lack of specific testimony relating to conservation programs was due to uncertainty regarding the nature of appropriate conservation programs in PacifiCorp's service territory," according to the Oregon stipulation agreement. Hedman noted the Scottish utility was unfamiliar with integrated resource planning, which guides PacifiCorp's conservation activities.
"I don't know whether that signals they didn't care that much about conservation or they didn't know anything about what PacifiCorp's potential is," said policy director Nancy Hirsh of the Northwest Energy Coalition. "There's no question conservation is not their strength. They don't have much going on in conservation in Scotland."
Hirsh described herself as "cautiously optimistic" about the stipulation, which was also signed by the OPUC staff, city of Portland, Oregon Citizens' Utility Board, Renewable Northwest Project, Natural Resources Defense Council and Oregon Energy Coordinators Association.
After discussions in recent months with these groups, ScottishPower and PacifiCorp agreed to a number of conservation promises.
The utilities pledged to invest $6 million annually in conservation programs in Oregon for three years after the merger closes. This would double PacifiCorp's 1998 spending, according to the stipulation. It includes continued funding for PacifiCorp's Oregon share of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, as well as a minimum of $500,000 each year for low-income weatherization.
In addition, ScottishPower/PacifiCorp promised to use a stakeholder working group "to direct an assessment of conservation potential within PacifiCorp's service territory, starting at least with Oregon, and once that assessment is done to assist in the design of programs to capture the cost-effective conservation identified in the assessment," Hedman said.
ScottishPower/PacifiCorp would spend more than $6 million annually on cost-effective conservation, if deemed appropriate by the working group. Any additional costs would have to be recoverable under PacifiCorp's system benefits charge, according to the stipulation. In any case it would not exceed Regional Review recommendations on conservation spending, which for PacifiCorp in Oregon would translate to about $14 million annually, according to Hedman.
Hedman believes PacifiCorp can find $6 million worth of cost-effective conservation to pursue each year in Oregon through existing ventures, but he is less persuaded about significantly higher levels. "I think there are a lot of issues how you effectively spend $14 million," he said. "I'm not sure under the current definitions of cost-effectiveness you can do that. You may have to start exploring other ways of measuring those programs you want to fund."
The utility has received criticism from advocacy groups for slashing its conservation budgets. A 1998 study from the NWEC found PacifiCorp's decline in conservation spending the most striking among regional IOUs, falling from 2.1 percent of revenues in 1995 to a projected .24 percent in 1998 for its Northwest service territory.
Hedman acknowledged a "perception that PacifiCorp is not doing all that it could be doing," but he said the IOU has been meeting its integrated resource planning targets for conservation. He also noted demographics in PacifiCorp's Oregon territory may limit energy-saving potential; it is largely rural, and the growing areas--such as in central Oregon and Klamath Falls--have predominantly residential and small commercial loads. In any case, "We hope to get [cost-effective conservation levels] proved out" in the assessment. "It wouldn't bother me to find out there's more" prospective energy savings available, and to develop programs to achieve them.
PacifiCorp hopes to inaugurate new conservation initiatives stemming from this process by early 2000. "We're not waiting for the merger approval," said Hedman. "By the beginning of next year we'll have a fairly comprehensive collaboration from the working group as to what we'll be doing."
The state of California and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have endorsed the merger, as have shareholders of the two companies, but regulatory agencies in the other five states served by PacifiCorp--Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah--have yet to formally rule.--Mark Ohrenschall
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Bonneville Power Administration has made official its proposed wholesale rate discount for energy conservation and renewable energy initiatives.
BPA included the conservation/renewables discount--with major features generally as anticipated--in its mid-August initial rate proposal for wholesale power rates from fiscal years 2002-2006.
In announcing the rate proposal, BPA administrator Judi Johansen listed maintaining "the region's pursuit of energy conservation and renewable resource development on track" as one of four guiding purposes. Others are broadly spreading the benefits of the Northwest federal hydro system, avoiding rate increases and meeting fish and wildlife obligations.
Although no huge surprises were apparent in the conservation/renewables discount proposal, at least one significant feature remains contentious: the idea that BPA customers must certify their discount-related investments in conservation are above what they would have been absent the program.
"It's something that's given a lot of the publics some heartburn," said Kristi Hansen of the Public Power Council, adding that PPC has not yet determined how to respond to that issue in the rate case.
Nevertheless, she praised the discount initiative as a whole. "Bonneville has really gone a long way towards addressing the concern the publics have had in the past with centralized conservation programs. Overall," she said, "the discount is really quite a remarkable product."
Also displeased with the incremental spending feature, but from a different perspective, is Nancy Hirsh of the Northwest Energy Coalition. "Our area of biggest concern is how a utility determines whether its investment is incremental, and the standard Bonneville has set for showing incremental we feel is not sufficient." BPA expects governing boards of publicly owned utilities to make annual documented certifications on additional spending. "The utility will take it seriously," Hirsh said, "but one might be concerned the utility will ramp down their investment between now and then in order to show a ramping up when the discount is established." NWEC favors creating a three-year conservation spending average as a baseline; any investments beyond that would be eligible for the discount.
Hirsh noted much of the discount debate will shift to the Regional Technical Forum, which is charged with recommending to Bonneville a list of measures eligible for the discount, as well as their electric savings and regional value.
Earlier this summer, BPA distributed an "Explanation and Description" of the conservation/renewables discount. BPA energy efficiency vice president Terry Esvelt called this document "a good outline of what the rate case contains."
Some highlights, as culled from the July description and BPA rate proposal documents:
Also as previously announced, BPA would furnish additional funding for renewables and low-income weatherization, should regionwide customer spending in either category fall short of Regional Review recommendations (about $6 million annually for renewables, $4 million for low-income weatherization).
Larger utilities (and smaller utilities that select this route) would choose between a cost reimbursement approach for conservation (with some limitations) and a so-called cost-plus approach, in which the discount amount would be capped by an aggregate cost-effectiveness limit. This latter option would also have an incentive component to promote more cost-effective spending.
Pooling of discount credits among utility organizations would be allowed, as would "banking" of credits from year to year. BPA, however, would nix the idea of trading discount credits.
The discount would be available to BPA's direct-service industrial customers to an extent, and to investor-owned utilities, but only for qualifying measures applied to IOU residential and small-farm loads.
Separate from the discount, BPA also has proposed a green energy premium, described as "a premium ranging from zero to $40/megawatt hour . . . that a customer elects to pay BPA to ensure that BPA is producing some system power from Environmentally Preferred Power . . . resources."
As for process on the conservation/renewables discount, BPA's explanation document outlined three major forums. Most policy decisions will be made in the rate case, for which BPA plans to hold public hearings this fall and issue a final record of decision in April. The RTF, meanwhile, is expected to send its discount-related recommendations to Bonneville by September 2000, after which BPA will conduct its own process to adopt them. Finally, a number of discount implementation and administrative issues are anticipated to be sorted out in another process beginning this fall. The discount would take effect with the new rates in October 2001.--Mark Ohrenschall
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A Montana utility wants to claim its Bonneville Power Administration power-supply contract meets its state requirements for funding energy conservation, renewable energy and low-income energy initiatives.
The Montana Public Service Commission has opened a docket on the proposal from a Flathead Electric Cooperative subsidiary that Nancy Hirsh of the Northwest Energy Coalition called a potential violation of "both the intent and spirit" of the public-purposes provisions in Montana's electric industry restructuring law.
In a May 13 letter to Montana PSC chair Dave Fisher, Energy Northwest, Inc.--a regulated subsidiary of Flathead Electric Cooperative--said it can fulfill its public-purposes obligations without charging its customers the 2.4-percent universal systems benefits fee mandated by the state's restructuring act.
ENI argued it already funds such programs "through its purchase of power from the Bonneville Power Administration, which includes expenditures for the acquisition or support of renewable energy and conservation-related activities."
ENI executed a contract with BPA in March--running through September 2001--to purchase 8 average megawatts of surplus firm power to serve customers in urban areas of the service territory Flathead purchased from PacifiCorp. When it bought PacifiCorp's Montana service territory in 1998, Flathead formed ENI to serve customers in Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls because state law restricts the number of customers a co-op can serve within a given area.
The Montana PSC issued a notice of application and opportunity for hearing on ENI's proposal in early July. Commission staffer Will Rosquist said the company's total public-purposes obligation amounts to about $200,000 annually. But the case, nevertheless, has garnered a lot of attention. Intervening parties include Montana Power, the Montana Consumer Counsel, Northwest Energy Coalition, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Natural Resources Defense Council and Renewable Northwest Project.
"Basically, we don't think the statute allows ENI or any Montana utility to meet its going-forward public-purpose obligations with money used for debt payments on what BPA has already invested in conservation and renewables," said NWEC's Hirsh. "I don't think anyone's accepting the claim that debt service qualifies under the USBC law . . . It would be a precedent-setting success for ENI if the commission agreed with their argument," Hirsh added.
Rosquist said the MPSC will hold a procedural conference soon to set up a schedule of hearings in the matter.--Angela Becker-Dippmann
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The federal Energy and Water Appropriations bill awaiting conference committee action after Congress' summer recess could cause some significant problems for Bonneville Power Administration, including its energy efficiency work with federal agencies.
Before the bill passed the House, sections were added that essentially prohibit power marketing agencies from doing any kind of work for their private utility, wholesale or retail customers, and that limit the agencies' ability to develop fiber optic lines.
BPA officials say the provisions would put an end to direct funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal Bureau of Reclamation--which Congress requested during the last budget session--and to BPA's energy efficiency activities for other federal agencies.
Section 317 of the appropriations bill declares "none of the funds provided in this or any other Act" can be used by PMAs--including Bonneville--to "rent or sell construction equipment; provide construction, equipment, operation, maintenance or repair services; perform contract construction work; provide a construction engineering service; or financing or leasing services for construction, maintenance, operational or engineering services to any private utility, wholesale or retail customer (other than those existing retail customers served by the Federal power marketing administration prior to the date of the enactment of this provision), publicly-owned utility, Federal agency, or state or local government entity."
That means BPA "can't provide any money to do anything for anybody" unless it's done through a private contractor, said BPA senior vice president Steve Wright.
Energy Efficiency Impact
And that means it would impact BPA's energy efficiency activities on behalf of other federal agencies. In accordance with recommendations from the Regional Review, BPA has been performing energy efficiency upgrades for federal agencies, said BPA energy efficiency vice president Terry Esvelt. The agency has 70 current task orders, Esvelt said, and has completed 120 such projects in the past 2 1/2 years since the Regional Review.
"It's certainly a puzzle to us what's behind this," Esvelt said. The whole purpose of the Regional Review's recommendations, he said, was to ensure BPA's activities would enhance opportunities for, rather than compete with, the private sector. In helping other federal agencies install conservation projects, Esvelt said, BPA acts as an extension of staff. That means more work for the private sector--about $12.5 million for the current 70 task orders--as well as lower power bills for federal facilities, which are ultimately paid by taxpayers.
Bonneville, according to its energy efficency Web site, offers federal agencies help with site surveys and plans, facility audits and engineering analyses, metering, energy accounting, controls, energy efficiency improvements (particularly HVAC and lighting), measurement and verification, and training and information.
Another section of the appropriations bill prohibits PMAs from improving or adding to their fiber optic systems, except for "fiber optic cable that is necessary for the foreseeable future for internal management of programs of the Federal power marketing administrations." That's also problematic, since BPA was planning to make excess fiber optic capacity available to improve telecommunications access for rural Northwest communities that lack such services.
Both Esvelt and Wright think these results were not the intent of the House. And Northwest members of Congress have already gone on record in opposition to them; Washington Reps. Norm Dicks and George Nethercutt voiced their disapproval, while Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon voted against the appropriations bill because of these provisions.
BPA officials and congressional staffers are hopeful the House-Senate conference committee will remove these sections from the bill before sending it on to President Clinton. A statement of managers from the House appropriations committee indicates opposition to these sections--although such a statement is not binding--and an administration policy statement is also expected.--Jude Noland
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Garbage to methane to electricity.
This simplified formula defines the basic workings of the region's newest renewable energy resource, the 8.4-megawatt-capacity landfill-gas plant at the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in south-central Washington.
It began commercial operations June 1 and is already a popular green-power attraction: owner Klickitat County PUD has subscribed virtually the entire current energy output to utilities and an industrial customer, at a premium price of about 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. "It truly is one of those things, 'If you build it, they will come,'" said PUD power manager Tom Svendsen.
Klickitat's is the largest landfill-gas plant among at least four others operating in the Northwest, two apiece in Oregon and Washington. It puts to productive use an otherwise wasted resource at one of the nation's largest landfills, where millions of tons of garbage from the Northwest and beyond lie buried on an arid plateau north of the Columbia River, near the tiny community of Roosevelt. The decomposing waste produces a gas consisting primarily of methane, which is collected in pipes, then compressed and purified and sent through large reciprocating engines connected to electrical generators.
Renewable energy? Not in the sense of wind or solar, inexhaustible (if intermittent) and non-polluting. But as a biomass resource, landfill gas has earned renewables accreditation from--among others--the federal government, the Northwest Power Planning Council, the Regional Review and Bonneville Power Administration's proposed conservation/renewables wholesale rate discount. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls landfill gas "the only renewable source of power that actually removes pollution from the air," according to the PUD's Web site.
Landfill gas clearly qualifies as green power from a marketing perspective. Snohomish County PUD considers it such, having committed to buy 5 MW from Klickitat, more than half the current capacity. Snohomish County garbage accounts for about one-fourth of the waste at the Roosevelt landfill, noted PUD commissioner Kathy Vaughn in a news release. "Our purchase of the bulk of the power from this project is recycling at its best. We send garbage to the plant and get electricity back."
For Klickitat PUD, meanwhile, the landfill-gas plant represents opportunity. It gives the utility more control over its power supply, which now comes primarily from BPA under a contract expiring in 2001. "Utilities with generating resources will control their own destinies," said PUD commissioner Randy Knowles, on the utility Web site. "With the McNary Dam Hydro Project and the Roosevelt landfill methane gas-to-energy project, we have a say in our future. We're no longer solely dependent on BPA."
From an electric system standpoint, Svendsen noted, the landfill-gas facility has bolstered the PUD's reliability.
It also promises potential economic development, not in direct employment (two people work at the plant) but in helping to lure environmentally conscious businesses to the 18,000-population county, which some day could bill itself as renewable-energy powered. "If you utilitize that as a marketing tool, that could be attractive to some businesses that frankly we need to attract to this area," Knowles told Con.WEB, mentioning telecommunications as one possibility.
"It gives us some opportunities we would not otherwise have" as a small, rural utility reliant on BPA, said Svendsen. "It's opened up a lot of new doors."
The Roosevelt Regional Landfill, which accepted its first garbage in 1991, was initially envisioned as an energy recovery facility, according to Svendsen, with early installation of gas collection pipes. Plans for a landfill-gas-to-energy plant coalesced in 1997, when then-landfill owner Rabanco selected the PUD to develop such a facility.
"The fact that it's relatively cheap for a green resource attracted us to the project," Knowles told Con.WEB. So did the prospect of greater energy-supply independence. And, he said, PUD customers supported the idea. "It was one of those happy circumstances where doing the right thing made sense."
The utility chose Enron subsidiary National Energy Production Corp. (NEPCO) for design and construction, and in October 1998 agreed to sell $12.9 million in bonds to finance the new plant. Ground-breaking commenced the following month, testing started in April of this year, and the facility began supplying power to the grid by June.
Svendsen credited the vision and support of the PUD board, and singularity of purpose throughout the utility. He also cited three major external factors benefitting the landfill-gas plant.
In March 1998 Snohomish PUD agreed to buy 2.5 MW of continuous energy output, a total later increased to 5 MW. "They were kind of the anchor store," said Knowles. Subsequent 1 MW deals with Goldendale Aluminum and Clallam and Benton PUDs--also in the range of 3.5 cents/KWh--have essentially taken the entire available energy.
Another favorable circumstance is a state sales and use tax exemption for landfill-gas-to-energy machinery and equipment, approved by the 1998 Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Locke. That was worth $1 million, according to Svendsen. And from a marketing perspective, BPA's proposed conservation/renewables wholesale rate discount tentatively includes a 1 cent/KWh credit for new biomass facilities, which, if eventually adopted, would drop the cost of Klickitat landfill-gas energy for a BPA customer to a very competitive 2.5 cents/KWh.
How It Works
The landfill-gas plant occupies a low-lying spot below a huge slope of buried garbage, adjacent to agricultural fields. On a mid-July day the site is hot, dry, dusty and windy, and less smelly than this reporter had imagined. However, no smoking signs are prominent. "It's not a good idea to smoke at a gas power plant," project engineer Darby Hanson wryly noted.
A total of 100,000 feet of pipe throughout the landfill collect the gas, which, according to descriptive information at the plant, consists of 55 percent methane and 45 percent carbon dioxide. The gas comes into the energy plant near a large orange stack, where it formerly was flared into the atmosphere, Hanson explained. Now it is compressed and filtered, and moisture is removed, while condensed water and contaminants are diverted to leachate ponds for recirculation, according to the plant description.
An adjoining building contains the four large Waukesha engines,
|One of four engines at Klickitat PUD's,
new landfill-gas plant.
(Photo by Mark Ohrenschall)
Plant emissions, which emerge invisibly from black periscope-shaped pipes outside the building, also resemble auto emissions. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides are the primary pollutants, according to Svendsen, dispensed in roughly equal amounts. Flaring previously resulted in about the same level of emissions, although in different proportions--more NOX and less CO--and with no productive end use. In any case, Svendsen noted, combustion significantly reduces the amount of methane--an especially potent greenhouse gas--percolating unrestricted into the air from the landfill. A federal Environmental Protection Agency official compared the plant's methane reductions to removing 58,000 cars from the road, according to Svendsen. And initial measurements show plant emissions are running well below permit limitations of 250 tons annually of any one pollutant.
While the pollutants go into the sky, the generated electricity flows to an adjacent substation designed by Snohomish Utility Solutions, and then via a 69,000-volt line to a BPA substation in Goldendale. The plant's capacity factor exceeded 95 percent the first month, according to Hanson.
Klickitat PUD's landfill-gas plant could produce significantly more energy in the future. The landfill is permitted to hold up to 120 million tons of garbage. Based on landfill-gas production curves, Svendsen offered a "real conservative" estimate that the plant could generate 40 MW at peak capacity. That would serve the PUD's entire current load, with megawatts to spare. "I don't know if we'd ever get all off BPA," said Svendsen. "We're probably going to have a varied portfolio. This is a . . . key cornerstone to that."
Knowles said the PUD plans to look at a fuel-cell demonstration project at the landfill-gas plant, and potentially a small combustion turbine. "We're seeing some other interesting technologies" arise with potential applications, he noted.
In the near term, the PUD plans to decide soon whether to add a fifth 2.1-MW engine, a move dependent on adequate gas supply. Finding prospective energy buyers is "the least of our worries right now," Svendsen said. A number of would-be purchasers have expressed interest. The PUD has already surpassed its projection of selling 75 percent of the project output by year's end. In addition, the bonds used to finance the plant are a combination of taxable and tax-exempt, which expands the potential market beyond publicly owned utilities.--Mark Ohrenschall
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From a short distance away, the new house at 907 Shoreline Drive resembles others in its upscale neighborhood in Post Falls, Idaho: large, modern, attractively designed and landscaped in a suburban manner,
|The NeXt House from the outside.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Anderson)
But this particular house is really quite different. It's an educational showcase for residential energy efficiency.
The NeXt House features numerous super-efficient technologies and measures, including a geothermal heat pump system, windows, lighting, insulation, appliances and solar orientation. It also includes recycled building materials, low-water-landscaping, attention to indoor air quality, and other aspects of green building.
Bonneville Power Administration created the idea of the NeXt House and paid about $800,000 to put it together, with the intent to demonstrate to the general public and building professionals current possibilities for home energy efficiency.
Thousands of people visited the home July 31-Aug. 8 during the North Idaho Building Contractors Association 1999 Parade of Homes. "A fair number of builders came through during the Parade of Homes," reported energy services director Peter Anderson of Kootenai Electric Cooperative, BPA's local utility partner on the project. "Most of them were pretty impressed." He found overall reaction to the NeXt House "pretty much overwhelming. Everyone thought the home was really beautiful, really fantastic."
Tours will continue to be offered into early fall, when BPA plans to put the NeXt House on the market. It expects to use proceeds from the home's sale to develop other energy-efficient showcase residences around the region, according to BPA project manager Mark Jackson.
"It's just a piece of the puzzle" in advancing the market for residential energy efficiency, Anderson said. "But every little piece helps."
The Ultimate Home and Garden Show Booth
BPA's Jackson initiated the project, according to Anderson, and approached Kootenai. "We thought it sounded like a great idea," he said, especially considering BPA's role in paying for the new home. "This is like the ultimate home and garden show booth . . . Here we have a 4,500-square-foot house and just about everything you'd want to talk with somebody about [on energy efficiency] was right there."
BPA assembled a team including local builder Tom Messina of Messina Construction
|Dedicating the NeXt House
Aug. 3 were, from left,
Larry Bryant, Jack Robertson,
Mark jackson, Tom Messina,
and Post Falls mayor Gus Johnson.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Anderson)
"The goal was to blend energy efficiency and electrotechnologies, while also paying attention to healthy home considerations . . . and use green-friendly products where we could," said Anderson.
All the participants, he noted, generally agreed on the elements of a super-efficient home using state-of-the-art technologies.
Whoever buys the NeXt House will likely pay a lot of money for it, but will get a very spacious four-bedroom, three-story, 4,500-square-foot home with an astounding array of home technologies--energy and otherwise--along with very low heating and cooling costs, an estimated $300 annually in northern Idaho's cold-winter/warm-summer climate.
"The housing market is very good here, especially the location on the Spokane River," Messina told Con.WEB. "It's just going to take an individual who can see the added benefits for all the energy efficiencies and the construction put in the house . . . This is not an individual home for everyone, only because of the amount of the amenities."
For heating and cooling--electrically, of course--the clear choice was a geothermal (also known as ground-source) heat pump system. This includes 2,000 feet of buried pipe through which a water/antifreeze mixture circulates, taking advantage of the earth's relatively stable year-round temperature of about 50 degrees.
"When heating," according to literature from manufacturer WaterFurnace, "this solution absorbs heat from the earth and carries it to the geothermal unit, which (through a process much the same as your refrigerator) compresses the extracted heat to a high temperature and delivers it to your home. When cooling, the process is simply reversed, and the resulting cool, dehumidified air is delivered to your home . . . Geothermal systems are extremely energy efficient since they need only a comparably small amount of electricity to power the pump, compressor and fan." They are also expensive in initial cost--Anderson estimated about $15,000 for this type of system--although WaterFurnace claims its model can generally save up to 60 percent in operating costs compared to conventional heating and air-conditioning systems.
Domestic hot water also is provided through the geothermal system, with a tankless on-demand water heater as backup.
Other elements of the interior air system include well-sealed ducts; separate supply and return ducts in each bedroom, for balanced air distribution; and an air-to-air heat exchanger, which brings in and purifies outside air before sending it around the house. "The air-to-air heat exchanger provides cleaner ventilation to the whole house more efficiently than relying on infiltration and exfiltration through cracks and holes in the building envelope," according to a self-guided NeXt House tour.
For the building envelope, the NeXt House team chose structural insulated panels for above-grade walls and ceilings. These panels consist of "a continuous core of rigid foam insulation that is laminated between two layers of structural board with an industrial adhesive," according to literature from manufacturer Insulspan. The 6-1/4-inch-thick wall panels provide R-25 insulation, while the ceiling panels, slightly more than a foot thick, offer R-50. Basement walls have polystyrene insulation forms from Blue Maxx, rated at R-22.
|Inside the NeXt House.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Anderson)
Appliances include a refrigerator, dishwasher and front-loading washing machine representing "the most efficient we could find," said Anderson. For lighting, compact fluorescent bulbs are commonly used along with some halogen lamps. And a 180-watt-capacity solar photovoltaic unit, complete with a power inverter, is available for landscape lighting and exterior water pumping.
Other elements of the home include maple wood flooring recycled from a Portland school gymnasium (avoiding chemical-dispensing carpets), wood harvested from certified sustainable forests, granite kitchen counters, engineered floor joists designed to not squeak, and a home automation system that "runs heating, lights and appliances . . . [and] connects with the TV, audio, video, and phone systems and provides home security viewing," according to a NeXt House brochure.
A proton exchange membrane fuel cell from Northwest Power Systems was on display at the house during an Aug. 3 dedication ceremony, at which BPA deputy administrator Jack Robertson pointed to it and predicted, "In five years, there will be thousands of these boxes" around the region.
Energy features are a major aspect of the home's design, in accordance with BPA's interest, according to Pollard. "We tried to make the best use of setting the views and the open windows to the south, to claim as much passive heat as possible. We also tried to keep the structure fairly simple . . . not get too crazy there," to accommodate the insulated panel construction.
He found the NeXt House process very educational, while acknowledging the advanced energy features may be less applicable in other circumstances, such as spec homes. "I think they're very viable and wonderful," Pollard said. "I think time will tell to see just how well they go."
Messina, meanwhile, said he found the compressed time frame--construction began in April--and coordinating between far-flung participants the major challenges in building the NeXt House. Although he said he was familiar with many of the energy features, Messina called it an educational experience for him as well as his subcontractors.
"With anything in the construction industry, it takes a little while for change to be implemented," he said. "Once builders get more familiar with these types of systems and the cost . . . comes down and clients see the added values . . . you'll definitely see more of a combination of what has been put into the Bonneville NeXt House."--Mark Ohrenschall
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A well-designed commercial building can be environmentally sound.
But for this combination to become standard practice, something even more fundamental than imagination, commitment and resources is needed: a change in basic perception.
The Architecture + Energy program is fostering such a shift. And it compares to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and the famed equation: Energy=Mass multiplied by a Constant.
So believes Peter Barna, one of five jurors in this year's A + E awards program, held June 25 in Portland. The awards--administered by the American Institute of Architects/Portland Chapter, with funding from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance--honor and promote the integration of fine design and resource (including energy) efficiency.
Einstein's theory of relativity and E=MC2 launched "a startling paradigm shift," Barna said in remarks at the A + E awards ceremony. He defined the universe in terms of two variables--mass and energy--and made them inseparable. Einstein also demonstrated that perceptions are based on relativity.
Architecture + Energy, according to Barna, "is brilliant in its conception and no less ambitious than Albert's vision. A + E is a paradigm shift. A shift in how we perceive and conceive our human places. In many ways A + E parallels Einstein's premise, for it defines our built environment in terms of only two items: Architecture (AKA mass) and Energy. It also places them in a dance of relativity with the intention of having the equation equal a sustainable world."
The balance between architecture and energy is extremely complex, Barna noted,
|Multnomah County Central Library.
(Photo courtesy of American Institute
of Architects/Portland Chapter)
"We are here to honor not what is traditionally thought of as only 'high architecture,' nor what is considered just a crowning achievement in energy reduction, nor simply the effective use of green materials," he said. "We are here to acknowledge those projects which are elegant solutions by their poise and balance."
Barna and his fellow jurors recognized four of the 13 Northwest buildings submitted for consideration. Awards of Honor went to the Frye Art Museum in Seattle and the Emerald PUD headquarters near Eugene; Awards of Merit were given to the Multnomah County Central Library in Portland and the Commander Headquarters and Navy Band Facility in Bangor, WA.
A + E program administrator Dorothy Payton notices more submissions for the awards are considering the issues of mass transit, embodied energy, daylighting, worker productivity, healthy building materials, siting and other features beyond energy-efficient technologies--more holistic approaches to environmentally sound buildings. "It's . . . coming into the forefront of design issues," Payton said. "People are starting to talk about this. It may have been there the whole time, but now people are really able to sell the concepts or speak to the issues."
Rick Casault, a Seattle-based engineer who served on this year's A + E jury, found the program enlightening.
"I thought I was fairly aware of green and sustainable design issues, but I learned an awful lot," he told Con.WEB. "One of the things I learned is that it's possible for a building to be energy-efficient, environmentally responsible and architecturally pleasing. I found a couple I really liked as a mechanical engineer, but they were just disasters architecturally, and the architects on the panel really let me know. It really raised my awareness of how much integration is possible between all of the different systems that make up a facility," including siting, materials choices and energy conservation measures.
The Nitty-Gritty: Opportunities Met and Missed
|Emerald PUD headquarters.
(Photo courtesy of AIA/Portland)
With the Emerald PUD building, for example, Casault lauded the way exposed concrete joists line up perpendicular to south-facing windows, to enable deeper penetration of daylight inside. This indicates to him a unity of vision: "If they hadn't had the structural engineer on board, it wouldn't have happened."
All the award-winning buildings met specific challenges but, according to Casault, also missed opportunities to further integrate design excellence and environmental consciousness.
The U.S. Navy facility in Bangor, located on the Kitsap Peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle, earned rave juror reviews for its siting. "There's just no way that building could be put on another site," said Casault. "It fits like it's poured right into that space, and they did it in an environmentally sensitive way to preserve as much of the natural growth and stream that ran through the site."
The separate band and commander's quarters are linked by a covered bridge, which also connects the mechanical and electrical systems, according to a project description. A storm-water retention system helps minimize runoff into the stream. Louvered sunscreens allow daylighting while
|Commander Headquarters and Navy Band Facility.
(Photo courtesy of AIA/Portland)
The Frye Art Museum underwent an extensive renovation and addition. "Our goal from an energy, design and program function standpoint was to create a building that would be filled with natural light and rely on natural ventilation instead of energy-intensive air-conditioning for cooling," reported a project summary. But the ventilation system had to be modified: "Due to code and heating requirements, client requests, and to provide back-up on windless days, some mechanical systems were necessary." The project also ran into problems meshing the
|Frye Art Museum.
(Photo courtesy of AIA/Portland)
In another submitted project--a non-award winner--original siting plans were jettisoned by an owner's representative who rotated the building's orientation, which, according to Casault, greatly reduced energy efficiency but increased the building's rent potential.
He acknowledged other hurdles in putting together a well-designed and environmentally adapted building. One is specialization among building-industry professionals, driven by increasingly complex technologies. This tends to work against holistic design. "Very little attention is ever paid to how . . . the various systems work together," Casault said. "Even when people say, 'Oh, yeah,' the practice is, when they get back to the office, it's a lot easier to just do what you've always been doing, focus in on your expertise . . . and not bother with all that troublesome stuff all the other team members are doing."
The price tag of integrating good design and resource efficiency can be another issue. But Casault thinks the design time and expense can be manageable if this integration is pushed from the beginning with support from the entire team. More data is needed on costs, he added.
A new market progress evaluation report on the A + E program listed a number of barriers architects believe the program could tackle in advancing energy-efficient and sustainable design: lack of awareness, performance uncertainty on energy-efficiency measures, information and hassle costs, and organizational practices. Other hurdles remain outside the program's influence: split incentives, low energy costs, structural barriers, access to financing, and unverifiable product information.
This evaluation for the Alliance by Research Into Action found the program "consistently well-received by participants," and influential on design practices for more than half the participants interviewed. It also suggested ways to expand the program and its impact.
Although the awards are A + E's most visible function, education is the program's true purpose. "The end product of this is not an annual awards program. The awards program is one of several tools used to raise awareness," said project coordinator Andy Ekman of the Alliance. "What we're trying to accomplish is to see that this integration of architecture and energy occurs in the professions as a normal part of doing design work."
About 75 people from around the region attended the June 25 event, which included sessions on lessons learned from previous award-winners and a "jury with the jury" exercise. A + E also has held workshops in Spokane and Boise, and conducted presentations for numerous architectural firms in Seattle and Portland.
Changing people's thinking is the ultimate aim of A + E.
"Energy efficiency is not a kit of parts," said Payton. "It's a strategy to a way of building enduring buildings that we love. It's a tough sell still in the industry. The challenges are in the market, not in the particular technologies. How do we get our clients excited so they'll endorse and go with us? There's no one right way of doing a church or a library. Every project presents its own unique opportunities and dilemmas. Why not create enduring, uplifting buildings that respect people and the planet?"--Mark Ohrenschall
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An expanded board of directors will oversee the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, with the recent decision to add up to two electric customer representatives to the market transformation collaborative's governing body.
One customer representative, Norm Beckert of Boise Cascade, has already been selected and a second person is expected to be chosen soon by the Alliance board. The collaborative will then have 20 voting board members and four ex-officio (non-voting) members.
The Alliance board approved this expansion at its July 26-27 meeting in Butte, MT, in the wake of calls from various quarters, including industrial customers, to add direct customer representation to the board (see Con.WEB, May 28, 1999). Alliance officials consider the additional board membership as a means to gain new perspectives and expertise.
The board in Butte also voted to renew funding for Con.WEB for two years.
The expanded membership represents an "interim solution" to restructuring the Alliance board, noted Charlie Grist, an Alliance board member who heads the board's nominating committee.
"The board really recognizes that in the long run no board could be big enough to fully represent everyone's interest," he said. "We're looking for ways to have a workable-sized board, get the kinds of perspectives we need, and sort of be adaptable to whatever forms of [electric industry] restructuring and public-purposes funding might come forth." The board's composition needs to align with the Alliance's funding--currently all from utilities--as well as potential market transformation activities, Grist added.
Beckert brings to the board 35 years of experience in the pulp and paper industry, according to an Alliance news release. He serves as Boise Cascade's purchasing director, among other duties buying energy and chemicals for the integrated forest products company. Beckert's experience in corporate purchasing and financial areas should prove useful to the Alliance board, Grist said, as will his perspectives from, and contacts in, the industrial sector.
"As a senior manager with Boise Cascade, I think I can bring a business perspective to the board, and obviously an industrial perspective," Beckert told Con.WEB. "Also, as a representative of Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, I think I can also bring a level of communication [between] that sector [and the Alliance] that perhaps has not been pursued as well as it might."
Beckert said he has long known about the collaborative--"We are a major contributor in the funding, through our [electric] rates, to the Alliance. Anything you spend money for you'd like to know about." He described a particular interest in assessing potential market transformation projects, but didn't address specifics. "I'm just looking forward to beginning to get indoctrinated and do my bit to help the board in its activities and responsibilities," he said, calling himself "open-minded and willing to serve."
The addition of Beckert and a prospective second new member, however, will not change the fundamental balance of power on the Alliance board. Beckert will join the non-utility "pod," which now consists of representatives of the four Northwest governors, the Northwest Energy Coalition and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council. The other 12 seats continue to be held by utility representatives: six from investor-owned utilities, five from publicly owned utilities and one from Bonneville Power Administration. Each Northwest state regulatory agency also is represented on the Alliance board in a non-voting capacity. Under Alliance rules that remain the same with the expanded board, non-consensus decisions (including project funding) require a 60-percent majority vote and at least two votes from each of the three pods: non-utility, IOU and public power.
The Alliance board hasn't yet decided on the second customer representative, according to Grist. "The nominating committee is still discussing candidates," he said. "We're planning to make a recommendation to the full board as soon as we can."
In other action in Butte, the Alliance board voted 13-3 to approve continued financial support of the publication you are now reading. The decision provides for annual funding of $133,000 for two years--the same annual amount as in the current contract--with a review after the first year.
Board members were pleased with the work of Con.WEB and publisher Energy NewsData, according to Alliance communications coordinator Stacey Hobart. The company met its contractual obligations with the Alliance over the past year, Grist said, and published "honest and informative" articles on Northwest energy efficiency and renewable energy. Expanded energy efficiency coverage in NewsData's Clearing Up regional energy newsletter also has been well-received by Alliance board members, he added.--Mark Ohrenschall
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A new fuel cell power plant at a Portland sewage treatment plant was dedicated July 22.
The fuel cell converts methane gas, a natural byproduct of the sewage treatment process, into electricity that will help power one of the buildings at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to a news release from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. The fuel cell is capable of producing more than 200 kilowatts per hour of AC power, generating as much as 1.25 million kw per year.
Portland General Electric provided a $247,000 rebate for the project, according to the news release, and the Oregon Office of Energy offered a tax credit worth $224,000.
PacifiCorp's latest wind energy project--three Micon wind turbines built by SeaWest at San Gorgonio Pass in California--is up and running, the company reports in a news release.
PacifiCorp is selling the output of the 2.1-megawatt-capacity project to Green Mountain Energy, which sells renewable energy to residential customers in California. The power marketer offers a "Wind for the Future" option under which customers can buy 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. PacifiCorp's Micon turbines are providing 25 percent of Green Mountain's Wind for the Future portfolio.
Although SeaWest has its own wind energy facility at San Gorgonio Pass, PacifiCorp spokeswoman Jan Mitchell said PacifiCorp's three turbines are a stand-alone project the company initiated in July 1998. In addition to the California project, PacifiCorp is the majority owner of the 41.4-MW-capacity Wyoming Wind Energy Project, which was dedicated in July (see Con.WEB, July 30, 1999).--Jude Noland
Listings of very energy-efficient appliances are available on the World Wide Web from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Designed to help inform consumers, ACEEE's Top-Rated Energy-Efficient Appliances site lists refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, room and central air-conditioners, and air-source heat pumps. Culled from product directories and manufacturer's data, the listings offer energy-related information about specific brands and models. ACEEE intends to keep the lists current, and to add furnaces, water heaters and boilers in the fall.
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