1) Oregon Restructuring, Public-Purposes Funding Faces Potential Delay
2) The Real Energy Future is Decentralized, Writes Cyrus Noë
3) Conservation Initiatives, Numbers, Potential and Youthful Ideas Spotlighted
4) BPA Plans Power Purchases from Planned Washington, Montana Wind-Energy Projects
5) New Organization Pursues Cooperative Approach for Rural Wind Energy
6) Group Design Exercise Illustrates Hard Choices in Creating Energy-Efficient Building
7) Energy Efficiency, Renewables Key Elements of Portland-Area Global Warming Mitigation Plan
Electric utility restructuring and public-purposes funding for energy conservation and renewable energy would be delayed 18 months in Oregon under a bill passed May 24 by the Oregon House of Representatives.
This proposed postponement in the planned October launch of Oregon's restructuring now goes before the state Senate.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Public Utility Commission has given the state's two major investor-owned utilities--PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric--approval to continue their energy conservation programs as a transition to the state's restructuring.
By a 49-10 vote, Oregon representatives on May 24 passed House Bill 3633-A, a version of HB 3633, first offered by Rep. Betsy Close (R-Albany).
It would reopen the question of electricity restructuring in 18 months--at the beginning of the next legislative session--instead of in two years, as Close had proposed. It would also provide a recovery mechanism for investor-owned utilities that have incurred costs related to preparation for restructuring, which is scheduled to start Oct. 1 under the provisions of Senate Bill 1149, signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber in 1999.
Rep. Close told Con.WEB she supported the changes. Democrats, she said, did not make a fuss about the cost-recovery provision. Instead, she said, they were agitated at their inability to exempt the public-purposes charge from the 18-month delay.
Close said that the bill faces an uncertain future in the Oregon Senate. The Senate president reportedly wants a shorter delay and the public-purposes funding will almost certainly be revived in debate in that chamber.
SB 1149 created a public-purposes fund equal to 3 percent of electric revenues, to be collected from PacifiCorp and PGE customers in Oregon starting with the beginning of restructuring. Those funds are earmarked for new cost-effective conservation and market transformation, above-market costs for new renewables and new low-income weatherization. Total monies generated for these public purposes are estimated at several hundred million dollars over the 10-year funding period established in the restructuring law.
The OPUC in October endorsed the formation of a new non-profit entity, now known as the Energy Trust of Oregon, to oversee most of the state's public-purposes funding (see Con.WEB, Oct. 31, 2000).
The Trust already has a board of directors (see Con.WEB, Feb. 28, 2001) and is continuing much of its preparatory work, including strategic planning and regular board and advisory committee meetings. "We still have to really plan for Oct. 1 until something else definitive happens," said OPUC staffer Lynn Kittilson, who has helped organize the Trust. One item on hold is the search for an executive director, she told Con.WEB.
IOU Program Continuations
Also in late May, the Oregon PUC gave PacifiCorp and PGE approval to continue their current conservation programs, despite uncertainty over whether the public-purposes funding will kick in Oct. 1 as initially intended.
An OPUC staff report points out that the two utilities "will no longer be able to recover their conservation program costs in rates beginning October 1, 2001 (or the date direct access is implemented in Oregon). The two utilities will need to begin to ramp down their conservation program activities now unless they are assured that their post October 1 costs associated with completing customer commitments made prior to October 1 will be reimbursed through future public purpose collections."
In its May 22 rulings, the OPUC supported the utilities' Phase 1 conservation transition proposals, under which the IOUs will "actively market" conservation programs and make customer commitments through Sept. 30. The utilities will be reimbursed for "prudently incurred costs of completing conservation program commitments after October 1, 2001." The commission set a $12 million cap on PGE's Phase 1 commitments and an $8 million cap on PacifiCorp's Phase 1, both over two years.
These transitional efforts have been discussed for some time as a means to "partially bridge the gap from current utility conservation programs to competitively delivered programs under SB 1149 administration," notes the OPUC staff report. "The objectives . . . are to remove near-term completion deadlines; guarantee program benefits to participating customers; keep current customer interest and momentum in energy efficiency activity moving; and capture lost opportunities."
PGE's and PacifiCorp's Phase 1 transition proposals were suppported by the Energy Trust. "Not only did we tell them not to ramp down" on conservation, said Jason Eisdorfer of Citizens' Utility Board, a member of the Energy Trust board, but to "ramp up and do whatever else you can do."--Mark Ohrenschall, Jude Noland and Cindy Simmons
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(Editor's note: Energy NewsData president and publisher Cyrus NoŽ delivered a speech at a recent energy symposium in Seattle, organized by The Boeing Co. for its energy staff and others in the company and industry. This column is an updated version of that speech.)
The president's Back to the Future energy plan recently slouched toward the Beltway to be born. I have been writing critical columns based on its previews. The gist of these columns, among other things, is that while Dick Cheney is probably smarter and more capable than I am, I am probably better informed on the country's energy future than he is. Or an alternative gist of the columns is the street wisdom brought to us by Mick Jagger, who says that you can't always get what you wa-a-a-nt, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.
What the country needs is an accelerating investment upsurge in distributed energy resources, specifically distributed generation in league with smart control systems and energy efficiency applications. I am persuaded that the Bush-Cheney plan is bringing us something else, which might be seen as an instance of the French general staff's one-war-too-late syndrome, which had the French army ready to fight the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 when World War I came along in 1914, and ready to fight World War I of 1914 when World War II came along in 1939. The administration's plan appears ready to address the energy crisis of the 1970s.
My listed topic is Fuel Cells Technology, about which I am not competent to say much. I would quickly get fuddled in an electrolyte maze of alkaline, phosphoric acid, solid polymer, molten carbonate and solid oxide alternatives. But fuel cell technology is very important; that device is the poster hardware for the developing energy future. It is quiet, very efficient, virtually pollution-free and scalable from base-load energy to cell-phone applications.
The administration's energy plan acknowledges some of the newer energy technologies and products, even as the president himself has given conservation an approving peck on the cheek in recent days. There is of course no doubt, as the plan notes, that the nation's energy infrastructure is in disrepair here and there, and that in the uncertain times of oncoming deregulation and environmental upset, investment in generation and transmission has lagged. But the administration's one-war-behind energy plan appears to want to restore balance mainly by building bigger and better generation and transmission, in effect pointing back to the good old coal and nuclear plant days.
Those Good Old Days are Gone
That era of good old days is as dead a doornail as the Boeing headquarters building I passed on my way to this event. To get an interesting perspective on the good new days dawning, I am going to borrow some words from Power Measurement Limited, a British Columbia-based global energy management company approaching the energy future in the context of demand escalation and response. On its Web site, the company sees an immediate lack of generation capacity, and then predicts that "five years from now, it will be bottlenecks in the transmission and distribution infrastructure. Although demand response can solve the short-term problem, only distributed generation can solve both."
They specialize in "enterprise energy management (EEM)" that bases client energy needs on supply systems on-grid and/or off-grid--of special interest to enterprises involved in "an expanding digital economy." According to PML's argument, "The traditional electricity grid will never be able to supply the quality or quantity of power [these enterprises] need. Even if additional centralized generators are constructed, their output will be trapped inside inadequate transmission networks. Small 'distributed' power plants are the answer because they are fast to configure and ensure higher power reliability because they are connected to end-users directly or through shorter transmission lines."
Information interchange makes it all work systematically. "Together with intelligent EEM systems, distributed generators reduce the cost and environmental impact of the electricity supply. EEM systems automatically monitor and control generator operation, communicate real-time data, and verify power quality. EEM systems also help resolve the supply-demand imbalance by enabling end-users to adjust their electricity purchases from the grid based on hourly price fluctuations. As greater numbers of power producers enter the picture and energy traders ask for more real-time information, the decentralized monitoring and control of energy and power quality is becoming a critical requirement."
Energy Dynamics Online
Our company, Energy NewsData, is developing an Internet-based global news service called Energy Dynamics Online, covering what we see as the related range of issues involved in an energy future that is bringing to market smaller distributed alternatives to larger central station investments.
Larger means too big, takes too long to site and build, costs too much and is too far from load. The worst example of too big is Three Gorges Dam in China, which will wreak havoc on large reaches of the Yangtze River over a 30-year multibillion dollar construction period to produce power to meet only one year of China's energy load growth.
It should be noted at this point, in the context of the administration's energy plan, that even if the good old days model for the future is a non-starter, there is no structural conflict between new distributed alternatives and current central station generation delivered via transmission and distribution. In fact, distributed generation is an ideal way to reinforce the grid with localized generation sited in higher load-factor areas.
But new energy policy needs to reflect an understanding that the global energy industry is in the process of investments in new modes of production, distribution, storage, control and efficient end-use applications of energy. There is also a continuing need for midsize generating plants, but the trend clearly favors new energy products that are (to use a mantra I use whenever I can) "smaller, smarter, greener, innovative, scalable up and down, very efficient, quicker on-line, on-grid or off-grid, and closer to customers."
What will we cover as independent journalists? More, of course, than fuel cells. I list our contents as of this writing. In distributed resources, we will track development and deployment of fuel cells, turbines, reciprocating engines, combined heat and power systems and virtual power plants using standby generators as an organized resource. We will track the development of downscale nukes like the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. Renewable distributed resources in our coverage will include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal and high-tech low-head hydro.
In new fuels, hydrogen attracts lots of interest, but there are other new fuels in development, as well as new combustion applications. Energy storage is crucial: batteries, flywheels, compressed air and electromagnetic systems. Transport propulsion is important in and of itself and as a hardware proving ground: electric, fuel cell, turbine, hybrid.
We will pay special attention to end-use efficiencies and smart systems: lighting, HVAC, motors, control systems, appliances and energy webs. We will cover technical and product breakthroughs and leapfrog technologies. There will be lots of coverage on the dynamics of the new energy paradigm, including issues like load growth trends, technical demand/bandwidth issues, global resource deployment, business dynamics (startups, mergers and linkages, finance) and policy dynamics (environment, regulation, legislation and standards).
The related products and systems we call distributed energy resources represent extensions of useful aspects of sustainability in developing and developed parts of the world. (The less useful part of sustainability is the scary idea that we must be very fearful lest we run out of a number of things vital to our way of life, although in fact we will not run out of these before we find better things to take their place--as with fossil fuels, for example.) In the developing world, smaller distributed resources are in scale with load, avoid extended project funding, represent a way to subvert the dead hand of central bureaucracies, and promise fewer negative environmental effects.
In the developed world, the useful sustainability aspect is how distributed resources can extend the productive lives of central-station energy and delivery assets without being commitments to maintain or create more of those assets over the long haul. In fact, while distributed generation is supporting a transmission-distribution grid and minimizing the need for upgrading investments, it is laying the groundwork for eventually replacing it. This all amounts to an empowering, quiet and positive revolution that we at NewsData are very much interested in--and committed to--covering as independent energy journalists.--Cyrus Noë
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Bonneville Power Administration and number of utilities have new and/or expanded energy-saving initiatives, including various customer incentive programs. State governments in Oregon and Washington report energy-saving reductions approaching and in some cases exceeding 10 percent, while Tacoma Power customers have cut the municipal utility's load 12 percent since January. Conservation potential is substantial, according to the Northwest Power Planning Council. And a group of students has underscored the notion of individual responsibility for saving energy.
Con.WEB offers a potpourri of recent developments in Northwest energy conservation.
Bonneville Power Administration
Bonneville in early May launched a new conservation program to spread the energy-saving VendingMi$er technology to vending machines around the Northwest.
BPA's Rick Miller described VendingMi$er as "an electronic device that simply plugs into a vending machine--soft drinks, primarily. It controls the power of the machine in such a way that when the room that the machine is located in is unoccupied, it powers everything down--compressors, lights, coin-changers. You get an [annual] average of 46-percent reduction in energy use," varying depending on how many people circulate around the machines, as judged by a motion sensor. VendingMi$er also keeps drinks "within specifications" for temperature.
BPA has reached an agreement with the manufacturer, Bayview Technology Group, to deliver and install VendingMi$ers in service territories of participating Northwest utilities. All utilities are eligible, according to Miller, and "they don't have to do anything" other than notify Bonneville. They will also get installation reports from Bayview. As of late May about 30 BPA public-power customers had signed up; installations were scheduled to begin by early June. "So far the utilities have really embraced this program as something that can be done quickly, something that can be done easily." He described VendingMi$er as a "tried-and-true technology" delivering "virtually guaranteed" energy conservation. BPA anticipates annual savings of 1,292 kilowatt-hours for each illuminated vending machine with a VendingMi$er, and 861 KWh a year for non-illuminated units.
Regional savings from this program could exceed 14 average megawatts, Bonneville estimates, including 4-plus aMW in the territories of its full-requirements customers. Miller said BPA projects a levelized cost for the savings of about 2.4 cents/KWh, based on a 10-year measure life.
Con.WEB has already reported on numerous utility energy-saving endeavors in response to the energy crisis (see Con.WEB, Feb. 28, 2001 and March 29, 2001).
One popular approach is paying customers to reduce their power demand. This strategy initially focused on large energy users, and is now expanding to smaller customers.
Puget Sound Energy, under a program approved in late April by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, will compare a customer's monthly consumption with the same month in the previous year, under the credit plan the investor-owned utility is offering through Dec. 31. Each kilowatt-hour saved beyond 10 percent will earn customers a 5-cent credit on their bills.
Portland-based PacifiCorp initially set a 20-percent energy-use reduction--compared to 2000 consumption--as the standard for its conservation incentive program. But in response to concerns by Oregon regulators and public-interest groups, the utility will also be offering credits to residential customers who reduce use by 10 percent for each month the target is achieved. Customers will get 10 percent or 20 percent lower bills for reaching these goals, as well as the savings from reduced energy consumption.
The WUTC and Utah regulators approved PacifiCorp's 20-20 Customer Challenge before the Oregon Public Utility Commission called for the 10-10 additional offering. But the two state commissions also directed the IOU to revise programs in their states if it offers a less stringent program in other states. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has not yet ruled on PacifiCorp's proposal, but a utility spokeswoman said the 10-percent option is being added to that filing, as well as in California.
"Simply providing the 20/20 option may not have been fair to customers who have already taken steps to reduce their power consumption," said OPUC chairman Roy Hemmingway in a news release. "This has the potential to be a 'win/win' for customers, the company, and the region in a time of tight energy supplies."
Avista Utilities has received WUTC and IPUC approval for its conservation incentive program, which provides virtually all of its customers a 5 cent/KWh credit for monthly savings above 5 percent, compared to 2000. This will run through mid-October.
Additionally, Avista has received WUTC approval to increase its demand-side management tariff rider for electric conservation programs from 1.55 percent to 1.95 percent. The IOU also has requested an increase in Idaho, from 1 percent to 1.95 percent, according to spokeswoman Robyn Dunlap.
Avista also has announced new residential programs offering $6 rebate coupons for compact fluorescent lamps, $300 rebates on heat pumps and $50 rebates on programmable thermostats. The utility described these as "residential appliances and equipment that typically have a high impact on energy consumption."
Idaho Power, meanwhile, has a new conservation-friendly residential rate structure that charges increasingly higher rates for greater power consumption. This is part of a May 1 IPUC decision to allow the IOU to recover $168.3 million in rates through its annual power cost adjustment.
Residential customers using less than 800 KWh each month get a 14-percent rate increase; those using between 800 KWh and 2,000 KWh monthly will experience a 30-percent rate increase for usage in that block; and residential customers exceeding 2,000 KWh in a month will receive a 62-percent rate increase for those kilowatt-hours. "This structure provides an effective and efficient means of providing customers with incentives to conserve electricity," according to the IPUC.
In addition, the commission announced it is launching "a new case to examine reinstatement of conservation programs" by Idaho Power, according to a May 1 IPUC news release. "Idaho Power must file a comprehensive demand-side management program by Aug. 1 that details energy conservation programs and funding options."
In mid-April, according to another IPUC news release, the commission endorsed "a pilot program for Idaho Power that allows up to 300 irrigation customers to shift their energy use away from peak power times with the use of time-of-day meters the company will install."
From the regional public-power side comes word of Snohomish County PUD's "shining success" in promoting compact fluorescent lamps. The PUD in early May reported that more than 60,000 CFLs have been sold by local retailers as part of a utility program offering customers a $3 discount per bulb. Seattle City Light also has found CFLs a popular item; The Seattle Times reported on April 11 that 41 percent of residential customers had taken the utility up on its offer of two free compact fluorescents, much higher than the projected 30-percent response rate. That increased the program cost another $500,000, to $2.4 million total, according to the newspaper.
Another energy-saving item in demand are Energy Star windows. Some 60 percent of all windows sold regionwide the first three months of this year carried the Energy Star label for energy efficiency, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance reported in a news release.
Snohomish PUD also reported its residential customers are conserving en masse. A research study in April found that nine of 10 PUD customers were changing behavior to save energy, according to a PUD news release. Nearly 80 percent had reduced lighting loads, nearly 60 percent had turned down their heat and almost 20 percent had cut down on appliance usage. Why? The vast majority, 82 percent, cited saving money on bills as their main reason for conserving. About 29 percent listed a desire to help with the water/energy crisis, and 9 percent said they conserved power for environmental reasons.
Energy conservation efforts helped reduce Northwest electric loads this past winter (see Con.WEB, March 29, 2001).
The Northwest Power Pool found loads dropped 4 percent through March as a result of regionwide conservation efforts, Pool president Jerry Rust told Con.WEB. That's compared to the Pool's total load the previous year, adjusting for temperatures as well as known industrial and other loads off-line. Rust also noted this is a regional average.
In an example of significant energy savings within utility service territories, Tacoma Power reports a 12-percent load reduction since January. That adjusts for weather and known industrial plant shutdowns, according to assistan energy services manager Todd Currier. "It's a mixture of people doing conservation, people doing things that are depriving them a little bit of their quality of life or business operations, and people who have actually been in economic forces of curtailment."
The utility's Web site encouraged continued energy-saving efforts: "To get towards our goal of a 20% reduction, we must maintain all the good things we're doing, and then bump our efforts up several notches where possible."
Tacoma also abandoned an earlier notion to fine energy wastrels. The City Council did pass an ordinance asking Tacomans to curtail certain energy uses, such as off-hours exterior lighting for businesses, according to Currier. But civil penalties were omitted. "The purpose wasn't to collect revenue," he told Con.WEB, but "to give us another tool reminding people we have a serious problem and we really need community support. The penalty thing started getting in the way."
Seattle City Light customers also have helped their utility shave loads, although not as much as in Tacoma. As of May 24 City Light reports weather-adjusted savings since Jan. 1 of 262,804 megawatt-hours, or about 6.2 percent off the forecasted load. Seattle's goal is a 10-percent reduction in energy use, or 1 million MWh, by year's end.
Meanwhile, Washington state agencies had reduced power consumption by nearly 10 percent through March, and natural gas use by about 20 percent, according to a recent newspaper column by energy program manager Clint Lougheed of the state Department of General Administration. The Capitol Campus in Olympia recorded 2.3 million KWh in savings during the first three months of the year.
In Oregon state government, the Department of Administrative Services found that March electricity use in its buildings dropped 17 percent, compared to March 2000. Heating requirements were about 10 percent lower statewide this March than March 2000, DAS noted. Natural gas consumption, meanwhile, fell 27 percent. DAS also reported electricity savings of 13 percent and natural gas savings of 27 percent in February, even though statewide heating requirements were 11 percent higher than in February 2000.
Conservation Potential and Youthful Ideas
"We've got a lot of conservation potential in this region," said conservation manager Tom Eckman of the Northwest Power Planning Council, speaking at the Washington Energy Conservation Summit March 31 in Seattle. The Council projects 2,000 aMW to 2,400 aMW of cost-effective energy savings "we can achieve over the next 20 years in this region if we put our minds and money to it." Washington, he noted, encompasses half the region's potential.
Eckman distinguished between curtailment and conservation, describing the latter as a form of investment that (among other consequences) helps protect against skyrocketing power prices. "The more conservation we do, the less pressure there will be to raise rates on consumers."
He cited six examples of bountiful energy savings available over three years. Installing one compact fluorescent lamp per residence: 100 aMW. Replacing existing commercial lighting would save 50 aMW: "In a typical commercial building from 1985, you could cut the lighting levels in half with technology not any more advanced than is sold in the open market." Tuning up the heating and cooling systems in commercial buildings would save another 40 aMW. Plugging compressed-air leaks: 15 aMW. Installing vending machine controls: another 15 aMW. And getting rid of extra refrigerators in homes--one in five households have more than one fridge--would save 10 aMW regionally over the three years. The old models preferably would be recycled, Eckman noted, not dumped in landfills.
The Saturday summit attracted a huge crowd to the Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle, including a slate of federal legislators from Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell and Reps. Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith and Rick Larsen, along with Seattle mayor Paul Schell. "I am convinced conservation must play a vital role," said Cantwell, in a representative statement from the lawmakers. "Conservation is the cleanest, most efficient way to make sure the lights come on and the lights stay on."
The program featured conservation-related discussions with utility, government, business and advocacy group representatives, but one of the most compelling presentations came at day's end from students at Lakeside School and Meridian Park Elementary School. They talked about turning off lights in their schools, installing more energy-efficient lamps, making changes to HVAC systems, and using renewable energy sources and alternative fuels. The students proposed to challenge all Washington schools to reduce their power consumption by 10 percent in 100 days (Meridian had already accomplished a quick 11-percent dip).
They also underscored the notion of individual responsibility for energy conservation. "The enormity of the task seems daunting," said one student. "We are challenged to shift our belief that progress hinges on increased consumption. We must prove to ourselves we can do more with less." This student quoted author Leo Tolstoy: "Many wish to change the world, but few wish to change themselves."
Cantwell lauded the students as "probably the best panel I've heard yet" as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, while Inslee pledged "to plagiarize you all over the Congress, shamelessly." --Mark Ohrenschall [Jude Noland and Cindy Simmons also contributed to this story.]
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Bonneville Power Administration has unveiled plans to buy power from two proposed wind-energy projects in Washington and Montana that could total more than 200 megawatts of capacity.
BPA is collaborating with Washington Winds on a planned 150-MW wind farm in south-central Washington, according to a May 4 news release. Three days later, BPA announced it would undertake an environmental impact statement for a wind farm on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana, envisioned for 36 MW to 66 MW of capacity.
Both projects could begin producing electricity by late 2002. BPA anticipates buying the wind-powered energy for under 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to Bonneville's Tom Osborn.
These ventures are separate from BPA's recent solicitation for 1,000 MW or more of wind capacity, he noted. That solicitation brought in 25 proposals totalling more than 2,600 megawatts of new capacity, nearly 850 average megawatts of energy (see Con.WEB, April 30, 2001).
Maiden Wind Farm
The Maiden Wind Farm would be sited about 15 miles north of Prosser, in Benton and Yakima counties, on a ridge line in the Rattlesnake Hills. This area features "some of the best winds in the Northwest," Washington Winds president Rick Koebbe told Con.WEB. Washington Winds is a subsidiary of Boise-based Pacific Winds, which owns and operates some 900 wind turbines in California with total capacity of 95 MW.
BPA would buy power from the planned 150 MW of capacity over 20 years, with an option for an additional 250 MW, according to the news release. "We're permitting the entire 400 megawatts," said Koebbe. "We are hopeful that Bonneville will select the entire 400 megawatts right off the bat."
At 400 MW, the Maiden project would be the largest single wind-energy project in the world. The Stateline wind farm along the Washington-Oregon border, now under construction, has a planned 300-MW capacity.
Although power-cost details were unavailable, BPA's Osborn said the federal power marketing agency expects to pay less than 4 cents/KWh for Maiden energy. "It's very competitive," said Koebbe. "I think it's the least-cost resource, lower than any [new] fossil-fired plant." Washington Winds is not counting on the 1.7 cents/KWh federal production tax credit for wind energy, he noted. That credit expires at year's end, and is proposed but not yet certain to continue.
A power-purchase agreement is pending permit approvals sought by Washington Winds. BPA will conduct an environmental impact statement. Koebbe said these processes could be completed by late this year or early next year, with construction possibly beginning next spring and electrons spinning out by late 2002.
The planned site now hosts cattle grazing and wheat farming, according to Koebbe. Washington Winds has signed lease agreements with local landowners, and a lease arrangement is "pending" with the state of Washington for state-owned land within the project site.
The proposed wind farm has yet to encounter major difficulties, according to Koebbe. "So far we see no significant issues that are arising from the discussions." He described an "overwhelming positive response from everybody in Benton County and Yakima County." Maiden would generate more than $1 million in annual tax revenues collectively for the two counties, and create more than 100 construction jobs for the 150-MW project.
A previous proposed wind farm on Rattlesnake Mountain, approximately 10 miles east of the Maiden site, kindled some local opposition in the early 1990s. "This is not in the same location at all," said Koebbe. Still, said BPA's Osborn, "I would imagine visual impact might be something people would want to understand. I don't think it's a negative thing. People just want to know what these things are going to look like."
Wind turbines for Maiden would be a minimum of 900 KW capacity apiece, Koebbe said, and possibly as large as 1.8 MW. Three existing BPA transmission lines (rated at 115, 230 and 500 kilovolts) cross the project site, so new high-voltage lines would be unnecessary.
Blackfeet Wind Farm
In northwestern Montana, SeaWest Windpower plans a wind farm of between 36 MW and 66 MW capacity, rising on a plateau near the small community of Babb, just east of Glacier National Park. That's larger than the 22-MW project envisioned in a development agreement announced last year between SeaWest and the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (see Con.WEB, Sept. 29, 2000).
"We do not know at this time the actual size of the project," SeaWest project manager Darin Huseby told Con.WEB. Community opinion, bird studies and transmission availability will be important factors in determining the ultimate megawattage. "The larger we can build a project, the better the economies of scale and the better pricing we can then turn and offer to somebody like BPA," he said. Bonneville expects to pay less than 4 cents/KWh, according to Osborn.
Blackfeet tribal lands on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains are notoriously windy. While SeaWest continues to acquire data on the specific wind resource available at this locale, "We've determined it's adequate to build a commercial wind site," Huseby said.
The developer hopes to begin commercial operation by late 2002, but it may fall back to spring 2003 to allow for a full year's worth of bird data, according to Huseby.
The Blackfeet tribe wants to own the project, according to general manager Dennis Fitzpatrick of Siyeh Development Corp., a tribally owned entity that operates various enterprises. He acknowledged financing as "a big issue for us." One option is guaranteed loan financing through Rural Utilities Service. The Blackfeet could also reap financial benefits as landowners. "It's too early to tell" the exact tribal role in the project, Fitzpatrick told Con.WEB.
Tribal members seem favorably inclined to the wind venture, he said. "We've had two public meetings, and at both meetings there was real good support for the project. I know of no tribal member that has publicly been opposed to the project."
The wind farm would generate jobs both in construction (30 to 40 positions, Fitzpatrick estimated) and operations, and potentially create tourism-related entrepreneurial opportunities. "With the high unemployment rate that we have, that's attractive to the tribe," he said.
Wind power also could serve a broader economic development function. "The bigger picture is that it will create a source of energy that may be attractive to outside industry looking to locate their facilities" on tribal lands, Fitzpatrick said. "This is one way of building our infrastructure here on the reservation."
One potential issue involves the sight of large wind turbines near a visually spectacular national park. "So far we haven't had any negative responses from representatives of Glacier National Park," said Huseby. "Their indication is they support renewable projects and they are favorable to projects that will enhance the lives of Blackfeet tribal members."--Mark Ohrenschall
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A public-power utility group envisions a new era in Northwest rural electrification, fueled by the energy of the wind.
Leaders of the Last Mile Electric Cooperative see huge potential for wind energy in the rural Northwest, and they believe this emerging organization--comprised mainly of rural electric cooperatives--can help deliver many benefits for local communities and the larger public interest.
The group's expressed mission is to "provide affordable, reliable, renewable, cost-based electricity to rural and urban consumers through self-help efforts using the non-profit cooperative business model." Potential activities include wind-resource evaluations and other services, ensuring rural landowners receive fair compensation for wind farms on their lands, and development of wind-energy projects in partnership with other entities. Building as much as 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity "is not an unrealistic objective," according to Aaron Jones of the Washington Rural Electric Cooperative Association, who is spearheading the new cooperative.
Jones describes this venture as "an oar in the water for public power, a very important element that seems to be lacking" in the burgeoning Northwest wind-energy scene. "We wanted public power involved," he told a well-attended public-power wind workshop April 23 in Portland. "And we think we've found a way to get public power involved."
He acknowledged a late start in capitalizing on wind's growing popularity, but he believes the region needs a cost-based alternative to profit-seeking wind-energy development--the "yardstick" function of public power.
A Windy Future
Jones admittedly is a recent convert to wind energy. Until a few months ago, he told the public-power conference, he considered this energy resource far too expensive. Then he heard tales from the Stateline project (now under construction along the Oregon/Washington border) of wind power coming in at less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour
"Now I'm convinced wind is the future of energy supply, not just in the Northwest, but international," he said. "Pick one resource, 20 to 30 to 40 years--the next 200 years--I think I would put my money on wind, for a number of reasons."
In the first half of the 20th century, Jones noted, hydroelectricity was harnessed all around the Northwest--but not by rural electric cooperatives. "My own personal motivation is I've had to live too long with the knowledge that other parties developed the hydro sites, and co-ops sat by, thinking it was too expensive," he told Con.WEB in early May. "Basically I think we failed in our responsibility to provide cost-effective power to our members. I don't think we want to fail again."
At the conference, he asked: "Who owns the wind? How will it be marketed in 10, 15, 20 years? At non-profit cost-based rates, or will it be at market rates, with the kind of market conditions we're looking at today?" Jones distinguished between the private-sector business model for wind, and the cooperative approach, which farmers already know well.
Washington's rural electric cooperatives serve half of the state's geographical area--"and the windiest parts," he told the conference. They also exist to serve their members. That entails providing low-cost power--but also seeking fair treatment for landowners with prospective wind sites. "Are they being treated fairly in the for-profit business model? We came to the conclusion, in most cases, they were not." Jones later said the new cooperative hopes to increase landowner revenues by 15 percent to 20 percent, as a standard practice.
Helping Rural Landowners
The Last Mile Electric Cooperative, established in Washington as a non-profit organization, wants to help rural landowners. "We have brochures available for individuals that want to know more about small-scale wind projects and we can also put you in contact with professionals who can talk to you about commercial wind development," according to a cooperative brochure. "If you have land where commercial wind energy development is possible, we will be happy to review your development options with you. In cases where wind energy potential is high, the Utility Wind Group can provide wind testing and other services at no cost to the landowner."
The group is already arranging meetings and talking with farmers about wind energy, according to Jones. He has found "overwhelming support for wind development" in rural communities.
Cost-Based Wind Power
In addition to assisting landowners, this new cooperative wants to pursue cost-based wind power projects. "These are not conflicting goals," according to the brochure. "If they are balanced properly, rural landowners and ratepayers will both be happy with the results. Your electricity rates could be lower, too!"
Jones said 13 utilities--mostly Northwest rural electric co-ops but including at least two municipals and entries from Nevada and Northern California--are anticipated to join the fledgling wind cooperative. Each participating utility will pay $10,000 initially. "The biggest challenge early on was convincing people this is something consumer-owned utilities had to get involved in," said Jones; many public-power officials thought natural gas-fired turbines should be the resource of choice. "We didn't win them all over. We won enough over so we can have a strong effective group that will produce some very tangible benefits."
The new organization also plans to partner with an unnamed investor-owned utility and aluminum company on project development, according to Jones. "Between the three parties, we can do five times as much," he said. "It gives us far more capability. They're going to be out there anyway." Project financing could be available to the cooperative from the Rural Utilities Service. Any such wind development must be economically competitive, he told the conference.
Jones acknowledged that many prime wind sites in the region are already taken: "We're almost at the point of picking through the leftovers right now." The organization would be open to projects outside rural cooperative service territories, and to ventures at modestly windy locales that offer other attributes, such as proximity to co-op territories.
He believes the three entities can put together a significant portfolio of wind ventures, with operations potentially beginning in late 2002. "I think 2,000 megawatts, if these three parties work effectively together, is not an unrealistic objective . . . It gives me a good feeling public power is stepping up. When all is said and done, public power will have a fair share of the wind resource in the Northwest."--Mark Ohrenschall
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So you want to design an energy-efficient building?
You will likely face some hard choices--unless, of course, the owner gives you an unlimited budget.
A recent group design exercise provided some insights into the process of conceiving an energy-efficient structure. Participants chose energy-saving features for a 50,000-square-foot office building while remaining mindful of a budget target. By and large, the more energy a certain measure saved, the more it initially cost.
"The goal of the exercise is to think of strategies that work well together," Ecotope's Mark Frankel told participants. "Everyone knows if you reduce lighting you save energy. Not everyone makes the leap that you reduce cooling load in the building also."
This groupthink session on energy efficiency was part of the "What Makes it Green?" conference April 18-19 in Seattle, presented by the American Institute of Architects/Seattle Chapter's Committee on the Environment along with the city of Seattle.
Words for The Wise
Brief presentations from session leaders preceded the design exercise.
Kevin Hydes of Keen Engineering outlined a new way of thinking in building design. "We're all getting a better idea that small is better and big isn't as good anymore," a message contrary to his engineering education. As an example, he mentioned that Seattle's proximity to water should allow for smaller mechanical equipment in buildings. "If you're trying to create a space for people, with a fancy faÁade and a great big chiller and people inside hate the building, we didn't do a very good job." The reduce/reuse/recycle ethic "can apply to engineering and architecture," he noted.
Hydes described an emerging collaborative design model among building professionals from different specialties. "The only way to get a green building is a peer-to-peer discussion around the table. I listen to a landscape architect" on HVAC equipment sizing.
In commercial buildings, said Joel Loveland of the Lighting Design Lab, lighting is the largest electric load. He plugged daylighting. Some 90 percent of commercial/institutional buildings rise just one story, and two-thirds of the remaining square footage lies within 25 feet of a window wall, according to a California study cited by Loveland. "Everything is a daylit building," he said. Bringing in outside light can make building occupants more productive--15 percent to 35 percent, according to research findings--while saving "huge amounts" of electricity during the day.
Lighting Design Lab
But effective daylighting is much more complex than simply enlarging windows or slapping in skylights. Loveland talked about balancing the luminosity of rooms, organizing daylit zones based on activities, and orienting buildings with the sun's path in mind--"south[-facing] is great, north is better, west is possible, east is just not doable, except with certain possibilities." With an eastern exposure the morning sun heats up the interior, he said, filling up the building's heat capacity and requiring a lot of mechanical cooling throughout the day.
Loveland also advised building designers to minimize direct sunlight. "A little sunlight can be OK, sort of, if you're really careful. In terms of visibility, you cannot do it in critical task areas."
For the subsequent design exercise, participants broke into six teams of roughly 10 people apiece.
The assignment: "You have been commissioned to design a 50,000 sq.ft. office building. Your client has a budget target of $130/sf, but is willing to consider some additional construction cost if it will result in significant energy savings. Your task is to develop a design strategy for the building that will lead to the greatest energy savings for a reasonable cost." An accompanying sheet listed 59 separate items, some optional, from which to choose. Each came with a specific first cost and energy efficiency score.
This reporter sat with a group including engineers, architects and at least one government person. The "client" was the developer of a fully leased office building with multiple tenants.
The interwoven nature of energy-efficient building design, and the need for tradeoffs to accommodate financial realities, were very apparent during the session.
A suburban location was chosen (versus a compact urban site), allowing for a one-story building.
A no-cooling mechanical system option was discussed but jettisoned, given the need to accommodate several different tenants. That would have cut $5 per square foot from the total cost and gained a relatively high 10 efficiency points. The group eventually settled on "relaxed interior comfort standards," for $5 and 5 points, along with an energy management system ($10/10, and considered virtually essential for an efficient building), night venting and variable-speed drives in air handlers. Those were all optional; in the required category for mechanical, the team selected a system engineered for multiple zone control, midway between a high-efficiency system and a rooftop package system with a low-bid design.
This group also chose relatively middle-of-the-road features for windows (low-e double glazing on 40 percent of the wall area, with thermally improved framing); lighting (lamp/ballast upgrades) and building structure (wood frame). They quickly dismissed options for wind power, building-integrated photovoltaics and/or fuel cells--too costly. Economizers and occupancy sensors likewise didn't make the cut for budgetary reasons.
The group did approve building system commissioning and special consulting for daylighting and lighting. For the latter, the group planned to rely on the free services of the Lighting Design Lab--although Loveland later reported he consults on only a miniscule fraction of new construction projects.
The final cost tallied $129 per square feet, just below the target. Hydes lauded this group as the only one under budget, but noted it came in fifth on efficiency score. He liked the focus on daylighting, the inclusion of commissioning (the only team to do so) and the linkages with energy management and controls. However, he wondered why the group didn't select operable windows, given the relaxed ventilation standards.
Discussion of other group-design efforts afforded more learning opportunities.
"One thing about multiple-tenant buildings, if you have no cooling and relaxed interior comfort, you have to have the right tenants," said Ecotope's Jonathan Heller. The absence of mechanical cooling also requires more high-tech lighting to lower internal heat loads. This can be accomplished with "very low ambient lighting . . . and a lot of task lighting," according to Loveland.
Although it may seem that ventilating plenty of fresh air is a healthy practice, that's not necessarily the case. A busy street outside a building can actually lower indoor air quality, according to Ecotope's Frankel. "It's not a given that outside air is better air."
Another point: Loveland argued for a concrete structural system over steel. The bracing technique frees up more interior space for daylighting, he said.
Concrete framing was picked by the team honored for the "optimal design solution" combining efficiency measures and cost considerations. This group chose to revamp an existing warehouse in an urban industrial area for its high-tech dot-com client (still well-financed). Occupancy sensors were chosen, since dot-com employees tend to work unconventional hours. A natural ventilation system included operable louvers not in the windows. Another intriguing feature was an atrium with vegetation, to help improve indoor air quality. This team almost picked a fuel cell, to supply uninterrupted power, but budget considerations ultimately nixed the idea--for now.
Hydes praised this group for its "out-of-the-box solution."--Mark Ohrenschall
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Energy efficiency and renewable energy figure prominently in the Portland-area's new Local Action Plan on Global Warming.
The plan, released in April by the city of Portland and Multnomah County, calls for a 10-percent reduction (below 1990 levels) in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. Energy efficiency and renewable energy represent about 38 percent of the target. Transportation-related initiatives form the biggest single source of prospective lowered emissions; other categories are solid waste management, forestry and carbon offsets, and policy/research/education.
"Global warming is happening," said Portland city commissioner Erik Sten in a news release. "The question is whether or not we will do something about it. I think we can." He cited numerous advantages in pursuing the plan's agenda. "Almost everything in the global warming plan either saves residents and businesses money or improves the quality of life in Portland. Combating global warming and a strong economy are definitely linked."
Portland Mayor Vera Katz said in the plan that by lowering carbon dioxide emissions, "we also reduce local air pollution, plant more trees, lower energy bills for residents and business, use more solar and wind power, and create a more livable, walkable, community-oriented city for all of us. Cities must take a leadership role. We cannot wait for federal action."
Still, the Portland-area plan acknowledges the 10-percent emissions reduction goal as "only the beginning," as 60- to 70-percent cuts in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels are needed to stabilize atmospheric concentrations.
The plan also notes "we have far to go." Multnomah County's total greenhouse gas emissions rose from 9.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 1990 to 10.6 million metric tons in 1999--even though per-capita emissions slightly decreased. Population growth led to the overall rise in emissions, according to the plan.
Action Plan Overview
In 1993 the city of Portland adopted a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions--reportedly the first such municipal initiative in the nation. Now, according to the new action plan, nearly 400 city governments worldwide have adopted goals to mitigate for changing climate. These cities represent more than 7 percent of total greenhouse-gas emissions in the world.
Portland's latest blueprint involved citizens, businesses, non-profit organizations, utilities and local government agencies, with meetings beginning in June 2000. A draft plan came out in November, and the final version was approved in late April by the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
"There is no debate that the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is increasing, and the broad scientific consensus is that this will lead to significant changes in the global climate," reads the new plan. In the Northwest, "probable impacts . . . include warmer temperatures, wetter winters, and drier summers," with potential consequences including more winter flooding, diminished snowpacks, adverse impacts on salmon, stressed forests and higher risk of coastal flooding and erosion.
The Portland/Multnomah County plan seeks greenhouse gas emission cuts of 3.1 million metric tons by 2010--a real reduction of more than 25 percent. "This aggressive goal will require considerable efforts by the City, County, other governments, the commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors, and individual residents," the plan states. "A coordinated, determined effort, however, can plausibly achieve the reductions target," citing decreases of nearly 5 percent in local per-capita energy use and greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 1995.
Transportation accounts for about 43 percent of the targeted emissions drop. The plan lists a range of government and community initiatives aimed at reducing per-capita vehicle miles traveled to 10 percent below 1995 levels by 2010, and improving average vehicle fuel efficiency by nearly 50 percent, from 18.5 miles per gallon to 26 mpg.
Energy Efficiency, Renewables
Electricity use figured in 37 percent of Multnomah County's greenhouse gas emissions in 1999 (petroleum consumption topped the list of categories, at 42 percent). Accordingly, energy efficiency and renewable energy have significant roles in cutting local emissions.
The efficiency target is 0.67 million metric tons, representing 10 percent of total emissions from home, business, governmental and industrial energy consumption. "The energy-efficiency objectives are achievable but ambitious, particularly given the changing nature of the energy industry," the plan states. "Energy savings will be captured by implementing programs in the current integrated resource plans of Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, and NW Natural, through programs supported by the [Oregon] electricity system benefits charge or other public benefits funding, and through City, County, State, regional, individual, and collaborative initiatives."
Among the city and county government actions planned by 2003 are investments in all energy efficiency measures with simple paybacks of 10 years or less; adoption of resource-efficient building standards for new construction and major renovations of government buildings; establishment of policies for purchase of Energy Star or equivalent equipment; and requirements to exceed energy code requirements by 10 percent or 20 percent on government construction projects. Near-term community initiatives include working with large energy consumers to set and meet efficiency goals; promoting utility and public-purposes programs; providing green building assistance and developing local standards; and residential measures including weatherization, neighborhood-based efforts and other programs.
In renewables, the action plan sets an emissions reduction goal of 0.54 million metric tons, with an objective to acquire 170 average megawatts of new renewables by 2010. "The City and County shall support environmentally acceptable, sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric power plants and meet all growth in electricity demand since 1990 with new, zero-carbon dioxide sources of electricity."
Portland plans to buy 10 percent of city government power from new renewables by 2003, and 100 percent by 2010. It also will explore direct investment in larger-scale renewables projects. Meanwhile, residents and businesses are encouraged to buy at least 10 percent of their power from new renewables. "The City and County anticipate that future development of new renewable energy resources by PacifiCorp, PGE, other regional utilities, and private power producers will depend substantially on the customer-driven markets for these products," the plan states.
Portland's Office of Sustainable Development is assembling a work plan to achieve goals set by the plan through 2003, according to OSD's Michael Armstrong. OSD officials are meeting with other involved entities (inside and outside city government) and discussing budget needs and available resources. The work plan should be ready for the City Council by August, he told Con.WEB.--Mark Ohrenschall
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