Library from Oregon
The Ninth District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and rejected a wind turbine project on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The 104-megawatt project proposed by Columbia Energy Partners would have erected 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity transmission line on Steens Mountain. The approximately 100 MW Echanis project would be sent power to Southern California as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison. The project also included a high-capacity transmission lines that cut across potential sage grouse habitat within the protected Steens Cooperative Project. A summary of the order is provided below. The full decision can be found by clicking the links on this page. Also attached to this page are the legal arguments presented by the government and by the environmental groups from March 2016.
Federal regulators did not adequately address whether a proposed wind-turbine project in southeastern Oregon would adversely impact the area's greater sage grouse population, the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday.
Wind power generation had its smallest increase in 16 years due to less intense wind speeds in Utah and eight other Western states in the country. Even though wind generation capacity jumped by 13 percent in 2015, the actual output grew 5.1 percent.
The federal appeals court met Thursday to consider a challenge to the proposed construction of up to 69 wind turbines on the Steens Mountain, the biggest fault-rock mountain in North America, located in the high desert of Harney County.
The energy bill has been controversial since before the legislative session began, because of news reports that Gov. Kate Brown’s administration instructed the Public Utility Commission not to go public with concerns the bill would be expensive for customers yet do little to reduce emissions from coal power plants.
"This session we've seen the Democrat majority put their partisan agenda ahead of both the needs of Oregonians and the law," his statement said. "Senate Republicans will not work late into the night to fast track an agenda pursued by the Democrat majority that features back room deals between Democrats and special interests and numerous broken promises of collaboration and compromise."
Commissioners and staff at the Oregon Public Utility Commission believe the bill would increase electricity costs and shift risk from utilities to ratepayers. They also say it wouldn't actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to communications released to The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to a public records request.
Whether a wind farm gets built off the coast of Coos Bay depends on Oregon utilities' willingness to sign on — and so far, the cost of Principle Power's project has been a deterrent. In May 2014, Principle Power crossed a huge hurdle, receiving up to $47 million in matching grant funds from the U.S. Department of Energy over four years.
Jeff Bissonnette, policy director for the Citizens’ Utility Board and a registered lobbyist, said perhaps there might be other ways the state could support the project so ratepayers would not directly shoulder as much of the financial burden. Bissonnette reiterated comments by utility representatives that rates should not be used to pay for research and development projects, nor for economic development.
Now, the agency is under fire again for ignoring state rules and allowing recipients of its energy tax credits to resell them at firesale prices. Three top managers resigned recently, including the governor's energy advisor and the agency's chief financial officer. Utilities recently sued, claiming the agency was illegally manipulating annual assessments on energy companies to backfill its budget.
Principle Power, a Seattle-based company, needs a guaranteed stream of money from Oregon ratepayers to move forward with an offshore wind project.
The board voted 3-0 against the application and found Wheatridge failed “to provide adequate evidence to comply with Umatilla County and state of Oregon standards” and the “application does not comply with relevant state law standards and should be denied.”
The government's Energy Information Administration detailed the findings earlier this month in a study that showed falling wind energy production in California, Oregon and Washington state — typically known as a bastion for clean energy development. The agency didn't say how the wind energy slump would affect the electric grid, but it did say it could hinder wind farms from taking advantage of a key federal tax subsidy and harm their economic viability. Clean energy companies rely on the subsidy to fund projects. ...Even small changes in wind speed can dramatically reduce electricity output from wind turbines.
Jerry Rietmann, co-owner of the Ione-based Wheatridge Wind Energy, said the plan would make best use of both energy corridors to meet the region’s power needs. The route along the east side of Bombing Range Road could also become a singular site for new wind energy transmission, Rietmann said. Wheatridge Wind Energy is proposing a 500-megwatt wind farm in southern Morrow and Umatilla counties.
The extent of the investigation is unclear, but a senior auditor from the secretary of state’s office recently requested more than 70 pages of records on privately brokered sales of Oregon business energy tax credits from 2013.
An Oregon wind farm sued Portland General Electric Co., demanding that it buy the wind power on a schedule approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
A bill in the Oregon Legislature’s current session would have required the state’s two big investor-owned utilities, Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, to buy WindFloat’s ouput, with the above-market costs flowing through to ratepayers. But the utilities wanted no part of it and the bill went nowhere. The DOE has said developers can’t continue on the funding track without a power off-take agreement, and all three projects are facing an end-of-July deadline to report on their progress.
A year ago, the feds whittled their way from seven proposed projects, each of which had received $4 million in design and planning support, to a trio that would get as much as $47 million apiece to help fund construction. The goal was to have the projects up and running in 2017, but all three – Fishermen’s Energy in New Jersey, Dominion Virginia Power’s VOWTAP and now WindFloat – are facing potentially fatal cost-related challenges.