Library filed under Technology from Washington

Renewable powers join forces

Puget Sound Energy has blanketed a rock quarry atop central Washington's Whisky Dick Mountain with solar modules in an unprecedented effort to test the compatibility of sun and wind energy. More than 2,000 panels stretch squat and angular alongside the tall, sweeping turbine blades of the utility's Wild Horse wind farm near Ellensburg. ...Wind power has become the country's fastest-growing source of renewable energy, pushed by fossil-fuel concerns and government subsidies. But its up-and-down nature is a significant drawback. To ensure that customers get uninterrupted power, wind power must be blended with electricity from more reliable energy producers, such as hydroelectric dams and coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. The integration can get complicated, and it can increase costs. Puget Sound Energy's decision to commingle solar and wind represents a groundbreaking effort to blend two clean but unpredictable sources of energy into a renewable hybrid with more reliable generating credentials.
20 Jan 2008

Kalama plant neither coal nor defeated

As the economy expands and the population grows, so does the demand for power. Even a cursory review of available options shows how few real choices we all have. For example, all our major hydropower sites are built, coal power is environmentally unacceptable (by Energy Northwest and many others), new nuclear in the region is still 20 years away, wind power is intermittent and expensive, solar power lacks output, tidal and wave power are undeveloped and environmentally suspect, and natural gas supplies are dangerously close to shortages. Any claims that the region can meet its future power needs with wind power and conservation alone are woefully misguided and overstated. As wind power developers we have first-hand knowledge of wind powers benefits and limitations. Shunning promising technologies like Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle without understanding them is the first step toward blackouts, sky high prices, and power-shortage panic like we saw in 2000-2001.
9 Dec 2007

The Overlooked Environmental Cost of a Wind Generation Portfolio to Serve the Need for Power

The_other_costs_of_a_wind_strategy_thumb The November passage of Initiative 937 adds Washington to the states with renewable portfolio standards. Wind-powered generation is a resource of choice in meeting renewable standards, and it has been highly touted for its environmental benefits. Considered in isolation, the environmental benefits of a wind resource are undoubtedly warranted. However, it is misleading to consider wind on an isolated basis—that is, outside of the context of the full power-supply portfolio that is necessary to serve load. In the context of an integrated portfolio, much of the environmental benefit disappears and may even be non-existent as compared with other resource portfolio choices. In particular, a full assessment of the impact of wind resources on the environment necessitates a look at the energy consequences of adding wind-generation to an integrated portfolio in the context of meeting load. Accounting for energy, it is likely that there is no significant environmental difference between a resource portfolio adding wind generation and one adding high-efficiency combined-cycle gas turbines. It is also likely that the wind-based portfolio results in little reduction, if any, in the need for fossil fuels and therefore little reduction in the exposure to their price swings and environmental consequences. That is, the emissions and fossil-fuel impacts of a wind-based portfolio appear little better than a non-wind-based portfolio. Editor's Note: This paper makes a critically important point re. wind's purported environmental benefits, i.e. " is misleading to consider wind on an isolated basis—that is, outside of the context of the full power-supply portfolio that is necessary to serve load. In the context of an integrated portfolio, much of the environmental benefit disappears and may even be non-existent as compared with other resource portfolio choices." In short, wind's environmental benefits (if any) will be grid-specific depending on the emissions generated (if any) of the reliable generating source(s) required to back it up.
1 Jul 2007

Tides hold promise of electricity

Underwater currents could be harnessed to help light our homes, under a dream the Snohomish County PUD hopes will become reality. DECEPTION PASS - The unbridled might of the Pacific Ocean flows unchecked for 100 miles through the Strait of Juan de Fuca before it slams into the west side of Whidbey Island. Much of that power funnels into Deception Pass, a narrow gap between Whidbey and Fidalgo islands. Four times each day white-tipped swells rush in and out of this canyon's sheer rock walls, each time roaring like the river early explorers thought this pass was. For eons tidal currents have ripped through passages such as this all over Puget Sound. Now Deception Pass and a handful of other passes are the focus in a race to develop a new kind of renewable energy: tidal power. As long as there are oceans, a moon and gravity, there will be tidal energy there for the taking.
12 Feb 2007

As heat sizzles, growing wind power fizzles

On Aug. 21, when afternoon temperatures in Washington state soared, Avista Corp.’s (AVA) utility division asked customers to cut their electricity use while it scoured the region for power supplies. Utility operators were frustrated, in part, because the company’s supply of wind power was producing nothing, thanks to a lack of wind. Avista wasn’t alone. Throughout the West during that August heat wave, a growing fleet of windmills met triple-digit temperatures with impotence. California’s grid operator was serving up a record amount of power that afternoon, too, while its 2,850 MW of wind turbines were churning out just 112 MW.......What can all these windmills do to help prevent a blackout in a heat wave? Utilities’ estimates of that range widely. When figuring out how to keep the lights on during the coming summer’s hottest day, PJM pencils in 20% of wind capacity for serving peak load. The California Independent System Operator figures 5% will be there. For Texas, which has more windmills than any other state, Ercot counts on just 2.6% of capacity. Avista, like many utilities operating their own grid, doesn’t count on any wind power during the summer peak. As more windmills come on line, overestimating could mean a blackout, while underestimating could mean paying a lot of money for unneeded standby generators.
1 Dec 2006

Firm applies to build Kalama power plant

Energy Northwest this week submitted an application to build a $1 billion coal gasification power plant at the Port of Kalama, kicking off a review by state regulators that could take more than a year. "This is a new technology," Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council manager Allen Fiksdal said Wednesday. "It's a big project, and it's complex." The 600-megawatt Pacific Mountain Energy Center would be the first power plant of its kind in Washington and the first required to comply with a state law that calls on new power plants that use fossil fuels to curb greenhouse gases.
15 Sep 2006
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