Articles from Washington
A new campaign to change the state Energy Independence Act was launched Thursday in the Mid-Columbia to prevent rising electricity rates to pay for unneeded renewable energy. Mid-Columbia state legislators, chambers of commerce, ports, business organizations, cities and public utility districts are backing the effort to prevent or delay increased electricity rates.
Portland-based Friends of the Columbia Gorge is charging the county with "failing to protect its critical areas and resource lands in violation of state law." The land, while unzoned, had been protected until Skamania lifted a development and forest work moratorium on Aug. 21.
The GOP has taken Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee to task for promoting the green energy industry as a way to bolster the state's economy, claiming many such companies are failing or teetering.
"Balance is critical, and that is really where our focus is. And that's to produce as clean a power as we can, and to keep our customer bills affordable," said Grant Ringel, a spokesman for PSE told the Los Angeles Times.
The policy essentially would curtail production - particularly wind generation - when there is too much power for BPA to handle, a situation that usually occurs in the spring. And it would also pay the wind energy producers for their lost revenue. PUD commissioners say that amounts to subsidizing an already subsidized industry by passing the costs on to BPA customers like the Grays Harbor district.
The order forced wind farms along the Columbia River to shut down for about 10 hours during the past weekend. ..."Our folks are working as hard to minimize it, but as the runoff continues, it is certainly possible that it will happen again. It depends on a number of factors: the runoff, what the wind is doing. Certainly what amount of power people are using."
It is spring in the Northwest. The water flows, the wind blows, and we pay people not to make electricity we don't need.
The agency, which manages much of the power grid in the Northwest, confirmed it issued the orders during the early morning hours of Sunday and Monday, when demand is low. The action rekindles a dispute from last year, when the agency curtailed wind turbines because the water from a large mountain snowpack.
enXco could conduct minor site preparation in the late fall, but it appears unlikely that the project will get off the ground this year. In addition to providing notice, enXco still needs to submit a number of plans for EFSEC approval before construction can proceed.
In early March, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire approved the proposed Whistling Ridge wind power project to be sited near White Salmon on land owned by SDS Lumber and Broughton Lumber, paving the way for 35 turbines standing more than 400 feet tall.
The initiative's goals may have been laudable -- encourage the construction of new renewable sources of energy, creating jobs and reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels. But in practice, the measure is riddled with unintended consequences. The result is a legal mandate that forces utilities to act against the best interests of their customers and the environment.
Jason Spadaro, president of SDS Lumber, said he appreciates the governor's approval, but that the reduced size of the project means it is not economically viable at this time. A smaller project will need higher power prices to be viable, he said, and the project will be on hold but not permanently shelved.
BPA said the policy, implemented between May and July of last year, resulted in the curtailment of 97,557 megawatt-hours of wind generation, or 5.4 percent of the total wind output connected to BPA's grid, for a loss of $2.15 million in renewable energy credits (REC) and production tax credit (PTC) income.
More kinds of hydropower added after 1999 would count - as would more electricity created from biomass, benefiting Weyerhaeuser and other companies with pulp and paper mills. Pre-1999 biomass plants would be grandfathered in but would have to pay a new fee.
In its reconsideration petition, which the EFSEC declined last month, WRE says the scaled-down project - with 15 turbines eliminated - would probably not be economically viable, partly because there is no room for larger turbines that could return the wind farm to its proposed capacity.
The intense scrutiny and interest surrounding Whistling Ridge set a new bar for the EFSEC process, said council manager Al Wright. The application piled up many thousands of pages of record as well-represented players watched closely and weighed in every step of the way. It took longer than any other EFSEC process.
Jason Spadaro, president of SDS Lumber says the earlier recommendation to scale back the project was based on subjective judgements of its visual impacts, and would ultimately make it economically unviable. "It's not viable in today's environment or any time in the foreseeable future," Spadaro said.
Wright stressed that the council’s vote is only a recommendation. The project’s fate ultimately rests with Gov. Chris Gregoire, who will have 60 days to make her decision once EFSEC gives its final recommendation.
When the developer that sold the Tudors their $500,000 home and acreage proposed an 80-turbine wind farm on nearby land, the couple were shocked. "We're devastated that our developer, after creating this pristine residential community, now aims to spoil our scenery with monstrous wind turbines," the Tudors wrote.
Some utilities have had to purchase additional renewable power that it didn't need in order meet the law's requirements, resulting in increased rates for customers. "Buying power takes strategic planning and we want to be strategic about how we spend our customers' money," said Miller. "Buying wind that we don't need to replace hydro we already have is not very strategic."