Articles from Oregon
After months of behind-the-scenes arm-twisting, Oregon legislators gave their initial blessing to a compromise bill that lets small, publicly owned electric utilities off the hook – temporarily -- for required investments in renewable energy projects. PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric initially didn't like that option, as it sets up a two-tiered system for compliance with state mandates and potentially puts them at a disadvantage in attracting energy intensive new customers. But they forced a quid pro quo in the bargain.
A Seattle company is being given the green light to develop plans to build the West Coast's first offshore wind energy farm. The 30-megawatt pilot project was announced at a press conference by Gov. John Kitzhaber. "It's not going to be economic out of the gate," Beaudreau said. ..."We're hoping to learn from this... whether it justifies wrecking prime fishing ground, displacing people and jobs."
The developer of a proposed wind farm in Eastern Oregon is trying to find regional utilities interested in buying the power. Chicago-based Invenergy LLC plans to build as many as 280 wind turbines on private land east of Heppner. The farm could generate 500 megawatts of electricity.
Over the last several years the Pacific Northwest spent about $5 billion and impacted over 50,000 acres of pristine public land for the privilege of throwing away 9 billion kWhrs of carbon-free energy every year. Just so we can meet an arbitrary state mandate, claim we’re green, and make a few folks lots of money in tax credits, the cost of which gets passed onto the rate-payers and tax-payers.
A small group of public utilities led by Umatilla Electric Cooperative asked the Legislature last year to change the definition of qualifying resources under the law to include the region’s massive supply of hydropower. Umatilla is close to going over the three percent threshold, triggering the stiffer requirements. Including hydro resources would let it off the compliance hook.
Could a small electrical cooperative in eastern Oregon up-end the state's renewable energy law? That's the question being asked as the Umatilla Electric Cooperative essentially tells legislators: Fix the renewable energy standards to satisfy our concerns or we'll put an initiative on the ballot that largely guts the law.
Seeking to curb how much power it must buy from the Stateline Wind Project in Umatilla and Walla Walla counties, the utility earlier this month sued J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corp., a branch of New York-based J.P. Morgan, which owns the contract requiring EWEB to buy power from Stateline through 2026.
A transformer caught fire at the base of a Bigelow Canyon wind turbine over the weekend, spilling an estimated 600 gallons of transformer oil. A representative of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) spills unit reported that PGE, the owner of the wind farm, reported the fire and hired SMF Environmental to clean up the spill.
EDP's project manager for Antelope Ridge, said the withdrawal was "100 percent a business decision." The company faced a considerable investment to proceed with its site certificate, and didn't see a clear path to sell the power at this point.
The energy department has a task immediately ahead before yet another legislative hearing on the subject: It must tell lawmakers, who represent the Oregonians who underwrite incentive programs such as the BETC, whether Shepherds Flat got a deal too good to be true and whether it knows the right questions are being asked of an energy-producing applicant.
The application for the Antelope Ridge wind farm has been withdrawn. No explanation for the withdrawal was included in a letter sent to the Department of Energy earlier this week, and Union County Commissioner Steve McClure says they haven't received any details from the company.
Shepherds Flat's three LLCs share a common parent company, Caithness Shepherd's Flat LLC. Caithness Shepherd's Flat LLC, in turn, is owned by the project developer, Caithness Energy, its turbine supplier, General Electric, and three investors brought in to harvest the project's tax benefits - Google, Itochu and Sumitomo of America. "I don't know how much more common ownership you could have."
The director and staffers at the Oregon Department of Energy faced sharp questions from lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing regarding their approval of three separate $10 million tax credits for the Shepherds Flat wind farm in eastern Oregon.
Some of the proposed sites for installing wind turbines are in core sage grouse habitat. That fact, as well as potential effects of the turbines on the region's viewshed and, in turn, it's economy, came up repeatedly during proceedings about the conditional-use permit required for the project.
"If it is true that the state, in one stroke, gave away or simply wasted $20 million, the people of Oregon deserve an explanation and the assurance that we will take steps to change the law so it cannot happen again." ..."Unless someone can show me some additional information," she said, "it's pretty clear that taxpayers got bilked."
At the heart of the money problem is the state's decision to award the project three tax credits with a combined value of $30 million rather than the single tax credit worth $10 million to which it was entitled. Shepherds Flat began as one project that subsequently was broken up into three pieces in an attempt to maximize state subsidies.
Williams filed a lawsuit Friday against Invenergy, the Illinois-based company behind the wind farm, for non-economic losses up to $5 million, as well as economic losses -- mostly related to property value depreciation -- for $170,000. Since Invenergy began construction on the 50 wind turbines at Willow Creek in 2008, it has fought in the courts over noise compliance.
Williams acknowledged the company has tried to work on a solution, but he contends that the Chicago-based company's proposed measures are inadequate and untested. The complaint also notes that the local county commission and land-use appeals panels agreed that the wind farm was exceeding permissible noise levels, but officials have done nothing to curb the project's operations.
Taxpayers should be dismayed by the Shepherds Flat wind farm mess, which The Oregonian's Ted Sickinger dissected on Sunday and Monday. They also should be relieved. By the narrowest of margins, the Oregon Senate this year stalled another complex clean-energy program that many Oregonians would regret in several years, long after it had gained too much momentum (and subsidized too many businesses) to stop easily.
Grove and other commissioners believe wind farms would affect the local economy as well. The county has "spent a lot of money" promoting the Oregon Trail, Grove said during the lengthy discussion. Erecting turbines isn't "preserving an asset in particular interest to the community," he said.