Apr 232013
Bye Bye SoloWorld

Bye Bye SoloWorld

A big state investment in grants and tax reductions has cratered in Portland. SoloPower could not raise enough capital to keep making their hyper-flexible solar panels because they were never cost competitive on the open market. So come June, they’re gone.

Many blamed similar products made by the Chinese that were dumped on the American market. They’re priced so low that only illegal Chinese subsidies could account for it, critics say.

Click here.


Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 2:18 AM
Apr 212013

Seattle-based Principle Power, maker of offshore wind turbine machines, has announced that they are partnering with the Port of Coos Bay in creating a federally approved 30 megawatt wind energy farm off Coos Bay, outside the state’s 3 mile limit. Because the state’s regulatory authority ends at the three mile limit, the state has no say in the matter. And as usual, the project is made possible by very large federal subsidies to get the project off the beach and into the water.

The full story is in the Coos Bay World. Click here.


Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 1:52 AM
Mar 292013
Deep earth drill at Newberry Crater South of Bend off Highway 97

Deep earth drill at Newberry Crater
South of Bend off Highway 97

America’s green energy future may be playing out in a an area just south of Bend in Central Oregon. It’s called Enhanced Geothermal Systems that takes geothermal power to a whole new depth. Instead of pumping up hot water from near surface geothermal lakes, AltaRock, backed by Google and other investment giants, is creating hot water lakes two miles down in the earth. Cold water is pumped down an injection well that fans out 1,500 feet horizontally from the well. Nearby extraction wells pump that naturally heated water back up to the surface, creating steam and spinning electrical generators that put out many gigawatts of electricity to power cities and industries. If everything pans out, this power could be priced BELOW COAL RATES. Bye bye natural gas, and more importantly, bye bye coal fired plants and all the green house gases they belch into our increasingly contaminated atmosphere. And maybe bye bye to wave energy off the Oregon Coast which has made a rather troublesome debut after the state adopted a tensely debated set of plans for placing wave energy devices on the surface and on the bottom of the ocean within Oregon’s three mile limit – much to the deep consternation of the fishing industry. Continue reading »

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 10:39 PM
Mar 092013
Shepherd's Flat Wind Complex Eastern Oregon The Oregonian photo

Shepherd’s Flat Wind Complex
Eastern Oregon
The Oregonian photo

When the Shepherds Flat Wind Energy Complex was built in eastern Oregon some time back, it applied for $30 million dollars in tax credits along with subsidies from the federal government’s Department of Energy. That’s because energy from a wind farm is very very expensive. Certainly many times “retail” to end user customers.

But the state of Oregon now is entertaining the idea that the developer behind the project maybe trying to “game” the tax/incentives system to get more taxpayer money than they deserve. The federal government is also more closely examining subsidy and incentive payments to wind energy generators on the east cost. The term “loop hole quicksand” is coming into fashion in describing the government’s “rush to green energy” programs. Here’s the story in the Oregonian. Click here.


Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 2:34 PM
Jan 242013

Wave energy devices
HMSC courtesy graphic

State officials have made a lot of coastal government officials and even more commercial and recreation fishermen angry at how the final decisions were made to allocate portions of Oregon’s offshore seas and seabeds for wave energy devices; even if their placements are years away.

The Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), meeting in Salem Thursday, designated up to 3% of Oregon’s offshore coastal areas for wave energy placement out three miles, either on the surface of the ocean, or on the bottom. Either way, complain fishermen, they lose very productive fishing grounds to an industry that hasn’t produced a single working wave energy device that can produce electricity for anything near what customers are paying today. In fact, estimates show local consumer power bills would have to rise several fold for wave energy companies to even begin to turn a profit. Wind energy turbines up the Columbia Gorge produce very expensive energy themselves but still turn a profit thanks to huge federal subsidies that soften the blow to those who want to use green energy, living mainly in California.

Fishermen and other stakeholders spent five years trying to minimize the loss of fishing grounds as they helped the state put together a plan to place offshore wave energy devices in the water, up to three miles out. Lincoln County Commissioner and local commercial fisherman Terry Thompson said they thought they had a good list of sites that could be set aside for green energy but LCDC still withdrew a large area of lucrative fishing grounds off the Nestucca River near Pacific City. Thompson said it proves that five years of cooperation could be thrown out the window by LCDC staff which recommended an area totally opposed by the fishing community. LCDC staff said the wave energy industry needs shallow near-shore sites for “on the bottom” energy generating devices and that the site near Pacific City filled the bill even if it does remove valuable fishing grounds. Staff contends the loss is not that bad based on the value for green energy.

Thompson said, “If LCDC staff can ignore years of coastal community well-studied recommendations outlining where those devices ought to be placed, then what’s to stop them from doing it again, and again? We feel betrayed.” Thompson said the income from wave energy generation will benefit only a small number of investors and manufacturers, none of whom work or live on the coast. “We’ll be sacrificing a substantial portion of our fishing economy for what will be a few paltry maintenance jobs required to keep the devices running. It’s a very bad deal for the coast,” he said.

Thompson pointed out that Oregon, like other states, are under immense federal pressure to find sites that can generate renewable energy to reduce the country’s fossil fuel contribution to global climate change. But Thompson added that wave energy device manufacturers still have not produced surface or underwater devices that electric customers can afford to tap into. “It’s going to take millions and millions of taxpayer subsidies to make the power produced by these devices to come even close to being affordable,” Thompson said. Many green energy critics contend that wind and wave energy generators look good in pretty pictures and color illustrations, but they look horrible on any balance sheet.

Thompson said that thankfully other sites targeted for wave energy devices by coastal communities were supported by LCDC staff which included areas off Reedsport, Lakeside and Camp Rilea. A site several miles west-southwest from the mouth of the Yaquina River, off of Newport, was designated purely as a wave energy testing station. To the relief of the Port of Coos Bay and their commercial fishing fleet, LCDC staff did not include the Langlois area on the list of sites deemed suitable for energy device placement. Langlois is a highly prized commercial fishing area.

Thompson said what angers commercial and recreation fishermen is the fact that LCDC appears to be ignoring state law that requires regulators to uphold the integrity of Oregon’s fishing industry – that fishing grounds are to be protected for not only environmental reasons but for the economic foundation fishing represents for the entire Oregon Coast – a $300 million a year industry. Thompson and others wonder aloud whether the state is prepared to sacrifice the coast’s lifesblood on speculative plans for an energy industry that hasn’t even proven itself profitable without massive taxpayer subsidies. They also cite threats to the tourist industry if the coast line is “junked up” with wave energy devices that would be visible from shore by day and be covered with lights at night.

Thompson says the fight may not be over in that the state legislature might be convinced to modify or overturn LCDC’s version of their so-called Territorial Sea Plan.

Thompson says nobody is predicting that energy devices will start showing up anytime soon – “it could be many years from now,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. This isn’t over.”

From Governor Kitzhaber’s Office

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kitzhaber today thanked the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission for moving forward on a decision to adopt an amendment to Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan. LCDC members approved the amendment, which will allow for future siting of marine renewable energy development projects, at an all-day public meeting yesterday, January 24.

“Oregon has long been a leader in renewable energy development, and energy issues will have the single greatest impact on Oregon in the coming decade,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “This balanced proposal shows Oregon can thoughtfully support this emerging and promising industry while protecting our coastal communities’ quality of life, our commercial and recreational fisheries, and a coastline that all Oregonians treasure.”

With the LCDC’s decision, Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan now guides the siting of wave energy and other forms of marine renewable energy to areas that pose the least conflict with existing ocean uses and natural resources. The Territorial Sea Plan amendment adopted by LCDC identifies four “Renewable Energy Suitability Study Areas” where initial development of wave energy will be encouraged. When specific projects are proposed, developers will have to show that they will meet standards for protecting ecological resources, fishing and other existing uses, and coastal views. Marine renewable energy developers can also seek approval for projects in other areas off Oregon’s coast, but will have to meet more stringent standards.

Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan covers state waters extending three miles out from the shoreline. The plan was developed over more than three years, with dozens of public meetings along the coast. LCDC’s decision was informed by the recommendations of the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council, which advises the Governor on ocean issues, and a committee appointed by LCDC to represent a wide range of interests on Oregon’s coast.

“The oceans will play an important role in the next generation of clean energy development,” said Lisa Schwartz, Director of the Oregon Department of Energy. “The Governor’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan identified responsibly-sited wave energy as having the potential to help power Oregon coastal communities.”

Oregon has invested more than $10 million in the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, created by the Oregon Innovation Council, to fund research and other projects to accelerate the development of wave power in Oregon. The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University deployed the first wave energy test system in the United States off Newport, and earlier this month announced it will site a larger, grid-connected testing facility in federal waters off Newport. This spring, Ocean Power Technologies plans to deploy the first federally-licensed commercial wave energy device off Reedsport.

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 11:59 PM
Jan 092013

Territorial Sea Plan Committee
Wave Energy Device being being tested

Two sets of plans on how to divide up the Oregon Coast for wave energy devices have been forwarded to the state Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) for their review and decision. That complicated and long-awaited ruling is expected to come after day-long testimony before the commission in Salem on Thursday, January 24th.

The five year process has involved analysis of the Oregon Territorial Sea, which is measured from the beach out three miles, from Astoria to the state line with California. The planning is to help state agencies determine where wave energy generators might be placed to send their high voltage energy to onshore power stations which then send the energy to the state’s electrical grid.

From the beginning, the planning was controversial but then toward the end it heated up considerably among commercial and charter fishermen who were being asked by the wave energy industry and the state to give up lucrative fishing grounds to make room for these ocean power stations. Coastal residents also chimed in that they don’t want these stations spoiling their daytime and nighttime (equipment lights) views of the ocean. Fishermen also claim their economic contribution to the coastal economy far outweighs any contribution by wave energy devices. Others point to the fact that current devices produce only very expensive power, many times the rate that most coastal residents pay on their monthly electric bills which implies heavy federal or state subsidies for the power they generate.

After a great deal of arm wrestling, chin rubbing and frustration, coastal fishermen named a number of areas along the coast, within three miles of shore, that they could offer up for placement of wave energy devices. Those recommended for approved by the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) are sites off Lakeside, Reedsport, Newport (energy device testing only), and off Camp Rilea, near Astoria. OPAC also recommended sites off Pacific City and Netarts be dropped. However, another committee with heavier representation by the wave energy industry recommended a longer list of sites.

LCDC’s decision on the 24th may not be the final stop for the controversy. If it continues to swirl, it wouldn’t surprise many who were involved in the process that the state legislature might get involved. There is a lot at stake. Wave energy has been developing for over 25 years and yet its power remains very expensive. Critics contend that heavy government subsidies will be required to make the power “affordable.”

Those close to the issue also point out that regardless of which sites are approved, it will be years before wave energy manufacturers can apply for a permit to place them offshore, either on the surface or on the sea floor. But even then, the LCDC will be asked on January 24th by OPAC to show strong evidence that whatever wave energy company is seeking a permit for their device, the device should be proven economically viable and represents state of the art performance.

There are many news reports in both the U.S. and foreign news media that both wave energy and wind power devices continue to produce only high cost power that requires heavy taxpayer subsidies before their electricity can be made “affordable” on the open market. The recent “Fiscal Cliff” bill signed by President Obama extends wind energy tax credits and subsidies for only one more year due to growing opposition to spending more taxpayer dollars on an energy source whose power is simply too expensive. Other “green energy” devices like solar panels and wave energy devices are assured corporate tax credits through 2016, according to news reports.

Whatever Territorial Sea Plan LCDC adopts, federal agencies that control the ocean from three miles out to 12 miles out, are watching these issues very closely. These agencies will also be receiving permit applications from wind and wave energy manufacturers which will need big electrical cables to transfer their generated power to the beach and into the national grid. Presumably these devices farther out in federally controlled waters will tap into whatever near-shore power lines that state-approved wave energy stations have already installed.

Stay tuned.

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 5:01 PM
Dec 162012

Offshore wind turbines
Wikipedia photo

A wind energy demonstration project planned offshore from Coos Bay is being floated by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy – four million dollars to prove that wind energy is a viable source of energy off the Oregon Coast. Grants totalling nearly fifty million dollars for wind energy farms off shore of five states on the east and gulf coasts are also in the works. The story is in the Coos Bay World. Click here.

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 12:45 AM
Dec 072012

Salishan Resort, Member David Allen, also member of OPAC, Priorities of Wave Energy Placements, lower numbers mean higher ranksings

Where future wave energy devices are to be placed, whether on the surface or on the ocean floor, is still very much unknown even after the final meeting of those trying to make such recommendations. Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plannning Committee (TSP) wrapped up five years of hard work at trying to find places along the Oregon Coast where the budding wave energy industry can test and ultimately position their wave energy devices to help meet the country’s green energy goals set by the federal government.

Mirroring discussions earlier last month in Newport, top location candidates decided by TSP members Thursday are in order of importance; 1-Camp Rialea at Warrenton, 2-Lakeside (Coos County), 3-Reedsport at a near-shore location, 4-Langlois (south of Reedsport), 5-Pacific City/Nestucca, 6-Newport (north of Yaquina Head), 7-Gold Beach and 8-Netarts in Tillamook County.

Committee member, commercial fisherman and Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson strenuously protested Newport still being in the running for a wave energy development site. Thompson said the Lincoln County coastline has already had fishing areas removed to accomodate marine reserve study areas along with other withdrawals in addition to having already committed to withdrawing more good crabbing areas to make way for an OSU wave energy testing area off South Beach. Thompson said to add more areas for fishing grounds withdrawals is unacceptable.

However, Thompson was not the only representative of a coastal community decrying what’s been described as the “forced accommodating of potential wave energy sites” by state officials. TSP representatives from the Port of Coos Bay strongly complained that they were on the chopping block to lose three or four lucrative fishing areas to future wave energy operations and that such losses for them are also unacceptable.

Discussions then centered around the idea that none of Oregon’s deep water ports should have to cough up more than two locations. Thompson piped up again saying that what matters is which area’s have already given up their fair share of fishing areas.

In a move that could be interpreted as Newport being thrown under the bus, a majority of the committee voted that there should be no more than two lost areas to each of the three deep water ports, Astoria, Newport and Coos Bay. Since Newport is counting on OSU’s proposed test site off South Beach to count as one of those sites, it could technically mean that Newport could lose at least one or maybe even two more fishing areas to energy development depending on how higher ranking state officials view the political calculus. Further complicating the politics is that the OSU site is tentatively expected to be placed beyond the three mile limit of the Territorial Sea which is far better suited for wave energy testing.

Other discussions produced an observation that when wave energy companies begin applying for permits to put their devices in the water, they may prefer some areas over others which could further cloud the issue by clumsily violating the effort to spread the pain equally among the coast’s three major ports.

So, in the end, the Territorial Sea Planning Committee (TSP) generally agreed to ranking target areas (listed above) that will be passed on to the next review panel, the Ocean Policy Advisory Committee (OPAC). OPAC, of which TSP member and Newport City Councilor David Allen (pictured) is a member, will review the TSP report, take further public testimony, and then make its own recommendations to the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). The LCDC will review it all again and decide how all this should work out. From there the final configuration would be wrapped into in a bill and be given to the legislature to make the final plan part of state statutes regulating Oregon’s territorial waters. But before the legislature finalizes anything, the proposed plan will be presented and publicly debated in legislative committees, passed by the state house and senate, and then would have to be signed by the governor before it could become law. And, of course, in these litigious times, if any industry or other group isn’t happy with the results or believed their needs or interests were trampled, they could file a lawsuit and possibly tie the plan up for years.

Hovering over this uncertainty is the shadow of the federal government which has plans of its own to allow wave AND wind energy development in federal waters from just beyondOregon’s territorial three mile limit out to 12 miles. There are enormous sums of money to be made in green energy development requiring large subsidies from the federal government to make wind and wave energy pencil out in order to reduce the country’s over-reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. These mountainous subsidies allow wind and wave energy projects to turn a profit because the power generated by wave and wind devices is very costly. Although they work, their cost per kilowatt hour of energy is many times that of hydroelectric dams, coal and natural gas power plants.

Critics contend that the whole process should slow down long enough for research and development to produce wave energy devices that can produce power at much lower cost thereby reducing federal subsidies, especially in an era of calls, if not shouting, to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. State and local officials who have participated in Oregon’s Territorial Sea Planning saga over the past five years say it’s highly unlikely that any wave energy company will be applying for a permit to launch their energy devices off the Oregon Coast for another seven to ten years. They have much more designing and testing to do before they can fire them up.

Therefore nobody is predicting that any of today’s commercial, sports or recreational fishing will be changing much over that time even if future research and development eventually produces more cost-effective wave energy devices and brings down costs to something more reasonable requiring lower or no federal subsidies.

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 1:58 AM
Oct 082012

From Kaety Hildenbrand

Some pretty exciting presentations will be coming up at various group locations in the near future. If you would like to learn more about OSU’s plan to create a grid connected wave energy testing center, which we are calling the Pacific Marine Energy Center, you might want to attend one of the meetings below to learn about the latest developments. Here’s the schedule:

October 15th:
City of Newport, 6pm, at the Newport City Hall

October 16th:
Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy (FINE), 7pm, Lincoln County Courthouse, Board of Commissioners Meeting room

October 17th:
City of Toledo and Port of Toledo joint meeting, 5:30pm, Toledo City Hall
Port of Umpqua, 7pm, Port of Umpqua office

October 18th:
Depoe Bay Nearshore Action Team (NSAT), 6pm at the Depoe Bay City Hall

October 30th:
Port of Newport, 6pm at the South Beach Marina and R/V Park.

November 5th:
City of Reedsport, 7pm, at the Reedsport City Hall

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 2:13 PM
Oct 012012

Wikipedia generic photo

A wind energy project, owned by Chinese nationals, sited their operations too close to the Boardman Naval Weapons Testing Station in eastern Oregon, prompting President Obama to order them to shut down the project and move out of the area. Under the advice of top national security officials, the President declared that the Chinese site would allow sophisticated surveillance equipment to literally look down into the Boardman testing facility and figure out what they’re doing.

The story is in the Oregonian. Click here.

Share on Facebook
 Posted by at 12:29 AM