Yearly Archives: 2013

Ballot fight over Oregon renewable energy law could be sparked by small rural utility

By: Jeff Mapes
The Oregonian

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.

Steve Eldrige, the co-op’s general manager, portrayed the initiative as the only way Umatilla could get the attention of state lawmakers and big energy players.

“They wouldn’t even talk to us until we started getting the signatures” for a ballot measure, he said.

The initiative would considerably ease renewable energy standards by allowing the region’s massive hydropower dams to count toward meeting the requirements. Read more

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Columbia River treaty: U.S. wants to keep more energy production at dams

Associated Press
The Oregonian

The United States has staked out its position for potential negotiations with Canada over a treaty governing hydropower and flood control on the Columbia River and seeks to keep more of the energy produced at dams.

The final recommendations, sent by U.S. regulators to the State Department on Friday, also call for making ecosystem improvements a third primary purpose of the treaty — in addition to flood control and production of hydropower.

The treaty, which was signed in 1964 and governs operations of dams and reservoirs on the fourth-largest river in North America, has no expiration date. But either country may cancel it or suggest changes beginning in 2024 with 10 years’ notice. Read more

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Climate change affects Northwest snowpack, study says

By: Becky Kramer
The Spokesman-Review

Last weekend’s doozy of a storm followed a classic Northwest weather script.

Winds gusting to 40 mph blew moisture-rich air from the ocean into the Cascades and Northern Rockies, dumping snow on the mountains while leaving lower elevations bare.

The winds – called “winter westerlies” – are vital to a region that depends on mountain snowpack for its water supply. But a new study suggests that climate change is disrupting the winds, with stark implications for future water availability.

“Those winds are being slowed down by climate change,” said Charlie Luce, a research hydrologist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise. That means fewer storms will reach the mountains, or smaller water droplets will drift over the peaks as fog instead of falling as snow, he said.

Either scenario would mean additional headaches for Northwest policymakers preparing for an altered climate. Read more

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Reclamation to add third hydro turbine to Idaho’s Black Canyon Dam

HydroWorld.com

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will add a third generating unit to the 10-MW Black Canyon Diversion Dam, potentially increasing the hydropower plant’s output capacity to 22.5 MW.

 

Reclamation said the additional generating unit will “take advantage of water that typically would go over the dam”, while also giving operation flexibility when one of the existing units is shut down for maintenance.

 

The project is expected to cost about US$53 million and will be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

 

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Kokanee won’t run Lake Pend Oreille dam level

By Rich Landers
Spokesman Review

Kokanee no longer pack enough influence to keep the U.S. Corps of Engineers from fluctuating water levels at Lake Pend Oreille during winter.

Since 1996, the lake level behind Albeni Falls Dam has generally – not always – been kept above elevation 2,055 feet to avoid dewatering the eggs kokanee deposit in shoreline gravels until the fish hatch and can swim away.

But despite years of research, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has not been able to positively show that maintaining higher winter levels results in better production from wild kokanee eggs, said Jim Fredericks, department regional fisheries manager.

That means the lake levels are likely to fluctuate between elevations of 2,055 and the minimum level of 2,051 feet this winter depending on weather and power demands. Read more

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Avista strikes deal to acquire electric utility in Alaska

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

Avista Corp. is moving into the Alaska market through the planned purchase of an electric utility serving the Juneau area.

In a deal announced Monday, Avista will acquire Alaska Electric Light and Power’s parent company through a $170 million stock transaction. The sale is expected to close by July 1, subject to regulatory approvals.

“It gives us a small utility in Juneau” whose power generation is nearly 100 percent renewable, said Jessie Wuerst, an Avista spokesman. Read more

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PUD declares emergency for dam repairs

By Christine Pratt
Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD’s top-priority repair has the powerhouse floor of Rocky Reach Dam looking something like a highly specialized yard sale.

Turbine blades, bronze bushings the size of ottomans, boxes filled with jumbo-sized nuts and bolts and other, far larger dam components with names that make sense only to engineers and hydromechanics are spread out for inspection.

Off to the side, a stout, pipe-like stainless steel rod some 30 inches in diameter and 12 feet long lies on its side displaying a hairline crack that has halted four of the dam’s 11 generators, cut the PUD’s generating capacity by a quarter, and set in motion an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the units spinning again.

“This is the most significant equipment problem we’ve seen,” Dan Garrison, the PUD’s hydro operation director, said Thursday from the powerhouse floor. Read more

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Small hydroelectric dams bring clean power to utilities

By Jody Lawrence-Turner
Spokesman Review

Glenn Phillips is a water-power cowboy.

Faded, discolored pictures depict the Northport, Wash., man’s tale of building one of the first privately owned and operated miniature hydroelectric power plants.

They show him digging in a ravine. One shows him stringing cable for a tram that hauled materials. More chronicle how he built a power house at the bottom of a 140-foot waterfall.

Now 82 years old, Phillips displays each photo in hands weathered by hard work as his family harnessed nature.

“I knew there had to be an easier way to make a living than logging and raising cattle,” said Phillips, flashing a surly grin.

The Northwest is rich with water-generated electricity; big, wild rivers have been tamed by some of the world’s mightiest dams.

And yet the region is home to an impressive array of small projects, too. Some can fetch their owners $20,000 a month.

Washington, Idaho and Oregon are home to at least 95 of these miniature operations, according to the Foundation for Water and Energy Education, located in Spokane. There are hundreds more across the country. Together they form an industry worth tens of millions of dollars. Read more

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Report: Kootenai River changes impact sturgeon

By Rich Landers
Spokesman Review

FISHERIES — The eggs of endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon in Idaho and Montana are less likely to hatch in the river because of flow changes caused by Libby Dam and other human actions, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Associated Press reporter Nicholas K. Geranios says the report issued this week concluded that sturgeon eggs hatch best in places where rocks are washed clean of algae by river flow. Read more of the AP story.

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Bonneville/Energy Trust study delves into hydropower’s long reach

By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon

Two energy advocates have released a case study that examines how hydropower can occur away from the natural river system.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Energy Trust of Oregon issued the study, authored by Hood River firm Farmers Conservation Alliance, which examines the cumulative effects of small-scale hydropower generation by two irrigation districts on the Hood River watershed over the past 30 years.

The study found “a measured positive impact on fish” from projects in the Hood River watershed, thanks to “the generation of nearly $90 million in revenue that funded infrastructure improvements leading to increased summer stream flows, installation of fish screens, removal of passage barriers and increased collaboration within the watershed community.” Read more

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