Northwest Hydropower News

Helena irrigation district looks to produce hydropower

By Associated Press
Seattle Post Intelligencer

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Helena Valley Irrigation District is looking to retrofit its existing pump plant at Canyon Ferry Dam to produce hydropower. Read more

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Critics of Snake River dams say it’s time to tear them down

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, The Associated Press
Yakima Press

SPOKANE — The issue of breaching four giant dams on the Snake River to help endangered salmon runs has percolated in the Northwest for decades, but the idea has gained new momentum.

After renewed political pressure to remove the dams, people who oppose the structures gathered Oct. 3 on the Snake River in up to 200 boats. They unfurled a giant banner that said, “Free The Snake.”

“The groundswell that is occurring right now to remove the four dams is like nothing I’ve seen since 1998,” said Sam Mace, director of an anti-dam group called Save Our Wild Salmon. Read more

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Yahoo will double size of Quincy operation

By Staff
Spokesman Review

QUINCY – Size matters, right? Just ask Yahoo! Inc., which is about to double the size of its Quincy data center.

Yahoo said Monday it will add about 300,000 square feet and thousands of servers to its 8-year-old Quincy facility. The expansion will double the size of the company’s operation at the junction of Road P NW and Road 11 NW and add an unspecified number of jobs, the company said in a news release. Currently Yahoo in Quincy has 50 employees.

The tech company is expected to break ground this week on 20 acres next to the current facility with a May opening expected for the expansion.

Yahoo will use its energy-efficient “coop” design for the data center expansion, said Pat Boss, spokesman for the Port of Quincy. Resembling a chicken coop, the design uses prefabricated metal boxes with built-in louvers to increase the use of outside air for cooling and reduce the need for electrical fans to pull air into the building. The coop design also speeds construction. Read more

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Community Outreach at Okanogan County Fair

The Okanogan complex fire, with injuries, loss of property and thousands of acres burned land, hit our friends in Okanogan County hard. Showing spirit synonymous with resilience to this largely rural area, the county fair was postponed but not canceled. FWEE was proud to be on hand to engage with kids and adults to learn about renewable energy. Check out a couple of pics.

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Teaching Hydropower in the Classroom

Check out the PowerWheel video, which showcases a popular way for teachers and utilities to explain how the force of falling water supports the generation of clean, renewable energy. By hooking up the PowerWheel to a faucet, student lessons provide Eureka moments as they learn about gravity, mechanical energy and power generation. A favorite is using the PowerWheel to charge a cell phone.

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Columbia Salmon returns show progress

Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested annually by federal, public and private operators to mitigate the environmental effects of operating hydroelectric projects. Fish, particularly salmon and steelhead, are the most visible barometer of whether these investments are producing the desired results.

A 2014 Citizen Update issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration points to positive progress for anadromous fish heading up the Columbia and Snake rivers. They report the highest rate of returns of hatchery and wild Chinook, coho and sockeye to Bonneville Dam since counting began in 1938.

Mother Nature, however, made for tough conditions this summer. Low snowpacks, poor stream flows, heat and drought caused severe issues in places. In July, for instance, recorded water temperatures at Bonneville Dam were nearly 5 degrees higher than the 10-year average. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated almost half of the 500,000 sockeye salmon perished before successfully migrating up the Columbia River. This Seattle Times article recounts some of these effects.

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Revenue soars in Washington town that became data center hub

By RACHEL LA CORTE and DAVID A. LIEB
Associated Press
The Columbian

OLYMPIA — Until about a decade ago, the rural central Washington town of Quincy was perhaps best known for its apples and potatoes.

Then Microsoft and Yahoo began building computer data centers there, drawn partly by the affordable hydropower from the Columbia River. They came, even though the local government provided no property tax breaks.

Soon, other states began trying to lure large data centers, offering to waive sales taxes on the expensive computer equipment and exempt them from property taxes. To keep pace with the competition, Washington lawmakers responded by passing a sales tax exemption for data centers, which it extended again this year.

Quincy, a town of roughly 7,300 people, now also hosts data centers for technology firms Dell and Intuit, as well as developers Sabey and Vantage.

Washington is among several states that declined to disclose to The Associated Press how much tax revenue it has forgone because of its incentives to data centers, but local officials are tracking gains.

Quincy’s property tax collections have quadrupled in the past decade, with more than 70 percent of such revenue coming from data centers. Its sales tax revenue has risen from $665,000 to about $5 million, even with the state tax break. Read more

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Oregon already on the path to meet Obama’s new clean power goals

By Ted Sickinger
Oregonian

Depending on where you live and who you listen to, the Clean Power Plan unveiled by President Obama Monday is either the most significant action on climate change ever undertaken or an economic disaster that will face a tsunami of legal challenges.

In Oregon, it may be more business as usual.

Nationwide, the rules will force overall reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants of 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Each state has an individual target based on its existing emissions profile, and is required to submit a plan to achieve that target.

Oregon’s goal under the plan equates to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.  That’s far less stringent than the 48 percent reduction contemplated in last year’s draft rules. The goals apparently changed based on feedback Oregon officials provided after the draft rules were circulated in 2014. Read more

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What’s pumped storage got to do with it?

Good renewable energy news: Wind generation in the Northwest grew from almost nothing in 1998, to over 4,700 MW in 2015.

Other news: Bringing the variable nature of wind generation on and off line quickly is a “load balancing” challenge. Hydropower has admirably supported this balancing role, but current facilities to do that are largely maxed out.

As wind and other variable generation resources come on-line, could pumped storage be the load balancing key to maintaining the Northwest’s leadership in clean, renewable energy for years to come?

Click here for presentation provided by FWEE member MWH on just this subject at the international HydroVision Conference held in Portland, OR in July. It does a really good job of explaining the challenge and the opportunity.

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Thinking Clean Energy at 30,000 feet

If you were flying Alaska Airlines this spring, you may have read a feature article, “The Triumph of Clean Energy.” Click here to read. Using the experience of Kodiak, Alaska, themes regarding integration of hydro, wind and solar power to support a renewable energy future are explored.

For the Northwest, these themes are explored in even greater depth in FWEE’s 2015 publication Following Nature’s Current. Our renewable energy future is happening now.

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