Thursday, September 30, 2010

Brogan residents petition court over power line

By Larry Meyer Thursday, September 30, 2010

VALE — While not opposed to the proposed Idaho Power 500-kilovolt transmission line, some residents in the Brogan area are seeking support to have the route of the line moved a little farther away from the community, and a spokesman for those residents appeared before the Malheur County Court, Wednesday, to request its support.

Rick Simmons, Brogan, told the court he represented property owners in Brogan and others around the community who would like to see the transmission line routed about two miles farther west so it, and the towers supporting it, would be in the background. As proposed, Simmons estimated the line would come within about a mile of Brogan and residents would like it at least three miles away. A petition has been drawn up, and Simmons is still obtaining signatures, he said.

The petition says residents did not think one mile was far enough away and were concerned about wind noise through the high tension lines and girders, a “greatly increased security risk” for the small community and because the view from Brogan would be overpowered by the tall towers situated so close.

“Our proposed solution is for Idaho Power to agree to give the Brogan community a three-mile exclusion zone for high tension power lines now and in the future. Build the power line three miles out from Brogan in all directions,” the petition said.

“We understand the need (for the line),” Simmons said, adding residents understand the decision to move the route out their way. “The towers are much too close to where they live. We’re asking for a visual impact study.”

Because the proposed routing near their community did not come about until earlier this year, Simmons said the community was coming late into the siting process but did get their comments into the Oregon Energy Facility Citing Council and the Bureau of Land Management before Monday’s deadline. Simmons, though, said he wanted the court’s backing of the request. The Energy Facility Citing Council is handling the state review and public comment process on Idaho Power’s proposal, and the BLM is conducting the environmental review process for the portions of the route on public land.

Jon Beal, county planner, noted the route of the transmission line between Boardman and southwest Idaho has not been finalized, and there will be additional opportunities for public comment. The court did not make a decision.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

California’s Quest for Renewable Energy and What It Could Mean for the Northwest

Three Pacific Northwest states have adopted renewable portfolio standards, but it may be that our neighbor to the south, California, will end up having the biggest impact on the region. California’s renewable energy policies are some of the most aggressive in the nation, and the state has worked for many years to develop its own renewable resources. It’s now reached the point where California utilities have to look outside the state to satisfy their renewable portfolio goals.

Renewable energy credits (RECs) enable utilities to purchase the environmental benefits of renewable energy wherever it’s generated. Most of California’s utilities would like to use RECs as much as possible because it expands their market and could also eliminate some of the transmission costs to deliver the power from outside the state.

“We’re already seeing ‘the California effect,’” says Jeff King, senior resource analyst at the Council. “Roughly 50 percent of the wind power that was developed in 2008 and 2009 in the Northwest was either owned by California utilities or is contracted to them, and credits in excess of Northwest needs are being sold to California utilities from projects owned by, or contracted to, Northwest utilities.”

It’s a trend that’s expected to continue into the future, says King, where we’ll see California taking an increasing proportion of the Northwest’s renewable resource generation to meet it’s own RPS targets. But what happens to the electricity if it doesn’t go with the REC? There’s concern that it could end up in the Northwest power market, depressing power prices.

“In almost every one of these issues,” says King, “there’s a positive side and a negative side.” Low power prices help Northwest utilities that need to purchase energy, but the same low prices reduces revenue for utilities with a good supply of resources to sell.

An increase in renewable energy development in the region is a good thing from the perspective of renewable resource developers, and for landowners who lease their land to wind power developers. It also benefits counties, usually in rural areas where a lot of wind farms are sited, by expanding their property tax base and increasing their property tax revenue.

On the other hand, notes King, we’re already seeing controversies arise from the aesthetic and environmental impacts from expanded resource and transmission development in the region.

For the consumer, a lot will depend on the business practices and philosophy of the consumer’s utility. Northwest utilities that are fairly aggressive in developing renewables on their own and selling RECs to California are able to generate revenue that may reduce electricity costs. It also puts them in a good position when it comes time to meet their own targets. For utilities that wait until they have to purchase renewable energy, they may find themselves in a situation where competition from California for those resources has driven up prices. . .

For the complete 12-page pdf report: