Green industry

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Green industry in Portland and Oregon

NOTE This summary focuses on an overview of utility-scale alternative power in Oregon and Portland. Portland has become a center for green energy, and many of the smaller firms have not (yet) been listed here.


Oregon and Portland is becoming a green energy hub, with utility scale energy generation using Wind, Solar and Wave, investments in electric car charging infrastructure, batteries and inverter technology, and a green building hub providing leadership nationwide.

Oregon's legislature passed a law in 2007 that requires utilities to get at least 25 percent of Oregon's power from renewable sources by 2025.

Sustainable Utility Power in Oregon

The U.S. is on a trajectory to generate 20% of the nation’s electricity from wind energy by 2030. Wind and solar can be cheaper than hydro, nukes or coal, but renewables have more variables. Grid parity has been reached in Hawaii with most of the US expected to reach grid parity by 2015, says Wikipedia.

The Dalles Dam, constructed by the federal government in 1957, today produces close to 1,800 megawatts of power — enough to fuel three-quarters of the state of California.

Wind Farms in Oregon

PGE, the state's largest utility, hopes to shut down the state's only coal-fired power plant 20 years earlier than planned. PGE has natural gas and coal-fired power plants in Boardman and has proposed one or two additional natural gas plants there, if it closes its Boardman coal plant to meet haze-reduction rules or avoid carbon taxes. The 585-megawatt coal fired plant provides enough electricity to serve about 250,000 residential customers.

About 4 percent of PGE's energy comes from wind farms — mostly the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm, plus power PGE purchases on contract from the target=new>Klondike II and Vansycle Ridge wind farms. The Stateline Wind Farm runs along the Columbia River.

Today, Portland General Electric’s " Biglow Canyon Wind Farm is the second-largest wind energy facility in the state; its 141 turbines produce 275 megawatts of power. The farm is situated in Wasco County, an area prospected for further wind development, despite growing community concern about noise and environmental impacts.

The $1 billion project was completed in September, 2010. Vestas, the largest wind turbine manufacturer as of 2009. It has its North American headquarters in Portland. Here's a video tour of a Vestas tower at Biglow.

Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is a planned wind farm near Arlington, Oregon. Installation of the wind turbines is scheduled to begin in 2010 and is expected to be fully built in 2012. Planned to be built by Caithness Energy, it would supply electricity to Southern California Edison. The wind farm is projected to be the largest land-based wind farm in the world when it is completed. The V90-3.0 MW turbines would be manufactured by Vestas.

Iberdrola Renewables, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is the second largest provider of wind in the country has 41 wind farms in the United States with an installed capacity of 3,877 megwatts, enough to power close to 1 million average U.S. households. Klondike Wind Power>, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, sells power to the Bonneville Power Administration. Vestas, the largest wind turbine manufacturer as of 2009, has its North American headquarters in Portland. Here's a video tour of a Vestas tower [ttp:// at Biglow].

Solar Power in Oregon

Crystalline silicon panels, like those made by industry leader SolarWorld in Hillsboro, Oregon, dominate 90% of the industry today, but CIGS thin films and Cadmium telluride thin films may provide competition.

PGE’s “Oregon Solar Highway” is a 100kW system that contains about 8,000 square feet of solar panels extending about the length of two football fields. It incorporates SolarWorld silicon PV array and the Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems (SEGIS), a DOE program to develop photovoltaic (PV) systems that seamlessly integrate into the distribution and transmission grid.

Cadmium telluride panel manufacturers, like Solexant, in Greham, Oregon, claim they can manufacture solar panels for less than $1 per watt. That represents a huge shift in energy economics. At $1 per watt, the over all cost of a system will be $2 per watt comparable to a coal plant which has a cost of $2.10 per watt.

Solexant's facility in Oregon, producing 100-megawatts of thin film CdTe) solar panels annually, will be the largest nanotechnology manufacturing facility in the world. Long-term, the company hopes to expand the facility to 1000MW annually, reports Oregon Live.

Solar is cheaper than nuclear energy, according to Duke University. iSuppli predicts that around 13.6 GW of PV will be installed this year.

Wave Power

Meanwhile, Ocean Power Technologies is close to getting a license to build a wave energy plant off the coast of Oregon. The New Jersey-based company has signed a settlement agreement that includes over 11 government agencies, and several private companies, to develop a 150 kW wave energy station. When completed the plant will consist of 10 PowerBuoys that could generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes annually, according to Ocean Power. A 10-Megawatt OPT power station would occupy approximately 30 acres (0.125 square kilometers) of ocean space.

Electric Cars

Electric vehicles might substitute for utility scale grid energy storage while reducing fossil fuel consumption.

A 20 minute quick charger might utilize a 45-kilowatt photovoltaic carport. PGE installed the first publicly available fast charger in the United States this summer in its parking garage in downtown Portland. NEC's Takasago Rapid Charging Station complies with the CHAdeMO EV charging standard, and comes in 50kW and 20kW capacities for 15-30 minute charging.

The Nissan Leaf is being tested in Portland in 2010. It costs $33,000, and has been described as a $16,500 subcompact car that costs double that thanks to a battery estimated to cost $16,500. The Navistar eSta, an electric truck, will sell for $150,000 because it will tote a battery that costs at least $75,000. Both the Leaf and the eStar will be limited to 100 miles of driving on their Lithium Ion batteries.

ReVolt, with headquarters in Portland, is developing Zinc-Air batteries.

Lithium-air is said to be the dream battery. Only hydrogen carries more energy for its weight. Instead of going 40 miles between charges, you might go 200 or 400 miles.

Inverters and Electronics

Proponents of micro-inverters believe the technology makes the system more reliable, smarter, and efficient by increasing energy harvesting through optimal MPPT at the module level. Bend's PV Powered has been a pioneer in grid-connected electronics for alternative energy.

Alternative Energy Financing

SolarCity's financing options let homeowners and businesses in Beaverton switch to solar power with little or no up-front investment; power is sold directly to the utility.

The power system requires that generation of electricity perfectly matches the amount consumed at all times but wind farms can create excess power, causing waste or environmental impact. Portland General Electric in the next two years plans to install batteries from Ener1 to supply enough juice to power 400 homes in Salem for about an hour. The Electric Storage Association has more on energy storage technologies.

A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines feed-in tariffs (FITs). The policy is known for spurring dramatic growth of renewable energy in Europe during the past decade.

Beaverton's 1000 watt array illustrates how to figure your typical power generation, then compare it with your power bill and total solar installation costs. Grape Solar’s kits retail for 25-30K and provide all the power for an average middle-class home. They're out of Eugene. Without subsidies, which can amount to 75% of the cost, solar has a ways to go to reach parity in the home.

Terry Gross explains Cap and Trade.

Coal Fired Power

The Boardman coat plant accounts for 15 percent of the power provided by PGE, Oregon's largest electric utility, but Pacific Power share of coal is 40%, according to Washington State's online reports (" pdf).

Facebook’s data center in Prineville, Oregon is receiving a “green” backlash since its electric utility, Pacific Power, will likely be getting most of its power from a coal-powered generator in Boardman, Oregon. The company avoided tiered energy rates, due to a formula used by the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency that operates dams on the Columbia River and sells the power at cost to utilities. Pacific Power will get most of its electricity from the nearby Boardman coal-fired plant.

Green Buildings

The Oregon Sustainability Center is aiming for triple net-zero performance in energy, water and carbon emissions. The [ Port of Portland headquarters is Gold certified.

More Information

<a target="new" href=" Energy Trust of Oregon] provides cash incentives for customers of PGE, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas. The Oregon Department of Energy has more information on sustainable energy programs.