Alternative Energy

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Judge to Trash-to-Biofuel Firm: Hit the Bricks

Posted By on Sat, Apr 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Ten years after barnstorming throughout the region with promises to bring its trash-to-biodiesel technology to communities after being offered generous tax breaks and a friendly regulatory environment, a judge is evicting Green Power from the Port of Pasco, Wash.

Pasco officials now call the tactics of Green Power "lies and promises," and the company's CEO MIchael Spitzauer is in federal custody on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

And this morning's Tri-City Herald is reporting that Green Power's attempts to enter receivership have failed, but a King County Superior Court Judge says the application is "suspect."

The company's founder and CEO is accused of defrauding investors of at least $6.7 million over seven years. The Washington Department of Ecology shut down Green Power's unfinished facility in 2009 because it lacked proper air quality permits.

Bankruptcy records indicate Green Power's assets to be $10 million while the company owes more than $30 million to 14 creditors.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kilowatt Crackdown: Which Boise Buildings Are Most Energy Efficient?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 3:54 PM

It's called "Kilowatt Crackdown" — the second annual competition to see which Boise buildings are the most energy efficient.

Idaho Power, along with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and the Building Owners and Managers Association, announced which commercial buildings have dialed up their energy performances, with honors going to businesses that have adopted voluntary, long-term energy efficient best practices.

The 2014 Kilowatt Crackdown winners are:

Highest Performing Building: University Plaza, managed by Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate (second place went to the Idaho Water Center and third place went to the Syringa Bank Building).

Most Improved Building: Earl F. Chandler Building, managed by Orchard Partners, LLP (second place went to One Capital Center and third place went to University Plaza).

Small Building/Big Achievements Award: Capitol Park Plaza, managed by Oppenheimer Development Corporation.

Most Dedicated Building: Benjamin Building, managed by Ada County.

This year, 41 Treasure Valley commercial office buildings, representing more than 3.5 million square feet, or nearly 20 percent of the Boise office market, participated in the competition.

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Meet The New Zero-Emission Mercedes

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 11:20 AM


The world—and the automotive industry in particular—took a deep but cautious breath this week as Mercedes-Benz unveiled what it called a "zero emission" automobile engine. With the aid of a lot of government spending and support from Ford and Nissan, Mercedes says it's ready to start selling its hydrogen-fueled cars to the public as early as 2017.

"We're very sure we can achieve a product cost level which is competitive [with today's hybrid cars]," said Christian Mohrdieck of Damler (Mercedes's parent corporation). "But to get there, we still need to work very intensively on the business side."

But don't expect to see them in everyone's driveway anytime soon. Platinum components are expected to drive up the cost of hydrogen cars to above $100,000. Additionally, hydrogen cars will require a new network of special fueling stations.

On the positive side, hydrogen stations could operate on much the same model as existing conventional gas pumps.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Boise State STEM Students to Coach Public On Building Personal Wind Turbines

Posted By on Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Offering the opportunity to Boise residents to build their own mini-turbines, Boise State science, technology, engineer and math students will coach workshop attendees Saturday, March 2, on harnessing wind energy.

“It’s more of an educational thing,” said Jennie Rylee, environmental education coordinator at the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center, which is hosting the event. “You’re going to be able to experiment and look at the evolution of wind turbines.”

Windmills, or wind turbines, haven’t always resembled the sleek white machines that sit atop hills throughout Idaho.

“There were a lot of issues with the original wind turbines 20 or 30 years ago,” said Rylee. “Over the years, construction has improved so much by looking at blade length and width and blade angle.”

The March 2 workshop, slated for 8 a.m.-noon, will allow participants to craft their own varieties of turbines.

“They can build a turbine with skinny blades and see how that does with producing power, and they can do a short fat blade and compare [the results],” Rylee told the Weekly. “They can understand the evolution of the technology.”

Students running the workshop will be using turbine kits from KidWind, providing curricula resources for teachers to introduce wind energy exploration into public classrooms.

“The more awareness we can build on alternative energy, the more people we can get thinking that there are real alternatives,” said Rylee. “This course is not going to teach you how to build a windmill in your back yard, but it will educate you about the possibilities of wind energy.”

With a limited number of spots open—attendance is capped at 25—attendees may reserve a slot by calling the Foothills Learning Center at 208-493-2530.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wind Developers: Idaho Power 'Scaring' Customers

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Saying that tens of thousands of Idahoans were "being harmed," counsel for Idaho Power fired their opening salvos Tuesday in the first of a three-day Public Utilities Commission hearing, pitting Idaho's largest utility against alternative energy developers.

The Associated Press reports that IdaCorp, parent of Idaho Power, has banded together with Avista Corp. and Rocky Mountain Power to push back against proposed rules that the utilities said require "too much money" being paid for alternative energy.

"What this proceeding is about is the proper price," Donovan Walker, Idaho Power senior counsel, told the AP. "We believe it has been priced improperly and our customers are being harmed."

But attorney Peter Richardson, representing Exergy Development Group, told PUC commissioners that IdaCorp is trying to scare its customers through an aggressive public-relations campaign, which claims that consumers could pay an extra $850 million over the next decade for power from existing wind projects.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Idaho Power, Solar and Wind Developers To Face Off Tuesday

Posted By on Sat, Aug 4, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Three days of hearings, scheduled to begin Tuesday, Aug. 7, will pit Idaho's largest utility against alternative energy developers with hundreds of thousands of Gem State consumers in the middle.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is hoping to iron out differences between Idaho Power and numerous solar and wind developers hoping to get plugged into the region's power grid. But Idaho Power wants the option of saying "no" to alternate energy projects, especially when they say there is little need for extra power.

In fact, Idaho Power argues that the Public Utility Regulatory Polices Act, better known as PURPA, allows some alternate energy developers to lock in contracts while driving up electric rates. But at least one provider, Boise-based Exergy Development, said its Idaho wind turbine projects create hundreds of jobs and millions in much-needed revenue for local governments.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ICL Urges Greater Input on Idaho Power Conservation Programs

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Idaho's Public Utilities Commission, which oversees all things energy, is deliberating whether the Gem State’s largest energy provider, Idaho Power, is exercising what it calls "prudent spending" in energy conservation programs. The PUC is allowing room for the public to weigh in on whether the 20 incentive programs are a worthy return on Idaho Power's investment, but the window for input is set to close Sunday, June 10.

“Typically, we don’t get a lot of comments. It’s a yearly review just to make sure that the programs are energy efficient,” Gene Fadness, PUC spokesman told Citydesk, but quickly added. “However, this time we are.”

The Idaho Conservation League is actively attempting to gin up public participation on the issue.

“The [PUC] can rule whether spending in any of the suite of programs was prudent. If they decide any were not, then Idaho Power would have to return the money to ratepayers," said Ben Otto, ICL energy associate. "This would put a chilling effect on future energy efficiency spending.”

ICL, in a June 1 message to 3,500 of its supporters, the non-profit warned that if citizens didn't speak up, "the PUC could put [the programs] on the chopping block."

“It doesn't take many public comments to be effective," said Otto. "Typically, the PUC receives less than 10. ICL hopes that at least 20 people submit supportive comments.”

But Fadness said he didn't see how the ICL's outcry was substantiated.

“The ICL sent out a mailing that said programs are on the chopping block, which they are not. This is routine testing," said Fadness. "Mostly invested rebates for customers are being tested. If there are changes, the changes are tweaking the programs, not removing any or ‘putting them on the chopping block.’”

Fadness said each of Idaho Power’s 20 conservation programs will undergo several tests that establish whether the program saves customers more money than it costs to run the program.

“The goal,” said Fadness, “is to score a 1.0 or above, which translates basically that for one dollar invested, $1.69 is saved.”

In 2011, enough power was saved by the programs to service more than 12,900 average homes a year, according to PUC. But the savings came with higher upfront costs. A 4 percent Energy Efficient Rider accompanies enrolled customer’s bills.

“The problem is really one of perception," wrote Otto. "With energy efficiency, customers pay up front for benefits over the long term. ICL is asking for public support to eliminate wasteful spending and wasteful power consumption.”

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Friday, June 1, 2012

New Tariffs on Wind Towers, Solar Panels Imported From China

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 9:20 AM

The Commerce Department's International Trade Administration has announced that duties of 13.7 percent to 26 percent will be imposed on Chinese wind-turbine towers imported into the United States.

The New York Times reports that it's a pretty big fee as the towers—which stand as tall as 300 feet—can cost as much as $600,000 each. The new tariff follows the Commerce Department's preliminary ruling that Chinese manufacturers of the steel towers received unfair subsidies from the Chinese government.

Earlier this month, the Commerce Department said that it would slap tariffs ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent on solar panels imported from China.

According to Reuters, the United States imported approximately $222 million worth of wind towers from China in 2011.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hoku Shuts Down Idaho Plant, Lays Off 100

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Hoku Materials, The Honolulu-based polysilicon maker, which struggled to get its Pocatello solar manufacturing plant up and running and even had trouble paying its electric bill to Idaho Power, announced Tuesday that it is halting construction at its Eastern Idaho location and laying off 100 employees.

Hoku said it had cash and assets totaling $14.4 million as of the end of March, but its liabilities totaled $278.8 million, including $74.4 million in unpaid bills.

“Due to the delinquency of unpaid construction obligations, liens have been filed against the Hoku Materials polysilicon plant, and some lienholders have begun foreclosure proceedings in the Idaho courts,” the company said in a statement.

Hoku also announced it was shutting down a newly formed subsidiary, Tianwei Solar, that had been created to market China-made solar modules in North America.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Idaho House to Mull Wind Project Moratorium Today

Posted By on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 9:22 AM

When the Idaho Legislature reconvenes this morning, the House will again take up a proposal to place a moratorium on future wind farm projects.

"Wind energy development in Idaho has proliferated at an unprecedented rate," reads the statement of purpose from Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Erik Simpson, who successfully navigated the measure through the House Local Government Committee. Last year, a similar bill died by a 10-8 vote in the House State Affairs Committee.

The centerpiece of Simpson's new legislation would be the creation of an eight-member task force - four members each from the House and Senate - to study wind-energy development and ultimately report to the governor and Legislature in January 2014.

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