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Inland Power’s results differ with new energy standards

Wind turbines spinning on the Palouse are the final piece of Avista Utilities’ strategy to meet Washington’s new renewable energy standards.

Energy from the 58-turbine Palouse Wind farm, which started operations last year, has pushed the Spokane-based utility over the top. Even with future customer growth, Avista officials say they’ve lined up enough qualifying renewable energy to meet Initiative 937’s requirements through 2020.

Passed by voters in 2006, the initiative requires most utilities serving Washington customers to get 15 percent of their electricity from new renewable sources by 2020. The initiative’s goal is to diversify green energy production in Washington, prompting investment in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass in a state long dependent on hydropower, said Danielle Dixon, senior policy associate for the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle.

More than $8 billion has been spent on wind, solar and biomass development in Washington over the past 15 years, with the majority funneling into wind. At least part of that investment can be attributed to I-937’s passage, initiative backers say.

Some utilities “acquired early and acquired sufficiently,” which means they’ve blown past the upcoming deadlines, Dixon said.

In addition to Avista, Puget Sound Energy has enough resources in place to generate 15 percent of its electricity from new renewable resources, said Ray Lane, PSE spokesman. The utility, which serves about 1.1 million customers in the Interstate 5 corridor, built its own wind farms.

Avista provides electricity to about 237,000 Eastern Washington electric customers. The utility is ahead of the game for several reasons, said Jason Thackston, the company’s vice president for energy resources.

Avista was able to count toward I-937 requirements additional energy produced from the installation of new turbines at its Clark Fork River dams, because the turbines produce more kilowatts from the same river flow. Avista can also count energy from two long-term wind contracts, along with upcoming work at two Spokane River dams that will increase electrical output.

Through a legislative amendment, Avista will be able to count electricity produced at its existing Kettle Falls biomass plant toward the renewable tally beginning in 2016. However, the utility will have to document that the wood waste burned at the plant doesn’t come from old-growth forests, said Jessie Wuerst, an Avista spokeswoman.

Avista spent about $3.6 million last year to meet I-937’s requirements, according to information filed with the state. The cost represents less than 1 percent of a residential customer’s electric bill, officials said.

As a result of I-937, Avista invested sooner in new generating resources than it otherwise would have, Thackston said. But the utility got a good deal on its 30-year contract to purchase electricity from the Palouse Wind farm near Oakesdale, Wash., he said.

Buying energy from the Palouse was cheaper than Avista’s projected cost of putting up its own wind turbines on land it purchased near Reardan, Thackston said.

While Avista has met I-937’s requirements with relative ease, its smaller neighbor – Inland Power – is in a different situation.

Inland Power is an electric cooperative that serves 39,000 customers spread across 13 counties. Most are rural residents and 42 percent are low-income, said Chad Jensen, Inland Power’s chief executive officer.

Inland Power is already one of the nation’s greenest utilities, purchasing 81 percent of its electricity from federal hydroeletric dams, Jensen said. Because its customer base is relatively stable, complying with I-937 will force the utility to invest in renewable energy it doesn’t need, he said.

“It’s a frustrating piece of legislation,” Jensen said. “We’re having trouble getting sensible changes that we think should be easy tweaks.”

Inland Power lobbied the Legislature this year, saying that upgrades at federal hydroelectric facilities should count toward the utility’s I-937 requirements. That’s one of the inequities in the initiative, Jensen said: If utilities own the dam, they get credit for upgrades that increase electrical output. If they don’t own the dam, they can’t count the upgrades toward I-937.

Inland Power is spending nearly $3.4 million to help finance major upgrades at Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, two federal dams on the Columbia River that produce power the utility purchases.

Though Inland Power couldn’t get the Legislature to adopt the change this year, Jensen said the utility will continue to push for an amendment. More than 50 bills related to I-937 were introduced during the last legislative session, which hampered the effort, he said.

“There were so many bills trying to change Initiative 937 that we couldn’t get any traction,” Jensen said.

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wind energy for $18 million

Bay City will purchase a chunk of its electric power from a Gratiot County wind-turbine farm.

The Bay City Commission on Monday, Aug. 19, voted 7-2 to buy $18 million in electricity generated by the Beebe Community Wind Farm near Ithaca during the next 20 years.

Bay City Electric, Light & Power must comply with a state mandate to provide at least 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015. The utility has 20,200 customers.

Phil Newton, the city’s electric utility director, has called the contract and its accompanying price a good deal because the cost is lower than he’s seen from other wind developers.

Other communities have already purchased Beebe’s wind farm energy include Holland. The West Michigan community joined four other member utilities of the Michigan Public Power Agency earlier this year in purchasing 26.4 megawatts of power from Beebe.

Bay City’s agreement would be to purchase 4.8 megawatts through the MPPA, a supply agency the city and other smaller municipalities belong to as a group. The initial year will cost Bay City about $45 a megawatt hour, for a total of $700,000.

Commissioners Elizabeth Peters and Chad Sibley protested the length of the agreement. Peters wanted to see an opt-out clause in the contract.

“Energy prices are going to go down,” Sibley said. “At this point, locking (the city) into a 20-year commitment might not be in our best interest.”

Newton previously said Bay City’s 2013 average cost to purchase power was $59 a megawatt hour. Landfill gases run at $85 a megawatt hour and coal-based power costs the city about $54 per megawatt hour, he said.

The cost of the wind-turbine energy increases during the contract’s 20-year term, rising to about $72 per megawatt hour in the final year.

Workers at Siemens Energy, a plant in Hutchinson, will build portions of wind turbines for a project in the northwest United States.

Siemens has an order from Portland General Electric company, a public utility in Oregon.

Hutchinson workers will build the nacelles and hubs for 116 wind turbines. Crews will start installing the wind turbines in 2014. Once the project is completed, it’s expected to generate enough power for 84,000 households.

Read the full story at scfwindturbine web! If you love wind generator, welcome to contact us!

Chasers help you buy better

Also milk prices, toothpaste, mobile phones, packaging and natural medicines. In short, they’d like you to check out The Checkout, where they’ll be analysing the issues in all of these purchases and more, in the unique Chaser fashion.

“We don’t look at one product and go, ‘This is the correct product to choose’. It’s more about: If you’re going to go and try and buy this, here’s how somebody will try and scam you, here’s how you respond to it, here’s where you go to get the right information,” Craig Reucassel says, before adding: “In the end you’re going to have to choose your own washing machine. OK?”

The show certainly respects the old mantra of caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. “The whole show’s in Latin, obviously,” Julian Morrow jokes.

The team are just happy to provide the buyer with as much awareness as possible. “When I was growing up I used to watch The Investigators when Helen Wellings was on it,” says Morrow, a self-described frustrated consumer. “The Checkout is kind of a return to what I think is one of the strongest areas of the ABC’s broadcasting history, which is a consumer affairs show.”

Of course with the Chaser’s background, that still leaves the question of how serious it is. Can the Chaser play it straight?

“We’re still figuring this out a little bit,” Reucassel says. “It’s definitely more factual. It’s an enormous amount of research going into it, which is a massive pain and we regret totally this decision. I think it’s going to be presented with a bit more humour than we initially expected. It’s going to be a mix, I think. There might even be the occasional stunt or whatever but there’s certainly a lot more information than maybe you see in a usual Chaser show.”

“We’re quite lucky in the sense that in highly advanced consumer societies, reality is farcical,” Morrow says.

As ever, the show will use satire to make serious points. “We’ve got Kate Browne from Choice presenting a segment called ‘As A Guilty Mum’,” Morrow says. “It’s a parody of a Brand Power presentation that cycles through all the different products sold to parents that kind of press the guilt button.”

The boys are confident they aren’t wading into the same waters as Gruen, either in terms of the show’s format, which is segment based without a studio audience, or the subject matter. “We’re not so much interested in the strategies of the advertising,” Reucassel says. In fact, he says they were more worried about being too similar to two television shows that have traditionally been the victims of their comedic analysis.

“They do do some good stories but they generally do it from the perspective of one person who’s being shafted,” Reucassel says. “We’re trying to do it more for everybody.”

Not that their old sparring partners won’t get some attention. “We occasionally might cover the bits where they get it wrong and I’m sure if we get it wrong they’ll cover that, too.”

It’s not the only area in which the boys’ reputation precedes them. “People don’t necessarily take you seriously when you’re from the Chaser,” Reucassel says. “For instance going down to Canberra and sitting down with politicians and just talking to them about milk regulations … I think that surprises them because generally they think you’re going to be dressed as Noddy or something.”

Fans need have no fear though – the boys will be back in costume in the capital, soon enough. “We’ll do the first series of The Checkout, then we’ll do an election special,” Morrow says. “That’s why as a production unit, we are supporting Julia Gillard for the leadership of the Labor Party because an early election would be bad for us.”

The bigger Macau gets, the better for Las Vegas

We blazed over the causeway in the thick, constant evening fog until suddenly I was surrounded by more light than I could digest. It was disorienting and anxiety-inducing, an over-stimulating visual feast that jammed the circuitry in my head and accelerated my respiration.

For the first time I understood what it must be like to witness the fabulous Las Vegas Boulevard for the first time. No, I wasn’t on that Strip: I was cruising its steroidal kid brother, a place of shocking change that takes place so quickly it makes even pre-recession Las Vegas seem stagnant. This is the street from whence profits come so fast and furiously that they prevented the bankruptcy of at least two of Nevada’s biggest corporations during the depths of its economic meltdown.

I was on the Cotai Strip in Macau. And if I had long since lost my ability to be bowled over by Las Vegas, that first — and second and third — breathless ride along a perfect, massively wide fresh ribbon of asphalt in this most unlikely place made the enormity of a development like MGM Resorts International’s CityCenter feel as if it were a very fancy doll house.

This is not a travel essay, and here’s why: Nobody expects you to ever go to Macau. There’s no marketing machine trying to excite you about the idea of flying more than 12 hours from the West Coast of the U.S. to lounge by the (polluted) South China Sea. Also, they don’t need you. I was told by a bellboy that when he sees Caucasian guests, he assumes they must be evaluators from the Forbes or Michelin travel guides.

And yet, if you care at all about modern Las Vegas, you have to understand — if not care about — what has happened in just the past eight years or so in this previously disregarded and anonymous part of China. It is, simply put, the first wholesale export of what we know to be Vegas, right down to Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson actually filing a request to trademark the term “Asia’s Las Vegas.”

You’ve probably heard the numbers about Macau, but they bear repeating. Its casinos field more than $33.5 billion a year, five times more than Las Vegas. These gambling dens are vast plains of baccarat tables and salons; Venetian Macao Resort Hotel — a supersize replica of the Las Vegas original with three canals rather than just one — has the largest casino floor in the world at 550,000 square feet. That’s more than double that of Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. There are 800 table games there, a good number of which are baccarat; MGM Grand has about 140, including its poker tables.

Macau is the only place in China that allows legal betting, and that’s because gambling has flourished there since the 1800s, under colonial overlord Portugal. It became such a key piece of the economy there that Beijing couldn’t pull the plug when it regained control in the late 1990s.

Instead, the central government decided to try to disinfect the corrupt and violent destination of oppressive, crammed and unsafe casinos that had reigned since the 1960s — think Las Vegas during the mob era, minus the glamour. The handful that existed, led by a few gambling giants such as Casino Lisboa, were owned by Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho, a monopolist who also held a stranglehold over the privatized ferry system, one of the few means of getting to the Macanese peninsula. (There is now a land-based border crossing that is a manic scene of mainland Chinese people queuing up to cross over for gambling outings, but prior to the Chinese repossession of Macau, citizens rarely were permitted to go.)

So far, vote tampering limited

With the election heading into its final hours, the extent to which a Clackamas County election worker possibly tampered with ballots remains a mystery, potentially casting doubt on the legitimacy of the outcomes in close races.

The temporary employee, identified Monday as Deanna Swenson, 55, of Oregon City, reportedly filled in Republican ovals on ballots where preferences had been left empty by voters. The misconduct was seen and reported Wednesday afternoon, triggering a criminal investigation by the state Department of Justice.

Swenson, who did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, hasn’t been charged. Tim Heider, a county spokesman, said Swenson has worked for the county in prior elections, but he could not say for how many.

A county lawyer, Scot Sideras, said two ballots are highly suspect, and state investigators are looking through other ballots Swenson handled to see if the tampering was more widespread. He said the suspect ballots are evidence and will not be released in time to be counted for Tuesday’s election.

County Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan, a Democrat in a heated race with Republican John Ludlow, convened an emergency meeting Monday. She received few answers as County Clerk Sherry Hall declined an invitation to appear. Hall released a statement in which she said she can’t discuss an open police investigation.

Oregon was the first state to conduct elections exclusively by mail, and this the fourth presidential election in which the system has been used. This is believed to be the first incident in which an election worker has been seen marking choices.

County Counsel Stephen Madkour said the worker allegedly used a pencil she had carried in her purse to fill-in the blanks left by a voter who used pen. He told commissioners there is no video available.

Clackamas County, home to 10 percent of Oregon’s registered voters, is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, and is a swing county that is pivotal in deciding close statewide races. Three neck-and-neck legislative races could be decisive in determining which party controls the state House.

It’s common for voters to skip local and lower-profile races. In 2008, for example, fewer than 2,000 of the 193,688 ballots cast in Clackamas County left the Barack Obama-John McCain matchup blank. The number increased to 8,500 for the U.S. Senate race, 20,000 for the state treasurer’s race and more than 30,000 in state House races.

County lawyers told commissioners at the meeting that ballot envelopes are processed at tables in which there are three people — a captain and two workers who do not belong to the same party. The workers have pens to log barcode numbers and to fill-in duplicate ballots in case a coffee stain or other problem prevents a ballot from being read by the counting machine.

Because of Wednesday’s alleged misconduct, election workers are primarily using fluorescent green-and-yellow pens that cannot be read by machines.

The exception is when a duplicate ballot is filled out. In that case, a “carefully controlled” pen is used, Sideras said.

To further enhance security, two officials from the Secretary of State’s office are on-site to monitor the count and an Oregon state trooper is there.