Snohomish going green
A microcosm of the sort of renewables debate under way across the Pacific Northwest is currently ongoing in Snohomish County Public Utilities District (SPUD) in the mountains east of Seattle in Washington state. This month, SPUD commissioners will decide whether to adopt a "green" rate for renewables and conservation or to buy into a wind project in the eastern part of the state, to be developed by the Conservation and Renewable Energy System (CARES). SPUD general manager Richard Johnson is advocating the green rate, as he says the price of the wind project and a hydro project now seem less competitive since Bonneville Power Administration has lowered its rates. In contrast, a citizens advisory committee recommended in May that SPUD buy wind power, a little hydro, and also use conservation. The citizens also said they did not want the district's bonding capacity used for gas-fired facilities.
Boost to Co-operatives
The European model of wind farming is getting a new boost in Minnesota. Small wind co-operatives can now get low interest loans of up to $50,000 for turbines that generate up to 1 MW. The measure also provides affordable loans to farmers so they can buy stock in wind co-operatives. In addition, a 1.5 cent a kilowatt hour incentive is available for as much as 100 MW of power produced by co-operatives in the state, starting in 1997. The law encouraging this Danish-type collaboration was passed by the state legislature in late May. Many hundreds of megawatt of wind capacity have been developed in Denmark in this way. In the final days of the 1995 legislative session, Minnesota also approved a measure to remove the property tax exemption for wind energy equipment. (Projects under 2 MW are exempt). Foundations would be taxed this year and the rest of the turbines starting in five years. The state's regular commercial property tax rate is 4.6%. Also in the last minute rush at the end of the session, $75,000 was approved for an study into birds and wind energy proposed by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources.
This autumn a wind turbine should be generating power for Traverse City in Michigan. A 23% "green" rate on some 200 homeowners will help pay for the turbine, as well as $50,000 from the state and a possible subsidy from the US Department of Energy. The green rate is expected to raise a household's electricity bill by $8 monthly. The Traverse City Light and Power Board has also approved the easement for a plot of land for the site.
With a view to developing further projects in Spain, Kenetech is to open a European office there. The company will operate from a Madrid location as an American affiliate of a Spanish company and be running before the end of the summer. The company's Bud Grebey will not be drawn on where Kenetech is casting its eye for future development, but says the decision to maintain a strong footing in the country was based on the "tremendous promise" and "wonderful resources" of Spanish wind energy.