Washington State loves Green Markets

Renewable Energy Booming in Northwest

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted February 1, 2006

Driving through the magnificent landscape of the Cascade Mountains on my way to Seattle, I stopped off at a log cabin rest stop for a cup of overpriced coffee and an organic breakfast. That's one of the many reasons I love visiting the state of Washington. Between the aged hippies who no longer hate money and run high-end natural food stores and the droves of baby boomer offspring with a taste for sustainable lifestyles and the cash to support their appetites - Washington State does not maintain a large population opposed to green markets. Which is why it's no surprise that the state has been quite aggressive in passing renewable energy legislation over the past couple of years.

Last May, two of the most progressive renewable energy bills in U.S. history, SB 5101 and SB 5111 were passed in the state of Washington with tremendous bipartisan support from lawmakers.

SB 5101 established a renewable energy 'feed-in' production incentive where homes and businesses with solar PV and wind power systems earn a credit of 15 cents per kWh of electricity generated by their renewable energy systems up to $2,000 annually. Additionally the bill combined economic multipliers to increase the system owner's credit if the project's components are manufactured within the state. That could raise the credit up to as much as 54 cents - which would be available for a fixed 10 year period.

SB 5111 provides tax breaks for renewable energy businesses that reside in the state or choose to relocate there. The tax breaks are even higher for companies that relocate in economically depressed areas.

But here we are...less than a year later, and the great state of Washington is continuing with its progressive lean towards renewable energy legislation.

Last week, the House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee passed three bioenergy bills in an effort to boost biofuel projects with Energy Freedom grants and loans, initiate minimum ethanol/biodiesel requirements in fuels and create a new loan program for the financing of renewable energy projects.

House Bill 2939 would allow for the creation of a $100 million account that will deliver grants and low-cost loans for renewable energy investments in various projects, research and renewable infrastructure development.

House Bill 2738 would require a 2 percent ethanol in gasoline mixes by 2008. Though the deadline could be moved up if there are enough Washington crops available to meet the 2 percent requirement. Now while 2 percent may not sound like much - consider that Washington State citizens spend $25 million a day on gas and diesel!
House Bill 2775 would establish a bioenergy loan program (allowing for loans up to $5 million with low interest) for projects converting farm waste or crops into biofuels.

Washington Winds

While 2006 looks to be a promising year for Washington renewables - 2005 wasn't a slouch either.

Especially in the area of wind energy development.

Back in October, Puget Sound Energy acquired the development rights to the Wild Horse Wind Power Project from Horizon Wind Energy. The project operates 127 1.8 MW wind turbines that can provide enough electricity to serve nearly 73,000 homes.

And a month later, PPM Energy announced that it was beginning construction of the Big Horn Wind Project - a 200-MW wind farm providing renewable electricity to more than 57,000 American homes.

Even individual consumers were getting in on the act.

Last fall, a Washington State homeowner began capturing renewable energy from the wind and fed back her surplus power to the electrical grid.

As part of its 'Green Power Program,' Puget Sound Energy offers up renewable energy credits generated by those operating their own solar systems and wind turbines in an effort to reach its goal of providing up to 10% of its customers' total electricity supply from renewable resources by 2013.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are currently 390 MW of wind energy installed in Washington, with an additional 230 planned.

Tacoma Tides

With 157 miles of coastline and over 3,000 miles of interior shoreline, including Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington State is also looking to the Ocean for increased renewable energy generation.

Currently AquaEnergy, a private company based out of Mercer Island is in the process of developing ocean wave energy projects in Makah Bay. Ocean Power Technologies and Blue Energy are also exploring ocean energy opportunities in the state.

And Tacoma Power recently funded part of a study by the Electric Power Research Institute to investigate ocean wave and tidal energy in the Tacoma Narrows.

If feasible, the project, using underwater windmills could provide electricity for as many as 10,000 homes.

Economically, politically and geographically, Washington State is in an excellent position to utilize both federal and state-based initiatives to push its renewable energy generating capacity to new heights over the next few years.

We'll be watching closely for new opportunities this momentum will provide.

Until next time...

Jeff Siegel
Editor, Green Chip Stocks