Northwest Leads U.S. in Clean Energy

Conservation groups in the northwestern United States say the region is at the leading edge of a national trend towards the production and use of renewable energy.

SEATTLE, Washington, US, 2001-08-28 [SolarAccess.com] Conservation groups in the northwestern United States say the region is at the leading edge of a national trend towards the production and use of renewable energy. Climate Solutions and the Renewable Northwest Project have released a report, ‘Rising to the Challenge: The Northwest’s Clean Energy Leadership,’ which provides case studies describing how businesses and utilities have started to take advantage of power generated by sun and wind in their operations and power supply. These choices are displacing the emission of millions of tons of global warming annually because their power sources emit no air pollutants, say officials. “This year’s wildly fluctuating energy prices and west coast drought that restricted hydropower production, underscore the vulnerability of our energy supplies,” says report author Patrick Mazza. “At the same time, global warming emissions from traditional energy production are threatening the stability of our climate and Northwest’s mountain snowpack on which hydropower production relies. “Never has it been clearer that we need to diversify and clean up our energy sources, and the Northwest is beginning to do just that, with our wind power boom and innovative efforts to put solar generators on the ground, we are emerging as a national green power leader,” he adds. Some the companies, governments and campaigns highlighted in the report are: – The Washington manufacturing facility of Xantrex is the first factory in North America to operate from 100% renewable energy. The company produces half the world’s inverters, the electronic controls that regulate power flow from solar panels, fuel cells and wind turbines. Its commitment to clean energy will diminish global warming emissions by 1.4 million pounds per year. – Ashland Energy operates the largest solar array in the Northwest, 30 kW at highly visible locations including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It plans to also offer customers a $2 per peak watt rebate for installing solar at their own locations. Similar efforts to pay customers for installing solar and other small-scale power units are also underway at Chelan Public Utility District and Orcas Power & Light. – The Western Solar Utility Network, a non-profit co-operative of 26 public utilities, aids solar installations across the Northwest, including what will be the region’s largest 50 kW station to rise on an abandoned nuclear plant site at Hanford in September. – The municipal utility, Seattle City Light, which is the first in the U.S. to make a commitment to eliminate 100% of its global warming emissions. On top of 100 MW already saved through its nationally recognized efficiency program, SCL will invest in another 100 MW of efficiency and buy 100 MW in new renewable energy for its customers over the next decade. SCL’s customers average 1,100 MW, so efficiency and new renewables are coming to represent a major portion of its power supplies. – The power agency, Bonneville Power Administration, could be selling much as 1,255 MW of wind power by 2003, making it the largest supplier of wind energy in the U.S. This amount of clean energy will eliminate 2.7 megatonnes of global warming emissions every year. In addition, BPA has committed to use 5% clean energy in its own operations and is conducting the world’s first residential pilot program for fuel cells. – The northwest non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation has innovated Green Tags, which allow commercial customers to offset their global warming emissions by supporting addition of renewable energy generators to the grid, even if their own utility offers no green power program. Northwest commercial customers have already purchased BEF Green Tags that account for 5.4 million kWh of clean power annually. BEF’s efforts have amassed a $10-12 million fund for development of new renewables in the Northwest. Businesses and utilities report that while shifting towards greater use of clean energy saves on harmful emissions output, it also makes good economic sense and even presents economic development opportunities as markets for clean energy expand. “Businesses are starting to use green power in order to market themselves as environmentally sensitive and to position their operations as cutting edge,” says Kevin Hagen of Xantrex. “Using green power reflects the integrity of our products as well as our employee’s values and makes our customers feel good about doing business with us.” “We underestimate, the public’s appetite for clean power,” says Dan Porter of the utility Energy Northwest. “People are beginning to understand that using solar or wind power is a reliable and cost-effective alternative, because neither of those sources will ever be diminished. Offering “green energy” gives utilities an economic and political advantage in today’s market.”
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