energy | KUOW News and Information


The Columbia Generating Station outside Richland, Washington, is the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant. Now, the federal government is auditing the plant to make sure it could weather flooding.

Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table

Oct 21, 2016

Starting Monday people will get a chance to weigh-in on a controversial question: Should four dams come down on the lower Snake River? They’re facing renewed scrutiny because of a court-ordered analysis on how the dams are harming salmon.

Last May, a federal judge — for the fifth time — rejected the government’s plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River system. He said agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the dams — including breaching those on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington.

Swan Lake Valley is a patchwork of farm fields and grazing land about 20 minutes from Klamath Falls. The slopes of the surrounding juniper-scattered hills rise sharply from the valley floor, brown against the green of hay and alfalfa below.

A startup company from North Idaho captivated donors and YouTube viewers worldwide a few years ago with its idea for turning roads and parking lots into solar farms. Now that far-out idea is available for public inspection for the first time.

Hydroelectric power may not be a carbon-free energy source after all.

A new study from Washington State University finds that reservoirs behind dams produce more greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought.

Tesoro workers killed in a 2010 refinery explosion are commemorated outside city hall in Everett, Washington.
KUOW Photo / Bond Huberman

A nearly six-year-long legal battle drew to a close Thursday when attorneys made their final arguments on whether Texas oil company Tesoro is responsible for an explosion that killed seven workers at its refinery in Anacortes, Washington, in 2010.

Oregon State University and Stanford University developed an energy conservation program which showed that children’s energy-saving behaviors impact their parents’ own habits.

The program, called Girls Learning Environment and Energy, or GLEE, was tested on 30 Girl Scout troops in Northern California, and the results were positive, not only for the children but also for their entire families.

Researchers found that the energy-saving behavior the Girl Scouts gained continued for more than seven months after the program ended.

Engineers at Oregon State have created a free, open-source computer program that can determine a stream or river’s potential as an energy source. They released the program last Thursday.

OSU’s new software compiles a network of global climate data and calibrates it with local data collected by users to assess a region’s hydropower potential.

Kendra Sharp, a professor of humanitarian engineering at OSU, said giving previously off-the-grid areas power was the main goal of the program.

Oregon lawmakers continued to debate the future of the state's Department of Energy on Monday, when a special legislative panel grilled the leader of that agency against the backdrop of a potential criminal investigation.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will be shut down by 2025. The plan was announced today by the power utility operating the plant, along with labor and environmental groups.

Donald Trump marched through the Republican presidential primary field this year on the strength of a focused message: America used to be great. It isn't anymore. And that's mostly the fault of the Obama administration.

On Thursday, Trump applied that same thesis to American energy production. "America's incredible energy potential remains untapped," he told a North Dakota audience in what was billed as a major policy address. "It's totally self-inflicted. It's a wound, and it's a wound we have to heal."

San Francisco will soon begin requiring new buildings to have solar panels installed on the roof.

It's the first major U.S. city to have such a requirement, according to Scott Weiner, the city supervisor who introduced the bill.

An Oregon start-up that’s trying to use kites to generate electricity has secured close to a quarter of a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies.

Beaverton-based eWind Solutions is working with Oregon State University to develop kites that generate power by flying in a figure ‘8’ pattern. The hope is that will make the kites pull hard on their cords, which are attached to a ground-based ratchet system that spins a power generator.

Is The Future Of Solar Bright In Oregon?

Apr 14, 2016

When the most recent legislative session ended in Oregon, the state’s energy future looked very different than it had just a few months earlier. Lawmakers moved to get Oregon off of coal by 2030. And that means replacing one-third of the state’s power supply in just 14 years.

Renewable energy development will likely benefit – and in particular, Oregon’s new laws are setting up solar as a potential big winner.

Port of Vancouver commissioners are looking for input at a hearing Tuesday about how to move forward with the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal.

The Port wants to hear from the public about how to proceed with a proposed lease amendment from the backers of the Vancouver Energy Project.

The hearing will be held at Clark College. It’s expected to last about 12 hours.

The company behind a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal on Oregon’s southern coast has been busy lining up customers in Asia.

On Friday, the Canadian firm Veresen announced a preliminary purchase agreement with the Japanese trading company ITOCHU. Two weeks earlier, Veresen said it had a similar agreement in place with another Japanese firm, JERA.

Both deals are for 1.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year for 20 years. If finalized, they vouch for half the expected production capacity of the proposed LNG terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Americans throw away about a third of our available food.

But what some see as trash, others are seeing as a business opportunity. A new facility known as the Heartland Biogas Project is taking wasted food from Colorado's most populous areas and turning it into electricity. Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, old pet food and vats of grease combine with helpful bacteria in massive tanks to generate gas.

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

A federal court ordered the U.S. Department of Energy Friday to step up its solutions and timeline to clean up tank waste at Hanford in southeast Washington.

One of the last actions Oregon lawmakers took before adjourning Thursday was passing a landmark clean-energy bill.

The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Bill lays out a timeline for Oregonians to stop paying for electricity from coal-fired power plants through its two largest utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

One of the Northwest’s selling points is its cheap hydropower. That’s why in recent years data centers have sprouted along the Columbia River in both Washington and Oregon.

But in north central Washington, an emerging power-hungry industry is meeting with some resistance. It involves the making and managing of the virtual currency called bitcoin.

Solstice's Joe Santucci says new technologies reduce the need for power-hungry lights. But they aren't totally embracing LEDs.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Marijuana growers in the Northwest are going to use a lot of electricity in the next 20 years, enough to power up to 200,000 homes, according to a recent forecast.

That’s because a lighting module to grow four marijuana plants takes as much energy as 29 refrigerators.

U.S. oil dropped below $30 a barrel during trading Tuesday. That’s the lowest price since December 2003.

The dip in price happened on the same day Washington state held a public hearing about a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

Oil was more than $100 per barrel when the Vancouver Energy Project was first announced back in the summer of 2013.

Still, backers of the oil terminal said the joint venture, between oil company Tesoro Corp. and logistics firm Savage Industries, is insulated from current market conditions.

Oregon Utilities Agree To Phase Out Coal-Fired Power

Jan 6, 2016

Oregon utilities have agreed to support a bill that would phase out coal-fired power in Oregon by 2030.

The agreement follows negotiations with the backers of a proposed ballot measure that set the same target for eliminating coal from the state's electrical supply.

The proposed legislation would only affect Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, which together serve about 70 percent of Oregon's electricity. It also calls for doubling the amount of renewable energy the utilities generate by 2040.

A report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council finds the region can meet nearly all of its energy needs for the next 20 years without building new power plants.

The exceptions may come from the need to replace the power from coal plants that are being retired.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has made clean energy a signature issue of his administration. But some state clean energy grant money is flowing to startup companies staffed by former top state officials.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has set his sights on a clean energy future for the state. Since taking office he’s helped convince the legislature to put $75 million into a Clean Energy Fund.

Activists deliver a petition asking the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

While the world's richest man was meeting with world leaders in Paris at the global climate summit, climate activists marched on his foundation's Seattle headquarters Monday.

Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
Flickr Photo/Ryan Raffa (CC BY SA 2.0)/

Ross Reynolds talks to Emily Parkhurst, an editor for the Puget Sound Business Journal, about the University of Washington's new deal with Tsinghua University in Beijing to study clean energy technology.

An energy company wants to build a transfer terminal in Longview, Washington that could handle liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil, according to documents reviewed Friday by OPB.

The project is an expansion on an already proposed oil refinery for Longview.

The documents were obtained by Columbia River Keeper through a public records request. They describe an “off-load and transfer terminal” at the Port of Longview that could handle up to two unit trains per day.