Snohomish County PUD gained vital support this week for geothermal and tidal energy projects as President Obama signed a spending bill that will provide $951,500 in funding for research and development of these renewable energy sources in Western Washington. The tidal energy project was backed by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), while Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) helped secure funding for geothermal energy research. Each project will receive $475,750. The funding comes as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, approved by the U.S. Senate this week.
The development and ongoing operation of these renewable energy projects, supported by the federal funding, could result in hundreds of construction and permanent operations and maintenance jobs in the Pacific Northwest.
“Snohomish PUD’s work to generate power from Puget Sound tides has already made this region a leader in clean electricity generation,” said Rep. Jay Inslee. “Geothermal and marine renewable energy both have great potential for clean energy production and job creation in Washington State. I’m proud to support this new geothermal study, as it will help further diversify our regional clean energy supplies, while spurring the economy and benefiting local ratepayers.”
“It's more important than ever that we explore ways to harness renewable energy sources,” said Senator Murray. “I’m excited by the possibilities of tidal energy generation and its potential benefits to customers across Snohomish County. I'm also pleased that Snohomish PUD is using this funding to go about exploring this technology in the right way – by being good stewards of the Puget Sound.”
The PUD’s increasing focus on renewable energy sources is driven by its commitment to reducing climate change, promoting greater energy independence and encouraging local renewable energy generation.
“We applaud the efforts of Rep. Inslee and Sen. Murray in bringing critical support to our region for these green, locally-generated resources,” said Snohomish County PUD General Manager Steve Klein. “As our region continues to grow, we remain committed to meeting customer needs through a diverse mix of renewable technologies and an aggressive set of conservation initiatives. This funding also will help provide long-term economic and environmental benefits to the citizens of the Northwest.”
The PUD is studying five tidal energy sites in the Puget Sound, which, if developed, could produce enough energy for up to 70,000 homes. The utility launched a multi-year study in 2007 to assess the technical, economic and environmental viability of the underwater sites. It plans to install a pilot project in the sound as early as 2011. The utility is working with several technical partners, including the University of Washington and the Electric Power Research Institute. In 2008, the utility received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support the tidal energy effort.
The PUD has completed an initial assessment of geothermal resources in Western Washington, and is currently developing the next phases of its exploration and development plan. Geothermal energy holds considerable promise as a significant resource for future energy supplies in the Northwest. If developed it could provide enough energy for nearly 65,000 homes by 2020. Geothermal energy is a well-understood technology that’s consistent, predictable and a major energy source in other parts of the world. Both geothermal and tidal development are projected to result in hundreds of additional green jobs in the Pacific Northwest in the coming years.
Geothermal energy produces energy by capturing the heat from the Earth – in the form of hot water or steam – and extracts it to drive a turbine and generate electricity. It’s a power source that’s clean, safe, has the potential to be generated locally and carries minimal environmental impacts.
The PUD is actively pursuing the development of geothermal and tidal energy and other resources as part of its effort to meet growing energy needs through conservation and renewable energy. Initiative 937, passed by voters in fall 2006, also requires utilities to obtain a greater share of their energy supply from green renewable sources in the coming years (15% of their supply by 2020).