A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

And, after the ice, back on the bike…

Written February 14th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The blind corner in the dip of the Dave Clark Path had a storm-caused hazard on Sunday afternoon.

The day after our Saturday midnight ice storm, I’m riding the bike through a cold Albany drizzle while waiting for the power to come back on at home. And I’m thinking about what if any conclusions can be drawn.

For one thing, natural gas has kept people from freezing during the night. Let our policy makers remember that when they want to do away with fossil fuels in the next few years.

When the power goes out, it’s a great thing to be able to take a hot shower because you have a gas water heater. It’s even better to be able to heat part of the house with a fireplace burning natural gas, even when its electric fan doesn’t work.

So, the next time you hear about making natural gas more expensive and harder to get because of global warming, remember the February ice storm of 2021.

What else?

Pacific Power & Light used to be conservative in telling you when your power was estimated to be restored. Not this time.

The power went out about 1 a.m. Saturday. The first email notice from PP&L estimated it would be restored by 1 a.m. Sunday. The next estimate was 11 p.m. instead. (Then, after I wrote this, they actually beat that estimate by several hours.)

Looks like the line crews faced far more work or complications than at first it appeared. They have everybody’s thanks for what they do.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, a Wright Tree Service crew was working to cut down the long remaining limb of a red oak overhanging the street, more than 100 feet up, in the 600 block of  Ninth Avenue.

The other arm of this fork had crashed during the storm, taking down power lines and the back end of a  Toyota Prius parked on the street. Another contractor stood by to restore the power lines when the tree guys were through.

All summer long, contractors for the electric utilities go around cutting the limbs of trees above power lines. Judging by all the outages caused by trees or branches falling down after midnight Saturday, that trimming program ought to be stepped up.

And finally, this Sunday afternoon, in some parts of town the whine of chainsaws alternated with the clatter of generators. Some people are pretty well prepared for the kind of rotten weather we just had. (hh)

Part of of a big red oak came down on Ninth: The aftermath on Saturday afternoon.

24 responses to “And, after the ice, back on the bike…”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The ban is coming.

    So plan your conversion to all-electric.

    Add solar panels that will cost about $20,000 for about 22 panels that will produce about 75% of the need for a 2,000 square foot home when the grid is available.

    Add 2 Tesla PowerWall batteries for backup (except HVAC). That will cost you about $25,000. Add a third backup battery plus some extra hardware to enable soft startups if you want to cover HVAC. That’s another $12,000.

    In total, you can get a nice all electric solution for about $55-$60K for an average 3 bdrm/2 bath house. It will keep you going for about a day or two when the grid goes down.

    And there is a nice federal tax credit and your grid bill will be greatly reduced. This brings the payback to about 10-15 years, if the batteries don’t die before the solar panels.

    This probably makes sense for folks with lots of disposable income.

    For the rest of us, buy extra blankets and go without a shower. It’s for the common good.

  2. Ray Kopczynski says:

    It can be a very fine “juggling” act with personnel & equipment: Do you plan for (and expense) for 24/7 events aka the ice storm (and other natural hazards) or do you scale it back somewhat to save costs – and then have to scramble when the more rare occurrence does happen? Tough call some times…

  3. Pat Essensa says:

    Thank you Mr Hering. I really enjoy your articles. You were a great editor. I met you at the greater Albany school district office many years ago when you where working for the newspaper.

  4. George Pugh says:

    I used to resent the tree service companies contracted by the power companies that pruned or trimmed trees under the power lines because they left them in not a “pretty” condition. I have since reconsidered because the trees are still there. They are not totally ugly and we seldom have a power outage that is not related to an automobile accident.
    I’ve appreciated that the Pacific Power has usually allowed themselves plenty of time in there predictions of when power will be be restored. Under promising and seemingly over producing is not a bad public relations policy.
    I can also see how the extent of the damage this ice storm has produced would be difficult to predict. The ice at my place has been gone for a day and a half but the wind just shook another broken limb out of the maple tree.
    I really appreciate the skill and endurance of the line crews that are out there working now.

  5. Teresa says:


  6. Patricia Eich says:

    Kudos to all the power crews and tree service businesses out in this awful weather working to get the power back on to all of us and clear trees from houses and streets. Cold, dangerous conditions. They are greatly appreciated.

  7. thomas earl cordier says:

    We had big limbs come down and I cut them up into camp fire log lengths. Whole pile of
    small diameter limbs for chipper. A pickup w/chipper came by offering help. Looked at job and quoted $450. Having experience my estimate?? < 1 hr. no thanks

  8. Bleeding heart liberal says:

    Be glad that you can enjoy the comforts of home 99.9% of the time. Please don’t minimize the damage caused by global warming. If we don’t start to reverse it, our children and grandchildren will have to suffer the consequences.

    • Al Nyman says:

      Do you base your comments on the weather persons who can’t predict the weather tomorrow with a 100% accuracy or some geek getting federal grants based on showing global warming data.

      • Bob says:

        I base my opinions on science. Science is about understanding how things work. The technology that we all enjoy is based upon science. Technology, the application of science, has made it possible for our species to thrive – resulting in a stressed ecosystem. The earth’s ecosystem is finely tuned with a limited amount of natural resources and space to accommodate more human sprawl. We need to think about how to reverse the damage we have already caused and figure out how to live in balance with the ecosystem.

    • Birdieken says:

      Who’s to say global warming will be the biggest consequence our kids and grandkids will suffer at the hand of decisions made today. You can bet if the next generations of Americans are poorer, less free and ruled by an authoritarian government; global warming will be the least of our worries. I’m sure the communist Chinese will be progressive and woke when their the dominant super power.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        So we all “party like there’s no tomorrow?”

        • Birdieken says:

          Let’s keep the capacity while bringing on new green energy. There is no compromise with the green folks and they could careless of any unintended consequences. I’m willing to concede if those for the green new deal will pay for their plan with their own higher taxes and not just pass the buck.

        • Al Nyman says:

          Funny comment as Democrats love spending money with no thoughts about future generations.

      • Bob says:

        I hear you. Who’s to say there won’t be something much worse than global warming, like an asteroid striking the planet for example. But if there aren’t more serious issues, then why not address the serious problems that our species is causing to the ecosystem that we all live in?

  9. Albany YIMBY says:

    I see a lot of demagogy in this article.

    First of all, natural gas is a by-product of petroleum that was literally burned until the 80s. It obviously produces CO2, but as long as we need gasoline for cars and plastics, better use it than burn it in the oil pump.

    As such, I don’t see natural gas going anywhere soon. To say that advocates of renovable energy want natural gas to suddenly disappear is a blatant straw man.

    The price of solar and wind is getting so low, that mining coal is not profitable anymore as an energy source. Cheap solar panels are ubiquitous and the only thing that prevents its expansion in America is the lack of incentives for home owners to have energy efficient houses, as they average ownership is about 7 years. In that time there is not enough ROI for owners to install solar panels.

    Furthermore, you don’t need to have a battery, you can rely on the grid when you don’t produce enough and selling it to Pacific Power when you produce more than you’re using, usually during summer. Unless you’re the kind of person that needs a generator, having a battery is pretty pointless.

    Also, if we design cities that are more compact and vertical, the energy efficiency skyrockets. It’s not the same heating a house than apartments that usually only have two walls exposed to the outside.If we design cities where people can walk and cycle to places, where they work and shop, the cost of transportation decreases, and our air quality will improve.

    Let’s not forget that pollution kills thousands every year in America, that leaded gasoline hurt kids’ development and increased crime in the 70s and the 80s until it was banned in the 90s.

    What kind of planet do we want or children and grandchildren to inherit? Or will we say: “sorry son, the Willamette Valley is now unlivable, but I was scare of change”.

  10. Jonathan Christie says:

    For Albany YIMBY:
    1. You state “. . . advocates of renewable energy want natural gas to suddenly disappear is a blatant straw man.” How do you respond to cities such as San Jose that recently banned all natural gas in new construction?

    2. You state ” . . .you don’t need to have a battery, you can rely on the grid when you don’t produce enough.” Where exactly is the electricity in “the grid” coming from if renewables are not producing enough?

    A cursory look at Oregon electricity production shows these sources: 48.7% hydroelectric, 33.7% natural gas, 14.1% coal, 10.6% wind, 1.5% biomass, 1.1% solar, and 0.3% geothermal. I suggest Oregon is still reliant on “non-renewables” to a higher degree than most people realize, especially as dam flow is reduced due to drought or environmental concerns.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Good questions.

      I think it will take 50-60 years until new constructions replace most of the house stock in San José and most of American towns, so it is reasonable to phase it out in such a large span.

      The grid needs, obviously to start transitioning to renewables but that’s not going to happen overnight. Hydroelectric is clean although it has a limited lifespan because of sedimentation and impacts in wildlife, for the meantime, it works for me as long as we don’t do new projects as the damage is already done. Natural gas is also an efficient and reliable energy source that can serve us as we add more solar and wind into our grid. I wish we’d also had nuclear too to help us wane from coal and gas.

      Eastern Oregon plateaus are perfect for solar thermal energy. They can get 150 MW or more per plant. The coast has an incredible potential for both inland and off-shore wind power. This, combined with household solar installations could make possible to have more than 50% renewables by 2040. I think it is realistic and it is an investment that will pay off.

  11. Bill Kapaun says:

    Why not mandate that electric/hybrid cars have a solar panel installed as part of their roof?
    It would make them a little bit more self supporting and rely less on FREE charging stations that EVERYBODY has to support through their electric bill.

    It’s simply immoral to demand that people at the poverty level have to support vehicles that they could never afford. It would be a rare occasion that a totally electric car is the only car a household owns. The vast majority are a 2nd or 3rd vehicle. Many poor people can’t even afford ONE “old beater”.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      EV tax breaks and cost of infrastructure (by the way, most of it built by private ventures like Tesla or Electrify America) is a drop on the ocean of fossil fuels subsidies.

      In fact, without them, those poor people that you mention wouldn’t be able to afford gas.



      Why instead don’t we point out the forces that make owning a car and driving a must in America?

      “According to the American Automobile Association, the average cost of owning a Ford Escort—one of the cheapest cars available—is over $6,000 per year. At conventional mortgage rates, that figure translates into more than $60,000 in home-purchasing power. In other words, two cars will pay for a starter home, and a better one than this photograph portrays.
      This is not just a theory. The banks that qualify mortgages are well aware of the burden that cars can present to homeownership. When qualifying a loan, bankers calculate the “back ratio,” which reduces income by the borrower’s existing debt, often primarily automotive. Bankers have been known to tell borrowers to sell their car, which the borrowers do, to a friend, from whom they buy it back upon receipt of the loan. And buy it back they must, since they live in an environment where life without it is impossible. In recognition of the burdens imposed by multiple automobile ownership, there is now even a new type of loan, a “location-efficient mortgage,” that provides special terms to borrowers purchasing housing in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.”

      A. Duany. Suburban Nation. (2010)


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