From ethanol, to wind, to natural gas – Kilsdonk knows them all

Since its inception in 1975, Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council has approved or granted an exemption to 47 large energy facilities in the state. That averages out to about one per year.

So what happens after these projects are approved by the Council? That’s where Duane Kilsdonk comes in; he’s the Compliance Officer in the Siting Division at the Oregon Department of Energy.

Each year since 2010, Kilsdonk has crisscrossed Oregon’s highways and byways and gravel roads – inspecting these energy facilities before, during, and after construction. Each facility has its own unique characteristics, and it is up to Kilsdonk to make sure the conditions of approval set forth by the Council for the facility to operate are followed.

The most interesting part of his job is also the most difficult. “You’ve got to be up to date on information about what the plant is; you’ve got to be versatile,” said Kilsdonk. “There is so much diversity amongst these projects. From Trojan, to the nuclear research reactors, to wind farms and natural gas plants – there’s just a lot to know.”

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The owners of these facilities – whether it is an ethanol production plant, transmission line, wind farm, underground natural gas pipeline, or the decommissioned Trojan nuclear site – have regular reporting requirements that must be evaluated. Reports cover topics such as wildlife monitoring and mitigation, revegetation, and habitat mitigation.

Facility owners are also required to provide annual reports to Kilsdonk by the end of April, notification of certain incidents within 72 hours, and regular updates on financial assurance. The latter requirement sets aside adequate funds to retire a facility so that Oregon’s landscape isn’t littered with unused, unsafe, and unsightly structures.

All of this work keeps Kilsdonk busy. He typically hits the road to see four of these sites per month. Before each visit, he must review each facility’s site certificate and any facility amendments. Take Mist, for instance, the underground natural gas storage facility in Columbia County that earned EFSC approval in 1981.

“Mist now has 11 amendments,” said Kilsdonk of the facility owned by Northwest Natural. “There is a lot of historical information to digest. That’s the best part of the job, seeing the latest and greatest of all these technologies.

“Now we’re on the edge of having a few proposed solar projects coming into our Siting process. Wow, an exciting time to be working in such a changing field.”

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