Water content in California snowpack is only 17 percent of normal according to the California Department of Water Resources’ May 2 release (pdf). This means there will be a below average water supply this summer, which also impacts hydropower production for Western’s Sierra Nevada Region.
The water year, which began in October, started with some positive precipitation for the Central Valley Project. However California’s record-setting “dry” conditions in January, February and March have reduced the hydro conditions outlook for 2013.
See the most recent hydro conditions report for April 2013 (pdf).
The Mira Loma High School Science Bowl team Final Awards Ceremony for tthe 2013 National Science Bowl. Left to right:Dr Pat Dehmer,Acting Director Office of Science, Siddharth Trehan,Jacob Gurey, Saaket Agrawal,Daniel Shen, Coach James Hill. Photo by Dennis Brack, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science
An outstanding team at Mira Loma High School from Sacramento, Calif. earned first place at the Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl completion
, April 30 in Washington, DC. The school’s winning streak reputation has earned them 13 Sierra Nevada Regional Science Bowl first-place titles and three first-place trophies from the national competition.
As a prize for winning the 2013 NSB, the Mira Loma team received a nine-day, all-expense paid science trip to Alaska. While on the trip, the students will take day trips to learn about glaciology, marine and avian biology, geology and plate tectonics.
More than 9,000 high school students on 1,894 teams took part in this year’s competition.
Employees from across Western’s service territory volunteer as judges, timers, runners and announcers at regional Science Bowl competitions.
The Transmission Infrastructure Program Electrical District 5 – Palo Verde Hub project in Arizona’s Pinal and Maricopa counties reached a major
Completion of the 22-mile segment between ED5 and Test Track substations represents nearly half of the new and upgraded line construction needed to complete the project.
construction milestone recently with the completion of 22 miles of new 230-kilovolt transmission lines between ED-5 substation and Test Track substation.
The new segment of transmission line represents half of all new construction and line upgrades required for the project, which will increase transmission capacity to deliver renewable energy, primarily solar, to consumers in Arizona, southern Nevada and southern California.
Construction was completed three weeks ahead of schedule, saving Western and the project proponent money and keeping the project on track for early 2015 energization.
The next step in the project is to expand Test Track substation to accomodate the increased transmission capacity. At the same time, the other half of transmission line upgrades will continue through early 2014.
Insulation is being used to isolate the wire in the air from the equipment on the ground, as part of Phase II of the Lovell-to-Yellowtail transmission line rebuild project, March 26, 2013
Contractors continue rebuilding two 115-kilovolt transmission lines as part of Phase II of the Lovell-to-Yellowtail project. With work in the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area complete in fall 2012, the construction contractor started removing the No. 2 line south of the NRA in Wyoming, March 25, 2013.
Crews have about 10 miles of the No. 2 line down and are working on setting new structures in cultivated fields before irrigation of farm land begins.
While crews work on the No. 2 line, the Lovell-to-Yellowtail No. 1 transmission line continues to deliver power from Yellowtail Dam.
The upgrades to the Lovell-to-Yellowtail transmission lines No. 1 and 2 are needed to replace the original lines built by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1956 and 1966.
You can see more photos of the project’s construction on Flickr.
Many Colorado media outlets are reporting that we are at only 80 percent of snowpack for the water year; but what they are not saying is that we are doing better than last year—and snowpack levels are still rising!
This line chart compares the average seasonal peaks
The last few storms have improved the runoff outlook; meaning as the snow melts, the runoff water fills Colorado’s streams and rivers. This time last year, the peak snowpack accural was over and the runoff was well under way. Current reports from the Colordao Basin River Forecast Center show that we have surpassed last year’s snowpack peak by about 30 percent and we are still climbing with this week’s storms.
This will certainly improve Western’s hydro conditions
forecast for the Rocky Mountain Region. Although our hydro conditions are not back to 100 percent, we hope this year’s total will be improved from last year. Ski resorts may be closing and sad to see that the snow is just now accumulating, but here at Western we are ecstatic and say, “Keep it coming, Mother Nature!”
DOE announced Mark Gabriel as Western’s new Administrator Apr. 3. Welcome to Western, Mark!
While the DOE announcement provides Mark’s curriculum vitae and relevant background, he gave Western employees a little more personal look shortly after the announcement.
In his first few months at Western, Mark says his top tasks will be to get a sense of the organization, get a solid handle on the critical issues we face and work to understand the intricacies of the place. “It is too early for me to set hard goals, and I have a lot to learn from the team at Western, our customers and our partners at DOE. It will be critical for me to develop an understanding and assessment on the financial situation focusing on the unique challenges faced by Western.” He added, “I will also actively reach out to the customers and staff. The relationship with people is how organizations succeed or fail.”
In addition to being an avid outdoorsman, Mark said, “One of my other hobbies is the history of our great electric industry—that is why I included so much of it in my book, Visions for a Sustainable Energy Future. It may sound corny, but I truly believe that it is a privilege and honor to keep this nation’s vital resource and critical infrastructure operating every day.”
On why he applied to be Western’s Administrator, Mark said, “Western’s mission of delivering clean and reliable power to customers while maintaining our nation’s critical infrastructure aligns perfectly with my beliefs and goals. Having worked in this wonderful business for more than 20 years on a number of critical projects and problems, the opportunity to work for an organization so critical to this nation’s economic vitality and health was too hard to pass up.”
If you could ask Mark one question as he approaches his new job, what would it be?
While Western employees work diligently keeping “the lights on”, they also aim high to go home safe each night. Safety is our number one priority and last year employees proved it by earning the American Public Power Association’s Electric Utility Safety Awards of Excellence for safe operating practices in 2012.
Western’s Chief Operating Officer Tony Montoya expressed his appreciation saying, “We are proud of our safety performance. We have a staff of top-class professionals who strive to ensure safe operations in every facet of their work.”
In 2012, Western crews—including electricians, meter and relay craftsmen and linemen—spent more than 2.6 million hours working out in the field. Those 1,700-plus employees had fewer than 22 recordable injuries for an incident rate of 1.6.
The rate is based on work-related recordable injuries or illnesses and the number of hours worked during the year. “The award recognition goes to the employees who work in high risk environments each and every day,” said Western’s Safety Manager Kevin Jensen. “A successful culture of safety means every employee is watching out for their fellow Western brothers’ and sisters’ safety all the time.”
What safety practices do you take pride in?
How much energy costs by state
Do you know which state spends the most money per person on energy?
Spoiler alert! It’s Alaska.
Now, based on Energy Information Administration’s 2009 “State Energy Data System” you can navigate the Department of Energy’s interactive map to see which states spend the most and least money on energy per person.
How much energy states use
DOE also has an interactive map that highlights how much energy each state consumes.
You can see how varied energy costs and consumption are throughout Western’s service territory.
Looking at your state’s energy statistics, what do you think?
Western’s service area is in the heart of our Nation’s renewable energy potential. Nine of the 10 windiest states in the Nation are in our geographic footprint. So it makes sense for Western to partner with the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America initiative to present awards to public-owned utilities and cooperatives for their leadership in promoting wind energy development.
On Feb. 22, East River Electric Cooperative in Madison, S.D., received the Wind Cooperative of the Year Award for generation and transmission cooperatives at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association TechAdvantage Conference in New Orleans.
East River, a Western customer serving eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota, earned the award by creating a model for community-based, locally owned wind development that relied on South Dakota citizens rather than large equity investors.
Also, Western and DOE’s Wind Powering America initiative are currently accepting nominations for the 2013 Public Power Wind Award in partnership with the American Public Power Association. Nominations are due March 25. See the news release for more information.
This is the eleventh year for the Public Power Wind Award and the twelfth for the Wind Cooperative of the Year Award. You can see the year-by-year progression on installed wind capacity in the United States in an animated map on Wind Powering America’s website.
Acting Administrator Anita Decker, left, accepts a safety vest from Maintenance Manager Will Schnyer, Feb. 20, at the RMEL workshop. The vest is signed by all the Western employees who helped restore power in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in late October 2012.
We want 100 percent efficiency and 100 percent reliability at Western; but the one category we always want to see zeros in is accidents and injuries.
Safety is part of the job, planning and culture at Western. From senior and direct managers to office and field workers, employees know how important it is for everyone to go home at the end of the day.
The long days Western crews put in helping with the restoration efforts in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy were no exception. “All together our guys worked more than 18,500 hours in the 10 days we were out there,” said Will Schnyer, a maintenance manager out of Montrose, Colo. “That’s like one person working 40 hours a week for almost 9 years! And our crews did it without a single accident or injury.”
To celebrate the success, all 91 Western employees who responded to the call after Hurricane Sandy signed a safety vest. Schnyer presented the vest to Western’s Acting Administrator Anita Decker at RMEL’s “Electric Utility Emergency Response—Hurricane Sandy and Beyond” workshop, Feb. 20, 2013.
“We appreciate all the support we received while we went to restore the power system in New Jersey,” said Schnyer. “Our success is really marked by our safe working record. We are really proud of that record and of our team.”
“I’m honored to be recognized by the Hurricane Sandy responders,” said Decker, “but I’m truly most proud of what it represents in regard to the collective safety of each and every person involved.”
How do you recognize your employees’ safety efforts or achievements?