TransWest Express, Western leadership tour site in Wyoming

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Attorney John Kral, forefront, Administrator Mark Gabriel and Attorney John Bremer listen to TransWest Express CEO Bill Miller explain the siting for the northern terminal of the TWE Project (Photo by: Bill Boyd, TransWest Chief Operating Officer)

TransWest Express LLC Chief Executive Officer Bill Miller took a few Western employees to visit the site of the northern terminal for the proposed TransWest Express Transmission Project near Sinclair, Wyo.,  Aug. 6. The proposed TWE Project would create a path to bring more renewable energy produced in Wyoming to the market in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program is providing up to $25 million to complete the development phase of the TWE Project. Western will decide whether to participate in the construction phase of the project after the environmental analysis is complete. The team also discussed a wind farm proposed in the area by affiliate company Power Company of Wyoming LLC.

Colorado-Big Thompson agreement: Protecting water from fire risk

[COLORADO-A-0033] Big Thompson Dam (Dille Diversion Dam)

Big Thompson Dam (Source: waterarchives.org)

The Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced July 19 a federal, local and private partnership that will reduce the risks of wildfire to America’s water supply in western states.

To support the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, the Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation will kick off the new partnership through a pilot in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado. The partnership will include the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Colorado State Forest Service and builds off of past agreements between the Forest Service and municipal water suppliers, such as Denver Water’s Forest to Faucets partnership.

Western’s Administrator Mark Gabriel and several other employees attended the event as the Colorado-Big Thompson is a trans-mountain diversion river system from which hydropower is generated and marketed.

Read USDA’s press release on their website.

Marking our lines – ‘Send in the chopper’

The South Dakota Capital Journal published a photo and video today, July 10, showing contractors working from a helicopter to replace line indicators (balls) on a  stretch of Western’s transmission line in the local area.

The indicators warn low-flying aircraft that the line is there.

Contractor works on a transmission line from a helicopter

Contractor adds line indicators to a transmission line in South Dakota from a helicopter. (Photo/video by Capital Journal)

Record-setting dry spell impacts California hydropower

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).

Lovell-to-Yellowtail transmission line rebuild Phase 2 update

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.

How much energy do you use? What’s it cost?

color-coded map of U.S. showing energy costs

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.

color-coded map of U.S. showing energy consumption

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?

When ‘zero’ is the best you can do!

Two people hold a framed safety vest

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?

Construction work starts on ED5-PVH Project

3 employees work in a trench on substation footer

Employees with Tri-Technic Inc. prepare footer for an ED-5 Substation retaining wall, Feb. 11, 2013.

Construction work started on a project that will connect renewable energy south of Phoenix, Ariz., to a major trading hub. This is the first major construction step for the Electrical District No. 5 – Palo Verde Hub Project.

“It’s great to see that construction work has started on this important project,” said ED5-PVH Project Manager Todd Rhoades. “Hurricane Sandy and the recent northeast blackouts really highlight how important our energy infrastructure is to our everyday lives. This project is an investment in improving our system in the desert southwest area.”

Western awarded the construction contracts in fall 2012. These projects are being funded through Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program.

What benefits do you see from projects like ED5-PVH in support of the utility industry?

Rim Rock Wind Farm achieves commercial operation

A wind turbine

A Rim Rock Turbine generates energy in Montana. (Photo by NaturEner)

Western’s Connections blog first shared that the Rim Rock Wind Farm’s planned to interconnect through the Montana Alberta Tie Limited transmission line (a project supported through Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program) in a post last Jan. 10, 2012. Even though Western’s involvement with MATL was completed last fall, the wind farm announced another milestone yesterday.

NaturEner publicized Jan. 10 that the commercial operations of its Rim Rock Wind Farm near Kevin, Mont., started Dec. 28, 2012. Read more »

California: Interested in how hydropower costs are calculated for the Central Valley?

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region announced Jan. 9 that it will hold a public workshop on the assumptions, modeling and methodology for determining hydropower benefits of the ongoing Cost Allocation Study for the Central Valley Project.

The workshop will be held:

Friday, Jan. 18
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Federal Building, 2800 Cottage Way
Cafeteria Conference Rooms C1001-C1002
Sacramento, CA  95825

If you’re interested in the methodology and model that will be used during the study, this meeting will be your opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. You can also find out more about the Central Valley Project Cost Allocation Study on Reclamation’s website.