Western’s website is in need of usability testing so that we can “tweak” our website to meet customer needs.
As a Federal agency, every dollar counts and saving visitors time online finding what they need is the primary mission for our web team. See our video on Challenge.gov seeking assistance from GSA staff asking for their help reviewing our website.
It’s a challenge so popularity is the game and we need more votes before 9 p.m., Eastern time today!
If we win the contest, you—our customer—are guaranteed to see some improvements on our website!
How you can help
Watch our video on Challenge.gov and vote for us. You’ll have to sign up for a Challenge.gov account, but it will only take a few minutes.
Wish us luck!
Two Western employees participated in the Bureau of Land Management Solar Workshop in Las Vegas Nevada March 6-8, 2012. BLM put on the workshop to provide information to Bureau of Indian Affairs on developing solar projects on Federal lands.
These workshops include reviews of BLM environmental impact studies, BLM solar zones, and panels on lessons learned and project sponsor challenges.
Western Operations Support Specialist John Steward provided an overview of transmission development processes with a focus on solar projects. “It was a great experience to speak at a workshop that provided me the opportunity to educate others on Western’s role as a transmission service provider and a facilitator for interconnections,” said Steward.
Transmission Infrastructure Program Senior Investment Officer Roman Fontes also participated in the BLM workshop. He served on a development panel with other Federal agencies and commercial developers discussing the standards and selection process used to screen projects for viability. “BLM solar workshops are an important forum for exchanging information with BLM, BIA, NREL and industry partners on key development tasks to realize solar projects,” said Fontes. “The panel discussed challenges and lessons learned for commercial developers and including commercial aspects of Purchase Power Agreements and Transmission Service Agreements, and bank and finance requirements.”
Fontes also conducted a follow up session with BIA participants on commercial and finance structures, negotiations and lease and lease-back arrangements.
The Department of Energy announced its next round of tribal energy development projects, Feb. 16. Of the 19 clean energy projects chosen to receive more than $6.5 million, 10 involve Western tribal customers.
These DOE-selected projects will allow Native American tribes to advance clean energy within their communities by assessing local energy resources, developing renewable energy projects and deploying clean energy technologies. These projects will help tribal communities across the country save money and create new job and business opportunities.
The projects selected for negotiation of award fall into three areas:
- Feasibility studies – Thirteen projects will receive $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands to generate utility-scale power or installing renewable energy systems to reduce energy use by 30 percent.For example, Western customer White Earth Reservation Tribal Council would use the funding to look at deploying a biogas/biomass-fired combined heat and power facility to generate 2.7 megawatts of electricity for tribal buildings, as well as for space and domestic water heating.
- Renewable energy development – Four projects, including Western customer Jemez Pueblo’s project, will receive $1.7 million for pre-construction development activities. Jemez Pueblo plans to use the funding to complete all remaining solar development activities for a 4-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility, which includes acquiring a power purchase agreement, completing site-related project requirements, such as site surveys and lease approval, and finalizing project financing.
- Installation– Two projects will receive $1.3 million to deploy renewable energy technologies to convert waste and other biomass to energy. One of the two is another Jemez Pueblo project, where the tribe would install a cordwood-fired biomass energy system using locally available wood to heat the tribe’s visitor center. Once installed, the system will provide up to 90 percent of the facility’s heating needs.
See the DOE press release, the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the project descriptions.
Webinars provide opportunities
DOE and Western have taken a number of steps to support tribal energy development and empower tribal leaders to make informed decisions that promote community economic development.
Western has already held its fourth webinar in partnership with the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and the DOE Tribal Energy Program to promote tribal energy sufficiency. The next event will be March 28 where participants will learn more about interconnection and transmission service queues.
Western’s Rocky Mountain Region Manager Brad Warren presented Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s CEO Ken Anderson an Administrator’s award in recognition of Tri-State’s exceptional energy efficiency and renewable energy contributions.
Tri-State earned this peer-recognition award for going above the standards to engage the public in its Integrated Resource Plan process.
“Tri-State went the extra mile to involve stakeholders, and that was a tremendous effort to undertake,” said Warren.
See the news release for more information.
Renewable Energy Systems Americas employees continue work on the MATL line Jan. 12 near Sweetgrass, Mont. (Photo courtesy of Enbridge)
Taking another step toward bringing renewable energy to market, this month contractors got back to work on the Montana Alberta Tie Limited project.
After receiving a notice to proceed on construction Jan. 10, Renewable Energy Systems Americas employees, hired by Enbridge, got boots on the ground quickly and began remediation work on some existing structures and line near Sweetgrass, Mont.
With 60 percent of the transmission line and substations already completed, Enbridge and RES are continuing to make progress on the line north of Marias River.
Funded partially through Western Area Power Administration’s Transmission Infrastructure Program, Enbridge expects to complete the 214-mile, 230-kilovolt line in 2012.
“Enbridge is committed to quality construction of the line and timely completion of the project,” said Vi Michaelis, Western’s project manager for MATL. “We are very encouraged by the construction restart.”
Once completed, MATL will interconnect the 189-megawatt Rim Rock wind power project, which announced its notice to proceed on construction Jan. 9.
On Jan. 9, NaturEner announced its plans to construct the Rim Rock wind power project, which will bring 189 megawatts of renewable energy online through the Montana Alberta Tie Limited project.
NaturEner secured a $320 million construction loan with Morgan Stanley Jan. 9, putting the project on track to be commercially operational by the end of 2012. With the MATL line expected to be placed into service in 2012, Rim Rock will have the transmission access it needs to deliver renewable energy.
“The strong financial backing of the U.S. Department of Energy, carried out through Western, has enabled MATL which, together with incentives such as the Production Tax Credit, has allowed Rim Rock to proceed,” added Jose M Sanchez-Seara, CEO of NaturEner. “We greatly appreciate the U.S. Government’s support for renewable energy generation and the transmission lines that allow them to deliver the energy to markets across North America.”
Rim Rock is a 189-MW wind farm project located in Glacier and Toole Counties, Mont., that will consist of 126 Acciona AW-77 1.5 MW turbines. The project area encompasses about 21,000 acres of private land. The project is expected to generate enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes and will offset more than 389,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Western has a long history of serving and working with customers, including on its power marketing plans. In our Upper Great Plains Region, we’ve followed our current marketing plan since 1985, providing power to firm electric service customers throughout the six-state marketing area. But with the current marketing plan set to expire in nine years, Western’s UGP office took a look at how to market long-term firm hydroelectric resources beyond 2020.
In sum, the 2021 power marketing initiative, finalized Nov. 16 and effective Dec. 16, extended the current Marketing Plan, with amendments to two key marketing plan principles:
- Lengthening contract term to 30 years. A 30-year contract term provides firm electric service customers greater resource certainty and cost control compared to the current 20-year contract term. In general, a 30-year contract term strikes a balance between customers’ need for stability in resource planning and cost control and Western’s need for flexibility.
- Providing 1-percent resource pools every 10 years. The 2021 PMI will provide for resource pools of up to one percent of the marketable resource under contract at the time for eligible new preference entities beginning Jan. 1, 2021 and again every 10 years, specifically in January 2031 and 2041. The resource pools allow Western to market allocations of firm power to eligible new preference entities, while promoting the most widespread use concept under Federal Reclamation Law.
The 2021 PMI action maintains allocations of the finite hydropower resources at existing allocation levels (reduced by up to one percent for each new resource pool in 2021, 2031 and 2041) for all firm power customers. The PMI was informally discussed with firm power customers last November, then a formal public process was initiated March 4 with the release of the proposed initiative. Western extended the comment period on the initiative to Sept. 6 in response to public comment and request. Read all of Western’s responses to comments received in the Nov. 16, 2011 Federal Register notice (pdf).
With the power marketing initiative complete, Western intends to begin developing firm electric service contracts with customers for service beyond 2020.
Western is involved with many transmission projects throughout its 15-state territory. To ensure reliable service the system often needs upgrades, additions or other modifications. So in addition to maintenance of Western’s existing infrastructure, the agency often is involved with supporting or leading proposed construction projects to keep the bulk electrical system running smoothly.
You can learn more about several construction projects Western is currently involved in on our “Infrastructure projects” webpage.
As you click through the proposed upgrades, you will see Western’s strong commitment to complying with the National Environmental Protection Act. For nearly all projects, we conduct environmental studies to determine the impact these infrastructure projects will have on the area’s land, habitat, water, endangered and protected species and cultural and historical resources.
From our website you can see the proposed projects and construction planned for your local area to ensure the lights stay on in your home or business.
Twenty-three fellows participating in the Hydro Research Foundation Program take an inside look at power system operations at Western’s Sierra Nevada office in Folsom, Calif.
Understanding how water held behind large dams is converted to usable electricity for homes and business can be explained in many ways, but seeing the process in action can make all the difference.
Twenty-three students under the Hydro Research Foundation’s Fellowship program did just that July 18. As part of their week-long Hydro Vision International conference focused on “Clean Energy,” these fellows took a tour of Western Area Power Administration’s Sierra Nevada power dispatch center in California, as well as Bureau of Reclamation’s Folsom Dam and Reservoir. Employees from both agencies briefed participants on water, hydropower and power system and transmission operations.
Hydro Research Foundation Program Director Deborah Linke, a former Western employee, led the tour. Linke said, “The fellows are really neat—they’re bright, full of energy and have lots of good ideas.”
Hydro Research Foundation’s Fellows program, funded by a $3 million Department of Energy grant, encourages participants to seek advanced knowledge about hydroelectric technology, including ways to make it more efficient and limit the environmental impacts.
Learn more about hydropower
While not everyone has the time and energy to tour facilities to understand how hydropower works, reading about how it’s created and gets to your home can be very helpful. Western’s Harnessing Hydropower brochure (pdf) offers an overview of how generating agencies—like the Bureau of Reclamation—capture the energy of this natural resource that Western then markets to your local towns, cooperatives, public utilities and others that continue to power your computers, appliances and lights in your home or business.
(Note: Submitted to DOE’s blog by Western’s Renewable Energy Program Manager Randy Manion.)
With their successful and creative use of wind power, Texas’ CPS Energy and Denton Municipal Electric beat out 15 other nominees to win the 2011 Public Power Award on June 21, reported the Department of Energy’s blog.
The two energy providers won for their outstanding contributions in the industry, specifically:
CPS Energy, based in San Antonio, Texas, provides 10 percent of its total energy through its voluntary Windtricity program—and expects to increase this to 20 percent by 2020.
Denton Municipal Electric of Denton, Texas, purchased enough wind power—539,000 MWh—from the Wolf Ridge Wind Farm last fiscal year to power about 49,450 homes. In just one year, Denton’s purchase has reduced air pollution by preventing the release of 424,128 tons of carbon dioxide, 206 tons of nitrogen oxide and 1,257 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions.
The annual Public Power Award, sponsored by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Wind Powering America initiative and the American Public Power Association, recognizes public power utility companies at the forefront of developing America’s vast wind resources and providing affordable electricity to customers. The program is managed by Western’s Renewable Energy Program.