Blog ending–Visit us on Flickr, YouTube

At Western we’re always looking for ways to increase dialogue with our customers and the public. In 2012, we launched a YouTube channel and Flickr account and have found them to be more convenient ways to share our story with you. So follow us on those sites, where you can see Western in action.

What you’ll find:

This will be our last post to Western’s Connections blog. The site will remain available as an archive. We hope to see you on our website, Flickr and YouTube.

Employees volunteer, cheer for students, science

When you work in an administrative capacity or for a support function at Western, you can feel quite removed from the technical side of the business, quite removed from Energy, quite removed from Science. At least, that’s how I sometimes feel working in Public Affairs.

Members of the winning Helena A Team, Katie Chamberlain, Thomas Culver, Mark Sargent and Joe Whitney, ponder a question on their way to winning the Big Sky Regional Science Bowl Feb. 2, 2013.

But every year, Western employees, regardless of their position have a chance to get just a little bit closer to the science of it all, through volunteering at one of six regional Science Bowls, hosted by Western’s regional offices.

Employees from across Western’s service territory volunteer as judges, timers, runners and announcers. In an enthusiatic email to employees at our Corporate Services Office, Colorado River Storage Project Management Center Manager Lynn Jeka shared, “I have served as a volunteer scorekeeper for the Southern Colorado area [Department of Energy] High School Science Bowl…since joining DOE in 1996. It never ceases to amaze me how extremely bright and talented these high school students are.”

She went on to encourage other employees to volunteer and joked about how intimidating the rapid-fire science and math questions could be.

On Feb. 2 Helena High School took first place for the third year in a row, beating 27 other teams, at the Big Sky Regional Science Bowl in Montana while Ridgeview Classicals Schools Team 1 from Fort Collins, Colo., won the Rocky Mountain Science Bowl, beating 22 teams from Colorado and Nebraska. Both winners will advance to the National Science Bowl in Washington D.C., April 25-29.

Western will sponsor two more regional science bowls in February and two more in March. Stay tuned to read about the winners.

How well do you think you’d fare answering questions about biology, chemistry, earth science, space science, math and physics?

Utility partners with high schools for science education

Wheatland Rural Electric Association took advantage of Western’s Equipment Loan Program to help science classes at Wheatland, Chugwater and Glendo high schools in Platte County, Colo.

The program offers Western customers technical equipment through loan agreements. Educational displays are among the most requested items in the program. Utilities set them up at customer meetings, classrooms and community events to open up conversations with their ratepayers.

Wheatland REA Member Services Manager Al Teel was enthusiastic about the capability and usefulness of weather stations, which measure wind speed, solar index, ultraviolet levels, precipitation, soil temperature and moisture content.

For residents in a largely agricultural economy, that information is relevant to their daily lives, Teel observed. “It’s more than a science project—students will be collecting data that has real value to the three communities,” he said.

To learn what students measured and how the information will be used, read the full story.

Western conducted grid reliability webinar

Western Area Power Administration conducted a Grid Reliability—Impacts to Tribal Renewable Projects webinar in partnership with the U.S. DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and DOE Tribal Energy Program July 25.

About 55 Tribal members and interested parties participated in the webinar with 112 registering for the event. Western’s Reliability Compliance Program Manager was the featured speaker, covering topics such as key definitions, reliability organizations, oversight process, standards and enforcement among other reliability considerations. 

Western’s Renewable Resource Program Manager Randy Manion shared, “This webinar was the eighth in the Fiscal Year 2012 Tribal Webinar series coordinated by Western. Laurent Weber, Western’s Reliability Compliance Program manager, did a masterful job explaining complex issues.”

The webinar series is giving Western transmission and power marketing experts a platform to share their incredible knowledge and expertise with Tribal representatives, renewable energy developers and other important stakeholders.

Government initiatives support tribal access to energy advancements

Over the last week, the Federal government took multiple steps to bring energy advancements to tribal lands.

  1. Department of Interior Secretary Salazar approved a 350-megawatt solar energy project on the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Nevada on July 21. This project is the first-ever of its kind, being the only utility-scale development on tribal lands. The project supports President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to energy and builds on the Administration’s efforts to advance renewable energy on America’s public lands. This innovative project is another step toward developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands with the hope of strengthening Native American economies.
  2. The Department of Energy announced Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team selections for six tribes in the lower 48 states to receive on-the-ground technical support for community-based energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The START program provides both tribal communities and Alaska native villages with technical assistance to accelerate clean energy project development, advance energy self-sufficiency and create jobs.
  3. DOE recently launched an online resource library focused on energy topics relevant to tribal communities. The library lists links to more than 85 publications, websites and other resources about energy project development and financing in Indian Country. Topics include project checklists, technology, tribal case studies and strategic energy planning.
  4. Lastly, DOE announced the appointment of three additional tribal members for its Indian Country Energy and Infrastructure Working Group. The new tribal team members are the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Crow Tribe of Montana and Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska. Established in 2011, the group is made up of geographically diverse Native American energy leaders who discuss issues affecting tribal energy development. Members have broken ground by meeting with key energy sector players to share best practices and discuss emerging markets and opportunities for innovative partnerships.

DOE announces initiative to transform Nation’s electric sector

Department of Energy Secretary Steve Chu released a memo, March 16, outlining a plan to ensure that the Nation’s four Power Marketing Administrations can assume an increased leadership role in modernizing the grid to meet 21st century needs.

More information about the PMA’s new strategies can be found on DOE’s blog.

We at Western are encouraged by DOE’s plans and support the department’s objectives. We are looking forward to the initiative and the new ways it will allow us to achieve our mission.

California releases results from snowpack survey

The California Department of Water Resources announced the results from the third of five surveys confirming the impacts associated with the continuing dry winter conditions.

Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 26 percent of the expected April 1 normal and continued to remain significantly below normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 28 percent of April 1 normal for the northern Sierras, 26 percent of the April 1 normal for the central Sierras, and 33 percent of the April 1 normal for the southern Sierras.

During normal water conditions, January and Feb. are usually wet. However, the dearth of winter storms has caused state and Federal water managers to announce that projected water deliveries for the upcoming water year will be substantially below normal contract maximums. Although March affords an opportunity for chance for more precipitation, both the state and Federal water projects have announced reduced deliveries for the upcoming water year.

The reduced water deliveries are expected to result in reduced hydropower generation output for the Central Valley and State Water Projects. The impact of reduced water deliveries are, however, somewhat mitigated by last year’s above-normal precipitation which resulted in higher-than- average starting reservoir storage levels.

Western Administrator speaks at local Tribal Leader Forum

Western Area Power Administrator Tim Meeks spoke in Denver, Colo., Feb. 7, at the Tribal Leader Forum “Exploring the Business Link Opportunity: Transmission and Clean Energy Development in the West.”

The forum, sponsored by the Department of Energy and the second in a series of events, provided an opportunity for tribal leaders to interact with industry and Federal leaders, get information about transmission development in the West and learn about the latest trends in financing clean energy projects.

Meeks focused his remarks on transmission expansion in the West and its impact on tribal land and shared, “When you look at our service area, we’re neighbors. We need this partnership, and we need to continue to work together.”

See the news release for more information.

STRIPES to streamline procurement process

Todd Tetrault completes the first production purchase via STRIPES

Senior Contracting Officer Todd Tetrault completes the first production purchase via STRIPES, verifying web service connection between STRIPES and BIDDS.

A new procurement management system for Western had been in the works since 2008, but on Feb. 1 became a reality when the Strategic Integrated Procurement Enterprise System was implemented throughout Western. STRIPES is a procurement and contract management program, chosen by the Department of Energy to be used agencywide as part of the electronic government initiative. Its implementation reduces the number of procurement-related systems used across DOE and streamlines many aspects of the procurement process.

Read the full story on Western’s website.

Line crew learns how to save lives with helicopter

Western’s Desert Southwest helicopter line maintenance crew conducted tower rescue training Oct. 18 – 19 and again Nov. 3 to learn how to rescue an injured or endangered lineman on a tower using helicopter-assisted short haul procedures.

 

Short haul is relatively new technique for the U.S. that has been used for decades in Europe.  Equipment and people are carried to and from towers dangled under a helicopter by a 50 to 100 foot line.

 

DSW is exploring how the technique could be used on their lines to improve safety, increase productivity and decrease the time and physical burden of climbing up and down several towers a day to conduct routine maintenance.

 

The initial training took two days: one in the classroom and another on an out-of-service line near Phoenix where linemen and pilots practiced saving “Rescue Randy,” the DSW maintenance dummy. The Nov. 3 hands-on training ensured the crew retained the knowledge they learned.

 

“In a remote setting, if we were to have an emergency, the new rescue techniques affords us the ability to perform a short-haul rescue and get the victim to urgent care a lot quicker and safely,” said Foreman II Richard “Bo” Mortensen.

 

For more information, visit Western’s Newsroom.