Wind generates awards

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.

Helping Federal agencies in their quest to get “green”

To help our Nation meet its environmental targets for renewable energy generation the U.S. Department of Energy, Western Area Power Administration and Federal Energy Management Program announced Feb. 14 the 2013 renewable energy certificate (REC) solicitations to Federal agencies interested in meeting their renewable energy goals and mandates, improving the environment and supporting national energy security.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, RECs represent the environmental aspects of energy generated by renewable resources such as solar, wind, biomass or landfill gas, physically delivered into the electric grid.

For more information and to participant in this solicitation, download and complete the Statement of Intent for Federal Agencies to Purchase Renewable Resources

On March 14, 2013 at 11 a.m. MST, the partnering agencies are hosting a 45-minute webinar covering the key requirements and steps associated with this REC purchase. Register for this event at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/436724072.

In a battle of knowledge, students excel to national competition

Putting science and mathematics to the test, high- and middle-school students spend late winter and early spring competing at regional competitions for top honors at the Department of Energy National Science Bowl at the end of April  in Washington, D.C. 

Throughout Western’s territory, our employees sponsor and volunteer for the regional Science Bowls in hopes that one of our local high school and middle school teams takes the top honors at the national level. Western employees volunteer as judges, timers, runners and announcers.

Starting Feb. 2 with the Big Sky Regional Science Bowl in Billings, Mont., and Rocky Mountain RSB in Ft. Collins, Colo., Western participates in six regional bowls.  The Arizona RSB is scheduled for March 2 in Glendale, Ariz. Still to be schedule are the Sacramento, North Dakota and South Dakota RSBs.

Southline environmental analysis moves forward

Environmental review and analysis of transmission line projects is an iterative process. A project is proposed; the proposal is reviewed; alternatives are developed; comments are solicited and considered; revisions are made. Then the process repeats.

The Southline Transmission Line Project  provides a great example. The Bureau of Land Management New Mexico  and Western  are co-lead agencies preparing the environmental impact statement for the project. The BLM recently completed meetings with Federal, state and county agencies as part of the process of developing alternatives for the project.

These meetings were an opportunity for the agencies to review the preliminary alternative routes being considered by the BLM and Western for the project and identify concerns and issues with any of the alternative routes. Input from the agencies will be included in the final alternatives development report and keeps the environmental analysis moving forward on schedule.

The BLM and Western expect to complete a draft EIS later this year. That’s when the public will have a chance to review and comment on the draft EIS. Those comments will then be considered as the agencies develop a final EIS.

Have you ever wanted to know more about the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, process and how Federal agencies analyze projects? Here’s a chart that shows the steps in the process. You can also learn more in the NEPA section of the Department of Energy’s website.

Substation to add reliability, better service to grid

South of Parker Dam near Parker, Ariz., sits the beginning phase of a new switchyard, just north of the  existing 161 kV tap.

With the lines shoo flied around the new site, construction began with grading the site, erecting the perimeter fence and placing the foundation for equipment and the new control building.

Completing this switchyard will convert the existing 161-kV tap to a more reliable configuration that will provide better service to both Western and its customers.  Using pre-payment funding the substation is expected to be completed and energized by December 2013.

T-line construction continues even in winter

When you think of Wyoming and Montana in the winter, you might think “cold”—cold enough that you wouldn’t want to be outdoors working on the construction of a transmission line. But that’s exactly what Western crews will be doing this winter.

Western contractor operating the hydraulic press, right, with another crew member as his assistant to perform dead-ending operations as part of Phase 1 of the Lovell-to-Yellowtail transmission line rebuild project.

Western contractor operating the hydraulic press, right, with another crew member as his assistant to perform dead-ending operations as part of Phase 1 of the Lovell-to-Yellowtail transmission line rebuild project.

Crews recently wrapped up rebuilding the Lovell-to Yellowtail No. 1 and No. 2 115-kilovolt transmission lines in the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area in Wyoming and Montana. They expect to begin reclamation of unneeded access roads soon. In Feb. 2013, they will begin rebuilding the sections of the lines north and south of the NRA.

The Lovell-to-Yellowtail transmission lines are located between Lovell, Wyo., and Yellowtail Dam, Mont., and help provide the reliable transmission of Yellowtail Dam’s generation.

You can see more photos of Phase 1 construction on Flickr.

High-flow experiment at Glen Canyon Dam to protect Grand Canyon

Not since 2008 has the Glen Canyon had a high-flow release of water, but on Monday Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar along with Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor were at Glen Canyon to see it happen. Western staff was also present to witness the long-awaited event of the Glen Canyon Dam bypass tubes being opened to initiate the High Flow Experimental release. “The experiment went well thanks to the coordination efforts between DOI and Western,” said Acting Colorado River Storage Project Manger Darren Buck.

On Nov. 19 the Glen Canyon Dam bypass tubes were opened to initiate the High-Flow Experiment.

On Nov. 19 the Glen Canyon Dam bypass tubes were opened to initiate the High-Flow Experiment.

The experiment, scheduled through 2020, allows for more frequent HFE releases to happen when the right conditions exist. This will determine the effectiveness of multiple HFE releases in rebuilding and conserving sandbars, beaches and associated backwater habitats of the Grand Canyon that have been lost or depleted since the dam’s construction and operation.

For more information about the HFE, see the DOI news release or visit Reclamation’s website.

Also, check out our videos and photos of the event on YouTube and Flikr.

Watts Up is a first place cow

Western’s Upper Great Plains Region gets in the spirit in their local community and wins top honors. Participating in the 19th annual Great

Scarecrow contest winner, Watts Up - a cow created from farm equipment

Lisa Wolf (l) and Jack Winter (r) win the humorous award for Western's Huron employees' association

Scarecrow Festival, the Huron employees associations’ “Watts Up!” cow–a metal cow made out of old farm parts and other junk–competed against 33 other scarecrows taking the humorous scarecrow commercial/organization award and earning the traveling trophy.

Watts Up is a metal cow constructed from a fuel barrel welded to an old truck frame with a front and rear axle from an old truck. The whole idea was to make it from used junk; and, if it were farm-related, that was even better. Read more »

Regional utilities gather in Colorado to talk energy efficiency

More than 100 electric utilities and industry representatives attended the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10 to12.

Ron Ebenkamp, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, invites Robin O'Day, San Isabel Electric; Ray Pierotti, La Plata Electric; Gary Myers, Poudre Valley; and Craig Tate, Holy Cross Energy, to discuss the major role lighting programs continue to play in utility energy-efficiency portfolios at the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10. The networking event lasted three days and allowed local water and energy utilities to share best practices in efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management programs.

Ron Ebenkamp, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, invites Robin O'Day, San Isabel Electric; Ray Pierotti, La Plata Electric; Gary Myers, Poudre Valley; and Craig Tate, Holy Cross Energy, to discuss the major role lighting programs continue to play in utility energy-efficiency portfolios at the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10.

Co-sponsored by Western’s Energy Services office, the networking event provided energy and water utilities serving Colorado and neighboring states an open forum to learn and teach how to implement efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management programs with their peers.

Read more »

Burrowing owls call Phoenix office home

Western’s customer service territory shares the land with a great diversity of wildlife. Sometimes we even share the borders of our office buildings’ grounds with fascinating and interesting creatures. In the Desert Southwest region’s Phoenix office, employees work while 10 to 15 burrowing owls live just outside their door.

Three burrowing owls watch employees walk by at Desert Southwest’s Phoenix office, just as they do most mornings.

Three burrowing owls watch employees walk by at Desert Southwest’s Phoenix office, just as they do most mornings.

The convenience of being near wildlife brings some happiness to employees. “We all enjoy having [the owls] here at DSW. We have this great opportunity to be close to the wildlife and observe their living habits,” said Supply Technician Mary Bergeron.

As a result of an increasing human population leading to more residential and commercial development on agricultural land and prairies, wildlife species like the burrowing owl lose their natural nesting areas. For safety, health and conservation reasons, displaced owls are often relocated to man-made nesting structures like the one at the DSW yard.

In 2004, the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of relocation efforts of burrowing owls to artificial burrows. They also wanted to establish relocation guidelines and recommendations for future management plans. As part of this study, AGFD monitored up to 50 relocation clusters throughout Arizona, including the one at DSW. On a regular basis, AGFD biologists would collect data on owl behavior, confirm the new burrow system was working, place bands on young birds to track their movements and make sure the site was still suitable for the owls. DSW’s artificial owl burrows are constructed of a PVC pipe system that is buried underground.

Unfortunately, the funding for this project ended after 2007, and the AGFD has not monitored the DSW birds for several years. Even so, DSW’s feathery neighbors are living happy lives today. If a funding source is secured in the future, the AGFD would like to continue monitoring the birds.

Learn more about burrowing owls.