Western Administrator Keynotes Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange

Western Administrator Mark Gabriel

Western Administrator Mark Gabriel

Western Area Power Administration Administrator Mark Gabriel and Colorado Energy Office Director Jeff Ackermann will keynote the 7th Annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange Oct 9-11, 2013, in Aspen, CO.  More than 80 presenters are expected to join them for this year’s event. The general, breakout and poster sessions will explore case study best practices and lessons learned from those who develop, implement and evaluate utility customer programs dealing with energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management.

The Rocky Mountain Exchange is a networking and professional development forum for about 100 utility and
government organization professionals as well as trade allies who provide products and services to support utility customer programs. The conference provides general and breakout sessions as well as networking opportunities.

TransWest Express Project Draft EIS available

Overview map of TransWest Express Project

Overview map of TransWest Express Project

The Bureau of Land Management announced the publication of the TransWest Express Transmission Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement July 3.  The release of the Draft EIS begins a 90-day public comment period that will include thirteen public meetings hosted by Western and the BLM scheduled throughout the project area.  The Draft EIS and schedule of public meetings are available on BLM’s TranWest Express Project website.

Western’s Administrator Mark Gabriel said, “This is a major milestone in the NEPA process, and we hope people read the draft EIS and provide comments. We [Western] are here to help strengthen the energy highway by connecting communities with reliable power and renewable generation. The results of the final NEPA review and other analyses will guide us when we decide whether to continue to participate in the project beyond the development phase.”

The TransWest Express Transmission Project is a proposed 725 mile, 600-kV direct current transmission line that may provide up to 3,000 MW of capacity. The line would extend from south central Wyoming, to the El Dorado Valley south of Las Vegas, Nevada, and would facilitate the delivery of Wyoming wind generation resources to load centers in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Western is proposing to participate as a joint owner of the TWE Project; a decision on whether to be a joint owner will be made when the development phase is complete. Western is authorized to contribute up to $25 million of its $3.25

billion borrowing authority for the project development phase, which includes the environmental review and other technical feasibility studies.

Next Tribal webinar, May 29, highlights transmission issues

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the eight U.S. regional reliability organizations are expanding regional transmission planning activities and broadening stakeholder involvement to plan for East-West interconnections. Hear about the status of the organizations’ plans and evaluations of long-term regional transmission needs.

Register today for Regional Transmission Planning, fifth webinar in the free series, Turning Knowledge into Energy Projects. All webinars in the series are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

Western and DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and Tribal Energy Program have teamed up to present the webinars. Don’t miss these events if you are looking for ways to promote tribal energy sufficiency and foster economic development and employment on tribal lands through renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. You will learn about marketing, transmission, financing, partnerships and much more.

Mark Gabriel named new Western Administrator

Mark Gabriel photo

Mark Gabriel

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?

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.

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.

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.