Reclamation delays project to relocate Western lines

On July 31, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the delay of a project to relocate Western’s high-voltage transmission lines near Yellowtail Dam in Montana from August to October because of increased environmental concerns.

“I applaud our hydropower partners at Western for their sensitivity to the potential ramifications of the outage associated with the relocation project,” said Dan Jewell, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Montana Area Office. “While these types of maintenance events are never risk-free, delaying the work until later in the year will help reduce that risk.”

The current location of the lines puts them at risk for the dangerous ice storms that occur in the area over winter, prompting a joint effort between Reclamation and Western to move the lines.

The relocation is scheduled to take about two weeks, and the outage requires Reclamation to bypass the water turbines. With the unusually warm summer and fall, agencies and environmentalists were concerned about the impact of not using the colder water at deeper water levels to power the turbines in August. Alternatives to move the water, including the holo-jets and spillways, could increase nitrogen or water temperature, potentially harming fish.

According to Friends of the Bighorn River blog, “With lake water temperatures already well into the 70′s, a slight mistake, miscalculation or unplanned natural or man-made event could have long lasting, devastating effects on the river where fish are already highly stressed from anglers, low flows, gas bubble trauma, irrigation return, warm water and habitat loss.”

 The delay is thought to be a fitting compromise to ensure reliable electricity from Yellowtail Dam this winter and protection of the environment.

Western to purchase RECs for Federal agencies

Western Area Power Administration is issuing a request for proposals for renewable energy certificates, or RECs, for five Federal agencies:

  • U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • U.S. Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, Sandia National Laboratories
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund Program
  • U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden Field Office

RECs represent the environmental attributes of energy generated by renewable resources such as solar, wind, biomass or landfill gas, physically delivered into the electric grid.

For more information on how to submit an RFP or on the program, see the full press release.

Western “defines the future”

Western recently published new webpages to publicize progress toward the objectives in Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu’s March 16 memo to the power marketing administrations.

The webpages advertise public involvement opportunities, including stakeholder meetings, and show how Western is progressing toward meeting the memo’s objectives.

While Western calls the section “Defining the future,” the agency remains committed to providing reliable, cost-based electric service to its preference power customers. The objectives in the PMA memo only call for Western’s leadership in “transforming our electric system to the 21st century to ensure our nation remains competitive in a global economy,” as Secretary Chu stated in his May 30 blog post.

“[Western] has an enormous opportunity to assume a leadership role in helping prevent future blackouts by making the organizational and operational changes necessary to enhance overall system operations and planning,” he added.

Be sure to check out the pages regularly as they will be frequently updated with more information through the end of the year.

Energy Secretary elaborates on PMA memo

Today, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu published on the Department of Energy blog about the PMA memo he released March 16. In it, he further describes what the memo is intended to do and the next steps Western will take in gathering stakeholder input.

“Earlier this year, I called on our Nation’s Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) to help lead the 21st century transformation of our nation’s electricity sector to better protect our economic and national security. As this process gets underway, the Department of Energy will work in close collaboration with each PMA to solicit the critical on-the-ground input vital to achieving this goal in the best manner possible. I look forward to working with all interested parties in every PMA region to meet this shared objective,” said Secretary Chu.

Click to read the entire blog post.

Tribal webinar to discuss today’s energy needs, yesterday’s grid

Western Area Power Administration, the U.S. DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the DOE Tribal Energy Program are offering a free, informative webinar and discussion May 30 on how utilities’ generation portfolios are changing, often faster than the grid infrastructure that supports it, and the challenges currently being faced to integrate new generation and demand (load) response technologies into a grid that was designed to operate a different way.

There is no charge to attend the webinar; however, you must register to participate.

Tribal utility managers and resource engineers will hear information on (1) key findings in the MIT Energy Initiative Report on the changes needed in the U.S. transmission grid to handle expected challenges such as the influx of electric cars and wind and solar generation and (2) the Western Grid Group’s Clean Energy Vision Project, which charts a sustained, orderly transition from the carbon intensive electricity system of today to a cleaner, smarter and healthier electricity system of the future.

The webinar is chaired by Jay Caspary, with Southwest Power Pool and on assignment to the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The two speakers are Dr. Richard Schmalensee and Dr. Carl Linvill.

Dr. Schmalensee is the Director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Dr. Schmalensee was co-chair of the recent MIT Energy Initiative report on The Future of the Electric Grid. Dr. Linvill is Director of Integrated Energy Analysis and Planning with Aspen Environmental Group and a member of the Western Grid Group. He is a major contributor to the Clean Energy Vision Project.

For more information on this and the other tribal webinars, visit http://www.repartners.org/#tribeseries.

California releases results from fifth and final snowpack survey

The California Department of Water Resources announced the results from its fifth and final snowpack survey May 1. The survey confirmed the snowpack’s low water content, which will affect water and power deliveries in California this year.

Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 40 percent of normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, from which Western’s Central Valley Project relies on to fill reservoirs and generate hydropower, was 70 percent of normal for the northern Sierras, 35 percent of normal for the central Sierras and 20 percent of normal for the southern Sierras.

Last year’s snowpack water content state-wide was 190 percent of normal by this time, which will reduce the impact of the scarce snowpack this year.

“The impact of a below-normal water year has been somewhat mitigated by above-average reservoir storage levels due to unusually wet conditions during the 2010-2011 operating season,” said Sierra Nevada Power Marketer Sonja Anderson.

However, operators of both the state and Federal water projects have already announced reduced water and power deliveries for the upcoming year, including from Western’s Central Valley Project.

Montana Schools Win National Student Energy Efficiency Competition

A team of five schools from Carter County, Mont., has won the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge, a national student competition designed to encourage students and their families to take action to start saving money by saving energy.

The Montana team was supported by Southeast Electric Cooperative, based in Ekalaka, Mont.  Marlene Waterland of Southeast Electric coordinated the program and provided training for each of the schools.  Western contributed to the effort by providing a lighting efficiency display and infrared cameras through the Equipment Loan Program.

“Western is proud to be able to assist Southeast Electric Cooperative and Marlene engage these young people and focus their math and science skills on a real-life problem—how to save money by using energy efficiently at home,” said Gary Hoffmann, Western’s Equipment Loan Program manager.

The five schools, Alzeda Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School (K-8th grade), Hammond School (K-8th grade) and Hawks Home School, will share the $15,000 they won as both a regional winner and as the national champion.

The Challenge, which is run by the National Science Teachers Association for the Department of Energy, challenged teams of third through eighth grade students to work with their science teachers and local utility companies to develop energy use savings plans that reduce the amount of energy used to power their homes. Each student team monitored and measured their energy consumption between September and November 2011, and then compared it to data collected during the same three-month period the year before.

The Montana students talked to their family members about steps they could take to save money by saving energy, including turning off the lights when leaving the room, running the laundry machine with cooler water and full loads, and in an agricultural community, using timers to set charging times for tractors.

Learn more about the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge

Read DOE’s press release on the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge winner

See photos and local coverage of the Carter County program

Central Valley Project customers receive more water

The Bureau of Reclamation announced April 13 that it was going to be increasing its water supply allocation to Central Valley Project contractors as a result of improved snow pack conditions.

The revised projected deliveries are expected to increase both project use and net project generation, which means more hydropower to sell for Western’s Sierra Nevada region.

“The snow water content ranges from 81 percent of the April 1 average for the Northern Sierra to 32 percent for the Southern Sierra,” stated the press release.

Western “holds on” during earthquake drill

Western employees hold on during Utah earthquake drill

Catherine Anderson, a contracted administrative technician, ducks, covers and holds on during a state-wide earthquake drill in Utah April 17 at 10:15 a.m.

Colorado River Storage Project Management Center employees in Salt Lake City, Utah, dropped, covered and held on with nearly 1 million other Utahns during a state-wide earthquake drill at 10:15 a.m. April 17.

“It was a great success with a lot of interest created in taking additional steps within the office toward better preparedness,” said CRSP Financial Analyst David Welker, who headed up the exercise for the office. After the drill, employees “had a brief group discussion on earthquake safety and general preparedness.”

 The Great Utah ShakeOut, the largest earthquake in Utah’s history, simulated a 7.0 magnitude earthquake where residents, businesses, schools and others took cover for about 60 seconds in shelters or other protected areas.

The exercise was meant to encourage emergency preparedness and educate citizens about earthquake safety, including making a disaster kit, having a plan and mapping out safe places to go during and after the quake.

“Utah is overdue for a major earthquake,” said Welker. “Utah has conducted small-scale drills in towns and such, but this is the first time it’s been done on a state-wide level. It’s important to keep the information fresh so you know what to do if there is a quake.”

California releases fourth snowpack survey

The California Department of Water Resources announced that the results from the fourth of five surveys confirming below-normal water year conditions.

“An unusually wet March improved conditions, but did not make up for the previous dry months,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin.

The average water content of California’s snowpack was still only 55 percent of the expected April 1 normal. The relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, from which Western’s Central Valley Project receives snowmelt, was 78 percent of April 1 normal for the northern Sierras, 55 percent of the April 1 normal for the central Sierras and 39 percent of the April 1 normal for the southern Sierras. At the same time last year, the snowpack water content showed 173 percent of the April 1 average for the northern Sierras, 161 percent in the central Sierras, and 155 percent for the southern Sierras.

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,” said Western’s Sierra Nevada Region Power Marketing Manager Sonja Anderson. “However, the impact of reduced water deliveries is somewhat mitigated by last year’s above-normal precipitation, which has resulted in higher than average starting reservoir storage levels.”