Category: Power Marketing

Record-setting dry spell impacts California hydropower

Water content in California snowpack is only 17 percent of normal according to the California Department of Water Resources’ May 2 release (pdf). This means there will be a below average water supply this summer, which also impacts hydropower production for Western’s Sierra Nevada Region.

The water year, which began in October, started with some positive precipitation for the Central Valley Project. However California’s record-setting “dry” conditions in January, February and March have reduced the  hydro conditions outlook for 2013.

See the most recent hydro conditions report for April 2013 (pdf).

April snow brings better runoff! Multiple Colorado storms improve snowpack

Many Colorado media outlets are reporting that we are at only 80 percent of snowpack for the water year; but what they are not saying is that we are doing better than last year—and snowpack levels are still rising!

Line chart showing seasonal peaks for CBR for 2012, 2013 and an average of 1981 to 2010.

This line chart compares the average seasonal peaks

The last few storms have improved the runoff outlook; meaning as the snow melts, the runoff water fills Colorado’s streams and rivers. This time last year, the peak snowpack accural was over and the runoff was well under way. Current reports from the Colordao Basin River Forecast Center show that we have surpassed last year’s snowpack peak by about 30 percent and we are still climbing with this week’s storms.

This will certainly improve Western’s hydro conditions forecast for the Rocky Mountain Region. Although our hydro conditions are not back to 100 percent, we hope this year’s total will be improved from last year. Ski resorts may be closing and sad to see that the snow is just now accumulating, but here at Western we are ecstatic and say, “Keep it coming, Mother Nature!”

California: Interested in how hydropower costs are calculated for the Central Valley?

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region announced Jan. 9 that it will hold a public workshop on the assumptions, modeling and methodology for determining hydropower benefits of the ongoing Cost Allocation Study for the Central Valley Project.

The workshop will be held:

Friday, Jan. 18
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Federal Building, 2800 Cottage Way
Cafeteria Conference Rooms C1001-C1002
Sacramento, CA  95825

If you’re interested in the methodology and model that will be used during the study, this meeting will be your opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. You can also find out more about the Central Valley Project Cost Allocation Study on Reclamation’s website.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Large hydro projects could apply to California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard

In February, the California legislature introduced Assembly Bill 1771 Renewable energy resources: hydroelectric generation, which, if enacted, would revise what size hydropower plant can contribute to an energy service provider’s renewable portfolio standard and how many megawatts can be counted.

Currently, only small hydropower plants qualify to be used as a renewable energy source under California’s 33-percent RPS requirement, and the maximum hydropower contribution is 30 megawatts. 

If enacted in its present form, the hydropower plant size and megawatt limits would be eliminated, which could increase interest in Western’s Sierra Nevada region’s Central Valley Project. The CVP’s 11 hydropower plants produced 5,369 gigawatt-hours in Fiscal Year 2011 for preference power customers in California.  

The bill is tentatively scheduled to be heard in committee March 22.