Category: General

TransWest Express, Western leadership tour site in Wyoming

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Attorney John Kral, forefront, Administrator Mark Gabriel and Attorney John Bremer listen to TransWest Express CEO Bill Miller explain the siting for the northern terminal of the TWE Project (Photo by: Bill Boyd, TransWest Chief Operating Officer)

TransWest Express LLC Chief Executive Officer Bill Miller took a few Western employees to visit the site of the northern terminal for the proposed TransWest Express Transmission Project near Sinclair, Wyo.,  Aug. 6. The proposed TWE Project would create a path to bring more renewable energy produced in Wyoming to the market in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program is providing up to $25 million to complete the development phase of the TWE Project. Western will decide whether to participate in the construction phase of the project after the environmental analysis is complete. The team also discussed a wind farm proposed in the area by affiliate company Power Company of Wyoming LLC.

Colorado-Big Thompson agreement: Protecting water from fire risk

[COLORADO-A-0033] Big Thompson Dam (Dille Diversion Dam)

Big Thompson Dam (Source: waterarchives.org)

The Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced July 19 a federal, local and private partnership that will reduce the risks of wildfire to America’s water supply in western states.

To support the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, the Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation will kick off the new partnership through a pilot in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado. The partnership will include the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Colorado State Forest Service and builds off of past agreements between the Forest Service and municipal water suppliers, such as Denver Water’s Forest to Faucets partnership.

Western’s Administrator Mark Gabriel and several other employees attended the event as the Colorado-Big Thompson is a trans-mountain diversion river system from which hydropower is generated and marketed.

Read USDA’s press release on their website.

Honoring through service

Shopping in a local do-it-yourself store on Monday, I realized that most Americans who get the extra day off from work use it to get yard work done, plant gardens or flowers and have family barbeques. It made me won

George McAlister, in his jungle uniform, and Scotty Brown, in his desert digitals, stand at attention in front of the Memorial Wall.

der how many of those shoppers surrounding me even knew the true meaning of the holiday we all know as Memorial Day.

Serving our country is what Western’s employees do as civilian employees, but many don’t even realize that is what they are doing. Some employees who also served in our armed forces better understand what it means to serve and choose to volunteer their time and skills in an effort to remember those that served with and before them. 

The week before Memorial Day, four Sierra Nevada employees answered a call to serve again. Western employees, who are also Vietnam era veterans, Scotty Brown and Matt Monroe (Marines), Don Clifton (Army), George McAlister (Air Force and Army), along with retired Western employee Mike Ryan (Air Force) paid special tribute to our fallen soldiers by volunteering to construct, guard and dismantle the Dignity Memorial Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall ®. The Wall was on display for the week leading up to Memorial Day.

Read more »

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!”

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?

How much energy do you use? What’s it cost?

color-coded map of U.S. showing energy costs

How much energy costs by state

Do you know which state spends the most money per person on energy?

Spoiler alert! It’s Alaska.

Now, based on Energy Information Administration’s 2009 “State Energy Data System” you can navigate the Department of Energy’s interactive map to see which states spend the most and least money on energy per person.

color-coded map of U.S. showing energy consumption

How much energy states use

DOE also has an interactive map that highlights how much energy each state consumes.

You can see how varied energy costs and consumption are throughout Western’s service territory.

Looking at your state’s energy statistics, what do you think?

When ‘zero’ is the best you can do!

Two people hold a framed safety vest

Acting Administrator Anita Decker, left, accepts a safety vest from Maintenance Manager Will Schnyer, Feb. 20, at the RMEL workshop. The vest is signed by all the Western employees who helped restore power in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in late October 2012.

We want 100 percent efficiency and 100 percent reliability at Western; but the one category we always want to see zeros in is accidents and injuries.

Safety is part of the job, planning and culture at Western. From senior and direct managers to office and field workers, employees know how important it is for everyone to go home at the end of the day.

The long days Western crews put in helping with the restoration efforts in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy were no exception. “All together our guys worked more than 18,500 hours in the 10 days we were out there,” said Will Schnyer, a maintenance manager out of Montrose, Colo. “That’s like one person working 40 hours a week for almost 9 years! And our crews did it without a single accident or injury.”

To celebrate the success, all 91 Western employees who responded to the call after Hurricane Sandy signed a safety vest. Schnyer presented the vest to Western’s Acting Administrator Anita Decker at RMEL’s “Electric Utility Emergency Response—Hurricane Sandy and Beyond” workshop, Feb. 20, 2013.

“We appreciate all the support we received while we went to restore the power system in New Jersey,” said Schnyer. “Our success is really marked by our safe working record. We are really proud of that record and of our team.”

“I’m honored to be recognized by the Hurricane Sandy responders,” said Decker, “but I’m truly most proud of what it represents in regard to the collective safety of each and every person involved.”

How do you recognize your employees’ safety efforts or achievements?

Construction work starts on ED5-PVH Project

3 employees work in a trench on substation footer

Employees with Tri-Technic Inc. prepare footer for an ED-5 Substation retaining wall, Feb. 11, 2013.

Construction work started on a project that will connect renewable energy south of Phoenix, Ariz., to a major trading hub. This is the first major construction step for the Electrical District No. 5 – Palo Verde Hub Project.

“It’s great to see that construction work has started on this important project,” said ED5-PVH Project Manager Todd Rhoades. “Hurricane Sandy and the recent northeast blackouts really highlight how important our energy infrastructure is to our everyday lives. This project is an investment in improving our system in the desert southwest area.”

Western awarded the construction contracts in fall 2012. These projects are being funded through Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program.

What benefits do you see from projects like ED5-PVH in support of the utility industry?

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.

Rim Rock Wind Farm achieves commercial operation

A wind turbine

A Rim Rock Turbine generates energy in Montana. (Photo by NaturEner)

Western’s Connections blog first shared that the Rim Rock Wind Farm’s planned to interconnect through the Montana Alberta Tie Limited transmission line (a project supported through Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program) in a post last Jan. 10, 2012. Even though Western’s involvement with MATL was completed last fall, the wind farm announced another milestone yesterday.

NaturEner publicized Jan. 10 that the commercial operations of its Rim Rock Wind Farm near Kevin, Mont., started Dec. 28, 2012. Read more »