Category: General

Drip-dry: Drought’s major impact on water uses

Have you noticed water evaporating overnight from your cup at your office? Have you been running a humidifier at home or noticed your plants are in need of more TLC than usual? Yes, it’s been dry in the West … extremely dry … critically dry.

U.S. map showing drough conditions

University of Nebraska-Lincoln's U.S. Drought Monitor

There has been a lot of talk in the news about the drought’s impact on farms and food, and what kind of snowfall it would take to relieve the drought.

At Western, since we use water from many of the large streams throughout the West, the drought impacts our regions, our communities and our ability to produce hydropower. In fact, our final hydro conditions report for the water year 2012 was less than stellar. Read more »

Western’s website: Fresh style, same content

Two people have coffee under a menu boardMost of us have local restaurants that have become our favorite haunts where we would consider ourselves regulars; and when the owner changes up the menu, we notice! You can still order your favorite meal, but now you have to reacquaint yourself with the menu to find your favorite dish.

Well, if Western is a ‘regular-haunt’ kind of website for you, you might have noticed that the menu, as well as the home page, has changed.

Yes, all the navigation and pages are still there and available for our “regulars,” but we updated the presentation to make finding information a little easier. Western announced its home page change the first week of November and then made the switch on Nov. 23.

Read more »

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 »

Thoughtlessly saving energy at work

3 ways you (probably) save energy without knowing it!

I’m an early-riser; so when I get to the office, the lights are off, the coffee pot isn’t percolating and all the computers are hibernating. Since we’re still on daylight saving time, it’s pretty dark for my first hour of work. As I start the day, there are a few things I do first-thing that save energy without me really thinking about it. Here’s what I do:

  • Use task lighting. Our office lighting is automatically set up to switch on in the morning. When I get in, well before the timer goes off, I just use my task light above my desk to help me work instead of turning the lights on early. (Of course, I switch it back off when the lights pop on.)
  • Keep a sweater at work. Again, our office automatically kicks on the heat during fall and winter months. When it’s just a bit to cool for me, I slip on my office sweater or grab a cup of tea and wait for the automatic system to do its work.
  • Take the stairs. OK, I know this one sounds lame … but in addition to helping get my blood pumping in the morning, taking the stairs (and not the elevator) for two stories up, exercises my power instead of electric power.

All in all, these are simple things I do every day that save energy without a second thought.

So what are your favorite, easy solutions for saving or conserving energy? Read more »

Estes Park, Loveland citizens share ideas during alternative design workshops for Estes-Flatiron transmission project

 

Neighbors, local government officials and Western representatives gathered around a large map during workshop meetings, Oct. 2 to 4, where they discussed options for an upgrade to combine two transmission lines into one right of way.  Both lines feed the Town of Estes and other nearby communities in Colorado with energy.

Drawing alternative routes with colored markers, neighbors talked about how different paths for the power line could impact the environment, their neighbors and the scenic views of their town and surrounding national forests. For some participants, it was an educational experience in the complexity of differing views and issues that came up regarding their ideas.

The collective thoughts and considerations of these engaged citizens will help Western Area Power Administration determine the alternatives it will review in its draft environmental impact statement for the Estes-Flatiron Transmission Line Rebuild Project.

Western is preparing to analyze how different alternatives for rebuilding or maintaining the transmission system will provide reliable power and impact the environment, landowners and surrounding communities. With high public interest for this project, Western extended the scoping period through Oct. 19 to work with the local communities to:

  1. Identify transmission line route options
  2. Gather input on design/structure features
  3. Understand the many issues and impacts with any alternative route

Get involved
If you would like to provide input on route alternatives or structure design, take the time to examine the scoping and alternative development materials and reply to Western by Oct. 19. The input will help Western and cooperating agencies identify alternatives to be analyzed in the draft environmental impact statement.

Linemen de-energize line for safety of Corps construction, part of American River Common Features project

Western’s linemen keep the agencies transmission lines and structures maintained so the system can reliably deliver electricity to cities and towns throughout the West. Sometimes this job requires Western to de-energize a line for maintenance of the line or working going on below the transmission line.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Todd Plain snapped this photo of Western linemen de-energizing the high-voltage power line at dusk for the safety of the workers below. Construction crews worked during the night constructing the seepage cutoff wall (part of the American River levees) underneath the line. This is part of the Corps American River Common Features project, a joint flood risk reduction effort between the Corps, the state’s Central Valley Flood Protection Board/Department of Water Resources and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.

Workers from Western Area Power Administration de-energize high power lines

(Photo belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Sacramento District. Full picture description available on the USACE-Sacramento District’s Flickr photostream.)

Western ‘energizes’ participants at Big Brother, Big Sister education event

Some Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Colorado youth and mentors were literally shocked while learning about the electrifying world of energy Aug. 11.

Participants, like this pair, had their pictures taken with an infrared camera during the Big Brothers and Big Sisters event focused on electricity, Aug. 11

Several Western Area Power Administration employees volunteered their time to provide participants with an understanding about how electricity travels from where it is generated to homes and businesses. “Watching participants learn new things about electricity and energy; and seeing them connect with how they can make simple choices that conserve energy is exciting,” said Energy Services Equipment Loan Program Manager Gary Hoffmann.

In just a little more than two hours, participants learn about money and energy-saving tips for their homes as well as for industry buildings; and took some time to investigate fuel-cell technology, understand different lighting options and ‘see’ heat using an infrared camera. They also had the opportunity to see a Tesla Coil and watch a fluorescent lamp light up in their hands.

One highlight of the event was the Van de Graaff generator where youth and mentors learned about static electricity and had the opportunity to share the electric charge and shock each other. Through the fun, hands-on event, participants learned first-hand how electricity works, its uses and also its dangers.

“We were all very excited about the success of the day. The kids and mentors loved learning about electricity in a hands-on way and were amazed by the various tools and toys Western shared,” added Program and Fund Development Intern Laura Newman, who organized the event. “Many of the kids left the event, infrared pictures of their match [mentor and youth] in hand, discussing how to do more and learn more about energy and science. Every match said they were interested in participating in more events like this.”

In the end, participants walked away charged up and ready to save energy. Some of those solutions include:

  • Turn off appliances when you’re not using them, including lights, computers, gaming consoles, TVs and radios.
  • Unplug chargers when not in use—charging devices can draw power even when they aren’t attached to a battery.
  • Close the refrigerator door quickly after you find a snack.
  • Keep doors, windows and curtains closed on very hot and very cold days.
  • Dress for the weather.
  • Set your thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer and no higher than 68 degrees in the winter.
  • Seal leaks around windows, doors and heating ducts.
  • Air-dry clothes.

Customers: Send comments about Defining the future’ by Aug. 17

The Department of Energy and Western Joint Outreach Team finished the final two of six public workshops and listening sessions the week of July 30 to define Western’s role in transitioning the grid to a flexible, reliable system worthy of the 21st century.

But the team is still accepting comments through Aug. 17 for stakeholders and Aug. 24 for Native American Tribes as part of the public scoping process for this effort. Some comments submitted are already available for viewing on Western’s website. To get your comment in, email JOT@wapa.gov with your name, organizational affiliation and your thoughts.

The team will take the oral and written comments and ideas generated in the workshops and submitted via email to draft recommendations for public comment sometime this fall.

Here are some photos from the Aug. 2 meeting in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Operations study released Aug. 2

In an effort to determine how best to improve operations and transmission services process and activities, Western’s Senior Management Team decided to take a look at the agency’s operations in Summer 2011.

During the last year, Miracorp–an independent consultant–evaluated Western’s current power system operations and provide alternatives to consider as the agency strives to operate efficiently and effectively in a dynamically changing environment. 

Miracorp released the Operations Study Report Aug. 2,(pdf) without input or comment from Western.

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.