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.
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.
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.
Western received 20 customer responses to a request for interest in the purchase of renewable energy generated by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s proposed 99-megawatt Tate Topa Wind Energy Project located on the tribe’s reservation.
The goal of the request, which closed May 11, was to get interested purchasers and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe talking. “Because it was more about finding out who might be interested, not all 20 requests specified an amount of energy they were interested in purchasing,” explained Public Utilities Specialist Georganne Myers. “However, those that made specific requests totaled approximately 143,000 megawatt-hours annually for contract terms of between 10 and 20 years.”
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.
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.
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.”
On Feb. 29, the House of Representatives passed HR 1837, also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, which will create more water storage capacity in the state of California. If enacted as written, the proposed bill would result in a number of changes, including, but not necessarily limited to:
- the existing environmental regulatory baseline under which the Central Valley Project is operated
- the list of scientific and fish and wildlife management agencies which would responsible for assisting the Secretary of Interior in determining what would constitute reasonable in-stream flow requirements
- potential increases in both project use and Base Resource allocations
However, the biggest impact to Western will be the portion of the bill that relates to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. These impacts would result from resetting the existing environmental regulatory compliance standards to a previous one (i.e., the 1994 Bay-Delta Accords). As proposed, this bill would assure transparency of CVPIA Restoration Fund expenditures by creating an oversight expenditure board, enact a sunset date as to when the Restoration Funds may be reduced as stipulated in the original act, and capping contributions to CVP power preference users as is the case for CVP water users. Because preference power customers pay CVPIA Restoration Fund assessments as an additive to their cost-based Base Resource allocation, these actions will ease some of the cost burdens currently faced by Western’s Sierra Nevada customers.
The bill faces a somewhat more problematical future in the Senate as the measure is opposed by several environmental groups. Stakeholders are also concerned that parts of the proposed new legislation could be separated and attached as amendments to other legislation being considered by Congress.
The Department of Energy announced its next round of tribal energy development projects, Feb. 16. Of the 19 clean energy projects chosen to receive more than $6.5 million, 10 involve Western tribal customers.
These DOE-selected projects will allow Native American tribes to advance clean energy within their communities by assessing local energy resources, developing renewable energy projects and deploying clean energy technologies. These projects will help tribal communities across the country save money and create new job and business opportunities.
The projects selected for negotiation of award fall into three areas:
- Feasibility studies – Thirteen projects will receive $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands to generate utility-scale power or installing renewable energy systems to reduce energy use by 30 percent.For example, Western customer White Earth Reservation Tribal Council would use the funding to look at deploying a biogas/biomass-fired combined heat and power facility to generate 2.7 megawatts of electricity for tribal buildings, as well as for space and domestic water heating.
- Renewable energy development – Four projects, including Western customer Jemez Pueblo’s project, will receive $1.7 million for pre-construction development activities. Jemez Pueblo plans to use the funding to complete all remaining solar development activities for a 4-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility, which includes acquiring a power purchase agreement, completing site-related project requirements, such as site surveys and lease approval, and finalizing project financing.
- Installation– Two projects will receive $1.3 million to deploy renewable energy technologies to convert waste and other biomass to energy. One of the two is another Jemez Pueblo project, where the tribe would install a cordwood-fired biomass energy system using locally available wood to heat the tribe’s visitor center. Once installed, the system will provide up to 90 percent of the facility’s heating needs.
See the DOE press release, the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the project descriptions.
Webinars provide opportunities
DOE and Western have taken a number of steps to support tribal energy development and empower tribal leaders to make informed decisions that promote community economic development.
Western has already held its fourth webinar in partnership with the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and the DOE Tribal Energy Program to promote tribal energy sufficiency. The next event will be March 28 where participants will learn more about interconnection and transmission service queues.
Western’s line crew from the Cody maintenance shop string new cable on the Big George-to-Glendale Tap 69-kV line after a winter storm took down the line Feb. 23, causing an outage in northwest Wyoming.
On the surface, the outage that affected northwest Wyoming at about 9:10 a.m. Feb. 23 seems straight forward: A winter storm took down a 69-kilovolt transmission line north of Cody near the Park County Regional Landfill, thrusting the local utilities and the residents of Cody, Powell, Willwood, Garland and Ralston into darkness for nearly two hours.
Power was restored at about 10:50 a.m., but it wasn’t because the downed line was back on the towers.
The evening before, another event about 60 miles away from the downed line, probably caused by wind swinging the cables, called conductors, too close together on the Lovell-to-North Cody 69-kV transmission line, cut off the back-up power feed to the area through the Lovell Substation. This problem left the Big George-to-Glendale Tap 69-kV line the only power source in the area.
“This was a one in a million deal for us,” said Cody Field Manager Doug Padgett, who responded to the Lovell Substation. “You had two separate, distinct problems caused by two separate, distinct events. It was not expected at all.”
Check out the full story on how Western and the local community worked together to restore power in Wyoming at Western’s Newsroom.