Category: Customers

House approves California water bill

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.

Western tribal customers awarded DOE funding for clean energy projects

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.

One in a million: Western restores power quickly to Cody, Wyo., Feb. 23

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.

California announces below normal snowpack levels

The California Department of Water Resources announced continuing dry winter conditions in its state-wide survey Feb. 1, which could impact the available water for Western’s Central Valley Project this summer.
 
“Water content in California’s mountain snowpack is far below normal for this time of year,” stated the department’s press release.
 
Overall, the average water content of California’s snowpack was 37 percent of normal for this date. For the CVP area, the relative composition of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 26 percent of the April 1 seasonal average for the northern Sierras, 20 percent for the central Sierras and 25 percent for the southern Sierras.
 
January is typically one of the wettest months, but with a lack of winter storms, state water managers have begun to express concerns about the need for more rain and snow.
 
“So far, we just haven’t received a decent number of winter storms,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin.
 
“Because last year was such an above-normal water year, starting water storage levels for Federal and state storage reservoirs are relatively higher than normal,” said Sierra Nevada Power Marketing Manager Sonja Anderson. This will help delay any affects to the power supply even if the snowpack doesn’t reach its average levels.
 
“As long as California receives normal to near normal precipitation levels for the rest of the water year, water and hydropower output for the Central Valley and state water projects would not be as detrimentally impacted as in past years,” said Anderson.
 
However, any reductions in the output of the Reclamation CVP power plants will raise the cost of Western’s CVP power to customers, which is marketed by the percent of hydropower available.

Western Administrator speaks at local Tribal Leader Forum

Western Area Power Administrator Tim Meeks spoke in Denver, Colo., Feb. 7, at the Tribal Leader Forum “Exploring the Business Link Opportunity: Transmission and Clean Energy Development in the West.”

The forum, sponsored by the Department of Energy and the second in a series of events, provided an opportunity for tribal leaders to interact with industry and Federal leaders, get information about transmission development in the West and learn about the latest trends in financing clean energy projects.

Meeks focused his remarks on transmission expansion in the West and its impact on tribal land and shared, “When you look at our service area, we’re neighbors. We need this partnership, and we need to continue to work together.”

See the news release for more information.

Western customer recognized for including the public in IRP process

Western’s Rocky Mountain Region Manager Brad Warren  presented Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s CEO Ken Anderson an Administrator’s award in recognition of Tri-State’s exceptional energy efficiency and renewable energy contributions.

Tri-State earned this peer-recognition award for going above the standards to engage the public in its Integrated Resource Plan process.

“Tri-State went the extra mile to involve stakeholders, and that was a tremendous effort to undertake,” said Warren.

See the news release for more information.

Call for wind award nominations

Western is calling for nominations for the 2011 Wind Cooperative of the Year Award now through Feb. 13 to honor one electric cooperative for its leadership and investments in wind power.

All electric cooperatives in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a national service organization for more than 900 not-for-profit electric providers, are eligible to apply. Nominations are due to Randy Manion at Manion@wapa.gov.

“This is one of the most effective technology transfer activities because it inspires other cooperatives to investigate wind energy opportunities in and adjacent to their service territories,” said Manion, Western’s Renewable Resource Program Manager.

The winner will be recognized at the 2012 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association TechAdvantage Conference in San Diego, Calif., March 8. Last year’s winner was Minnkota Power Cooperative, a Western customer located in Grand Forks, N.D.

For more information or to nominate a cooperative, visit http://www.repartners.org/#windcoop11.

Western helps neighboring utility overcome storm damage

Lineman Ryan Wheeler from Western’s Redding maintenance office uses a hot stick to remove snow from a transmission line.

Lineman Ryan Wheeler from Western’s Redding maintenance office uses a hot stick to remove snow from a transmission line.

A Western Sierra Nevada line crew heeded a call for mutual aid and assistance from a neighboring utility and customer Jan. 20 in response to the unexpectedly severe Pacific Northwest winter storm, which had extensively damaged the utility’s local transmission system.

Western’s Sierra Nevada Region Redding line crew worked closely with linemen from Trinity Public Utilities District along steep and rugged terrain Jan. 20 through 22 to restore power to the citizens of Weaverville, Douglas City, Lewistown and Hayfork in northern California, or about 8,000 citizens.

Read more at Western’s Newsroom.

Planning reliable power delivery for the future

Recently, the Western’s Desert Southwest Region updated its 10-year Capital Program. The Fiscal Year 2012 Capital Program provides both a capital investment plan, as well as a funding plan, that will ensure reliable power delivery to Western’s customers.

The updated program booklet clearly describes DSW’s strategy to construct and repair Western’s transmission lines; it entails DSW’s current goals and challenges to maintain reliability and outlines its major accomplishments for FY 2011; it also provides an opportunity for customer collaboration.

Program aligns Western’s, customers’ goals

The Capital Program is an ongoing project revised annually in response to approved funding allocations for the budget year, changes in project priority, unforeseen problems with the transmission system, mandates or regulatory requirements and new contractual requirements.

Fluctuations in funding make it difficult to plan which projects to carry out and at what pace to complete them. Appropriated funds don’t carry over from year to year, which means any excess funding that is still available at the end of the fiscal year cannot be used in subsequent years.

In FY 2010, Western and its customers decided that the best way to address the ongoing funding struggle was to use prepayment funding for selected construction projects, and it has significantly helped DSW’s position. Customers prepay for transmission services, providing a source of funds to cover some of the appropriations shortfalls. Projects that are proposed for pre-payment are first submitted for funding through the typical appropriated funding process.

The use of pre-payment funding is beneficial to both Western and its customers and has provided a significant, and consistent, source of construction dollars since its inception.

Projects see 2011 success, 2012 schedules

Despite appropriated funding issues in FY 2011, DSW completed several construction and RRAD projects. “DSW customers are very satisfied with our progress, particularly in the last two years since we’ve been working prepayment projects. DSW customers are able to see their money at work and that helps build our credibility as an organization and develops a relationship of trust and  cooperation,” said Project Manager Chris Lyles.

With FY 2012 already in progress, all projects scheduled for execution this year are dependent on the receipt of adequate appropriated funding in a timely manner.

The 10-year Capital Program is the means for identifying, prioritizing, scheduling and funding projects that directly affect Western and its customers. It is essential to meeting Western’s mission of providing reliable power to its customers.

Learn more about DSW’s 10-year Capital Plan.

Infrared Camera Workshop Jan. 9

An Infrared Camera Workshop being held on Jan. 9, 2012 in Billings, Mont., is a partnership with Western and Montana State University Billings-College of Technology. This one-day workshop offers your utility hands-on training in Fluke and Flir infrared cameras’ technology and software, as well as guidance on integrating IR cameras into efficiency program development and utility O&M.

This unique workshop presents insight into designing an IR program, reading IR images for utility applications, field training with cameras and how to work with customers to use IR camera data.

See Western’s Energy Services Web page to register and see the agenda for the workshop. Seating is limited to first come first serve, so register today.