|The initial topsoil removal and cutting back of the bank (notice the eroded area close to the structure footing), while Crow Creek Nation archaeological monitor looks on.
In May, floodwaters engulfed the Crow Creek Reservation located in central South Dakota, damaging several roads and structures. Flash flooding eroded a ravine next to one of Western’s transmission towers located on private land within the reservation boundary. The erosion endangered both the tower and the line’s operability and reliability near a 230-kilovolt steel transmission line. Had the bank caved to the edge of the footing, the tower would have begun to lean and could eventually have collapsed, cutting power to the customers who rely on the line. Western’s Upper Great Plains region employees, in cooperation with the Crow Creek Nation, worked to prevent its destruction.
Western’s Engineering and Maintenance employees determined that the best way to fix the erosion problem was to use simple but effective Gabion baskets to stabilize the bank and divert water away from the structure. Gabion baskets are large wire baskets filled with rip-rap and connected together—in this instance, three tiers high— to divert the flow of water away from an eroding bank. Initially, the floor of the ravine was leveled in order for a track-hoe to cut back the bank for the placement of the baskets. Filter fabric that allows for the passage of water, but not sediment, was layered between the baskets, and the soil from the excavated bank was then filled in behind the baskets. A layer of clay was then placed in the ravine in front of the baskets to prevent soil from eroding out from underneath.
The Crow Creek Nation, as stewards of the cultural resources within the reservation boundaries, felt that it was important to protect and preserve these sites. It’s also Western policy to preserve, protect and avoid disturbance to cultural resources whenever possible. For that reason, UGP developed several project alternatives to address the emergency situation without damaging the archaeological sites. Western was able to keep its construction “footprint” to a minimum, thereby reducing the amount of ground disturbance around the project area.
Field work began Nov. 2 and concluded within two weeks. Nice weather conditions helped the work progress quickly. Following completion of the project, Western restored the excavated bank and reintroduced the removed vegetation to the topsoil so that it has a chance to recover in spring.
Ingenuity and creativity in copy, design, financial data, graphics and communicating the agency’s special story earned Western the American Public Power Association’s Award of Merit for Western’s Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report.
On Wednesday, Annual Report Project Manager Jennifer Neville accepted the award on behalf of Western during the APPA Customer Connections Conference in Savannah, Ga. “I feel honored that our efforts to support our customers and to communicate on a level that matches their style is being recognized,” Neville remarked.
The APPA award is the first that Western’s annual reports have received. Neville believes that the report was selected due to its different visual look and style. “This is the first year that we have used a graphical, painted theme rather than photographs,” Neville explained. “Once we devised the theme, Roadmap for Renewable Energy, Graphical Designer, Grant Kuhn, came up with designs, and this one was the clear choice by Senior Managers.”
Read more on Western’s website.
The Montana Alberta Tie Limited Project’s parent company, Tonbridge Power Inc., announced on Oct. 13 that the acquisition of Tonbridge by an affiliate of Enbridge Inc. is a 100 perecent completed. This agreement must follow a court-approved plan. Enbridge will continue MATL’s construction and development, working closely with Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program. MATL’s expected completion date remains around mid-2012. For more information on the acquisition visit MATL’s website.
House Resolution 2915, which proposes to repeal Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program’s $3.25 billion borrowing authority from the U.S. Treasury, passed the House of Representatives Committee of Natural Resources with no amendments Oct. 5 with a 26-17 straight party-line vote.
While the three projects currently approved to use the borrowing authority – TransWest Express (development phase), Electrical District 5 – Palo Verde Hub and the Montana Alberta Tie, Limited – would not be impacted by the bill’s passage, no other projects being considered would receive funding.
“New transmission is urgently needed in the western United States. And yet, getting lines in the air has been far too slow over the past few decades,” said Lauren Azar, senior advisor to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in a written testimony for a Sept. 22 hearing with the Subcommittee on Water and Power. “Western’s $3.25 billion of permanent, indefinite, borrowing authority is, therefore, a critical tool for addressing two of the major energy challenges we now face in the West — the need for additional transmission infrastructure and integration of renewables onto the grid.”
The bill will now be considered in the full House.
TIP’s borrowing authority constructs or upgrades transmission infrastructure within Western’s 15-state service area that has the reasonable expectation of helping deliver renewable generation to customers and is in the public interest.
The Department of Energy announced, Oct. 5, seven transmission projects chosen by President Obama’s administration for accelerated permitting and constructing by the newly-formed Rapid Response Team for Transmission, which brings together nine agencies to expedite and improve the coordination of necessary Federal approvals for building transmission.
One of the chosen projects, TransWest Express, is currently being funded partially by Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program’s borrowing authority. Western will provide $25 million, or 50 percent, for the development phase to determine the technical feasibility of building the project.
“The RRTT selection highlights the TWE Project’s importance to the overall grid, its economic and environmental benefits, and its ability to create and sustain competitive, cost-effective energy for consumers in California and other states,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of TransWest Express LLC.
About Rapid Response Team for Transmission
The agencies included in the team are the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
A major milestone for the TransWest Express Transmission Project was reached Friday as the Western Area Power Administration and TransWest Express LLC announced an agreement to fund the project’s $50 million development phase.
The TWE Project development phase will determine the feasibility of constructing and operating a 725-mile, 600-kilovolt, direct current transmission line that would facilitate renewable energy delivery from Wyoming to the southwestern United States. The project would interconnect with the existing transmission grid near Rawlins, Wyo., and the Marketplace Hub, near Las Vegas, Nev.
Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program will use its U.S. Treasury borrowing authority under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act amendement to the Hoover Power Plant Act of 1984 to fund 50 percent of the development phase. TWE , LLC will fund the other $25 million.
The press release in its entirety can be read in Western’s online Newsroom.
Helicopter assists DSW linemen with insulator change.
Desert Southwest linemen show us an example of an insulator change using an N619DE helicopter. This is a relatively new work process that began early this year. It allows repairs like this to be completed very quickly resulting in shorter outage times and much less cost compared to conventional methods such as bringing in a bucket truck. All required tools and hardware are also flown into the structure tower.
DSW linemen installing new insulator
The first step is the helicopter removes the old insulator from its cradle. The pilot then flies in the new insulator and sets the end of it onto the cradle of the old insulator. The linemen guide the new insulator horizontally into the cradle as the pilot lowers it down. The linemen then attach the insulator to hardware and conductor.
Meeting Transmission Challenges in the Rocky Mountain Region, a workshop held June 21 in Fort Collins, Colo., proved that “if you plan it, they will come.”
Western brought together transmission customers, tribes, developers, state and Federal agencies and utilities to discuss Western’s transmission planning and services and to discuss transmission challenges in the region.
“There is need for transmission to support new generation across Western’s 15-state service territory,” said RM Contracts and Energy Services Specialist and workshop host Bob Langenberger. “But there are regulations, competing state needs and the question of where generation is built and the transmission to get it to market.”
With several organizations and different interests represented, the workshop pointed out the common desire to develop interconnections to the transmission system. “It’s important to come together, identify all those interests and find good investment solutions that best meet those desires, while maintaining the power grid’s reliability,” said Desert Southwest’s Transmission Services Manager Ron Moulton.
Moulton recognized how important this meeting was for Western and its customers. He explained, “There’s a considerable amount of energy needs in Western’s service territory. It’s important for us to understand customer needs and concerns to meet those needs in an environmentally-friendly and cost effective way.”
Read the full story at Energy Services Bulletin.
On July 12, Western switched its transmission scheduling from every hour to every half hour.
The change to intra-hour scheduling is expected to increase the grid and markets ability to respond to supply and demand fluctuations, particularly with the influx of variable energy resources like wind and solar power. It will also allow for more flexible and efficient use of available transmission.
“The initiative provides renewable generators the ability to have their actual [generation] closer to the schedule, reducing their exposure to imbalance penalties,” said Mike McElhany, a member in the Transmission Business Unit in the Desert Southwest region. “It helps level the playing field and provides more flexibility to integrate renewable energy.”
Shortening the timeframe permits increased integration of those variable resources when they’re available and the ability to quickly ramp up alternate sources when they’re not, without unduly penalizing renewable generators.
“It helps limit additional costs faced by the renewable producer when their actual generation and scheduled generation do not align, reducing the cost of integrating renewable generation,” said Ron Moulton, Transmission Services Manager for DSW and Rocky Mountain region.
Western employees on the job
A Western Electronic Equipment Foreman in the Rocky Mountain Region makes a fiber connection to a new 25 megavolt-ampere transformer that was installed in April 2010.
Western employees work 24/7 to keep electric power flowing across the West. Without dedicated employees like this we’d be left in the dark.