Energy Secretary elaborates on PMA memo

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.

Tribal webinar to discuss today’s energy needs, yesterday’s grid

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.

Customers show interest in Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s wind power

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.”

California releases results from fifth and final snowpack survey

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.

Montana Schools Win National Student Energy Efficiency Competition

A team of five schools from Carter County, Mont., has won the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge, a national student competition designed to encourage students and their families to take action to start saving money by saving energy.

The Montana team was supported by Southeast Electric Cooperative, based in Ekalaka, Mont.  Marlene Waterland of Southeast Electric coordinated the program and provided training for each of the schools.  Western contributed to the effort by providing a lighting efficiency display and infrared cameras through the Equipment Loan Program.

“Western is proud to be able to assist Southeast Electric Cooperative and Marlene engage these young people and focus their math and science skills on a real-life problem—how to save money by using energy efficiently at home,” said Gary Hoffmann, Western’s Equipment Loan Program manager.

The five schools, Alzeda Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School (K-8th grade), Hammond School (K-8th grade) and Hawks Home School, will share the $15,000 they won as both a regional winner and as the national champion.

The Challenge, which is run by the National Science Teachers Association for the Department of Energy, challenged teams of third through eighth grade students to work with their science teachers and local utility companies to develop energy use savings plans that reduce the amount of energy used to power their homes. Each student team monitored and measured their energy consumption between September and November 2011, and then compared it to data collected during the same three-month period the year before.

The Montana students talked to their family members about steps they could take to save money by saving energy, including turning off the lights when leaving the room, running the laundry machine with cooler water and full loads, and in an agricultural community, using timers to set charging times for tractors.

Learn more about the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge

Read DOE’s press release on the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge winner

See photos and local coverage of the Carter County program

Delta-Mendota intertie project completed in California

The Bureau of Reclamation held a ribbon-cutting ceremonyfor the recently completed Delta Mendota Canal Intertie project, May 2. Western’s Sierra Nevada region constructed a new transmission line to provide critical project use power.

The new 4.7-mile, 69-kilovolt transmission line near Tracy, Calif., was energized March 14 and powers Reclamation’s pumping plant, which is needed to propel water through the concrete pipes. The line connects to an existing Western 69-kV line in Contra Costa County.

You can read more about the transmission line project or see Reclamation’s news release and photos from the May 2 event.