BLM releases Southine EIS scoping report

The Bureau of Land Management recently released the scoping summary report for the proposed Southline Transmission Line project, ending the 90-day scoping period for the project environmental impact statement.

BLM and Western, as joint lead agencies in the preparation of the EIS, held six open houses in New Mexico and Arizona in May during the scoping phase. The scoping phase gives the public the opportunity to learn about a proposed project, share concerns and provide comments on what potential impacts should be analyzed in the draft EIS expected in 2013.

Major concerns discovered during the scoping process included the NEPA process and BLM’s management plan amendment, wildlife impacts and socioeconomic impacts.

Southline Transmission, LLC, proposes to construct, operate and maintain a 360-mile, high-voltage power line from Afton, N.M., to Saguaro substation northwest of Tucson, Ariz. About 240 miles would be new construction of a 345-kilovolt line on mostly BLM land while the rest would be an upgrade to an existing Western line. If completed, the line will add 1,000 megawatts of transmission capacity to the southwest.

Western Operations Study presented

Western hosted a webinar for customers Aug. 16—after posting the report a week earlier—to allow its consultant, Miracorp, to discuss the process they followed to create the report and also define Western’s next steps. Learn more about the study on Western’s Opertions Study page.

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.

Western conducted grid reliability webinar

Western Area Power Administration conducted a Grid Reliability—Impacts to Tribal Renewable Projects webinar in partnership with the U.S. DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and DOE Tribal Energy Program July 25.

About 55 Tribal members and interested parties participated in the webinar with 112 registering for the event. Western’s Reliability Compliance Program Manager was the featured speaker, covering topics such as key definitions, reliability organizations, oversight process, standards and enforcement among other reliability considerations. 

Western’s Renewable Resource Program Manager Randy Manion shared, “This webinar was the eighth in the Fiscal Year 2012 Tribal Webinar series coordinated by Western. Laurent Weber, Western’s Reliability Compliance Program manager, did a masterful job explaining complex issues.”

The webinar series is giving Western transmission and power marketing experts a platform to share their incredible knowledge and expertise with Tribal representatives, renewable energy developers and other important stakeholders.

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.