Regional utilities gather in Colorado to talk energy efficiency

More than 100 electric utilities and industry representatives attended the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10 to12.

Ron Ebenkamp, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, invites Robin O'Day, San Isabel Electric; Ray Pierotti, La Plata Electric; Gary Myers, Poudre Valley; and Craig Tate, Holy Cross Energy, to discuss the major role lighting programs continue to play in utility energy-efficiency portfolios at the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10. The networking event lasted three days and allowed local water and energy utilities to share best practices in efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management programs.

Ron Ebenkamp, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, invites Robin O'Day, San Isabel Electric; Ray Pierotti, La Plata Electric; Gary Myers, Poudre Valley; and Craig Tate, Holy Cross Energy, to discuss the major role lighting programs continue to play in utility energy-efficiency portfolios at the sixth annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange in Aspen, Colo., Oct. 10.

Co-sponsored by Western’s Energy Services office, the networking event provided energy and water utilities serving Colorado and neighboring states an open forum to learn and teach how to implement efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management programs with their peers.

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Western receives DOI award for conservation, watershed planning

Western was one of 17 organizations presented a “Partners in Conservation” award by the Deputy Secretary of the Interior today at a ceremony in Washington D.C. for participation in the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study.

The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study is a joint effort among more than 70 Federal and state agencies, Native American tribes, environmental groups and other organizations to establish a common foundation for resolving future water supply and demand imbalances. According to Interior, it is the largest, most comprehensive basin-wide analysis ever undertaken and will serve as a model for watershed planning and planning for future growth and climate change near the Colorado River.

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Burrowing owls call Phoenix office home

Western’s customer service territory shares the land with a great diversity of wildlife. Sometimes we even share the borders of our office buildings’ grounds with fascinating and interesting creatures. In the Desert Southwest region’s Phoenix office, employees work while 10 to 15 burrowing owls live just outside their door.

Three burrowing owls watch employees walk by at Desert Southwest’s Phoenix office, just as they do most mornings.

Three burrowing owls watch employees walk by at Desert Southwest’s Phoenix office, just as they do most mornings.

The convenience of being near wildlife brings some happiness to employees. “We all enjoy having [the owls] here at DSW. We have this great opportunity to be close to the wildlife and observe their living habits,” said Supply Technician Mary Bergeron.

As a result of an increasing human population leading to more residential and commercial development on agricultural land and prairies, wildlife species like the burrowing owl lose their natural nesting areas. For safety, health and conservation reasons, displaced owls are often relocated to man-made nesting structures like the one at the DSW yard.

In 2004, the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of relocation efforts of burrowing owls to artificial burrows. They also wanted to establish relocation guidelines and recommendations for future management plans. As part of this study, AGFD monitored up to 50 relocation clusters throughout Arizona, including the one at DSW. On a regular basis, AGFD biologists would collect data on owl behavior, confirm the new burrow system was working, place bands on young birds to track their movements and make sure the site was still suitable for the owls. DSW’s artificial owl burrows are constructed of a PVC pipe system that is buried underground.

Unfortunately, the funding for this project ended after 2007, and the AGFD has not monitored the DSW birds for several years. Even so, DSW’s feathery neighbors are living happy lives today. If a funding source is secured in the future, the AGFD would like to continue monitoring the birds.

Learn more about burrowing owls.

Estes Park, Loveland citizens share ideas during alternative design workshops for Estes-Flatiron transmission project

 

Neighbors, local government officials and Western representatives gathered around a large map during workshop meetings, Oct. 2 to 4, where they discussed options for an upgrade to combine two transmission lines into one right of way.  Both lines feed the Town of Estes and other nearby communities in Colorado with energy.

Drawing alternative routes with colored markers, neighbors talked about how different paths for the power line could impact the environment, their neighbors and the scenic views of their town and surrounding national forests. For some participants, it was an educational experience in the complexity of differing views and issues that came up regarding their ideas.

The collective thoughts and considerations of these engaged citizens will help Western Area Power Administration determine the alternatives it will review in its draft environmental impact statement for the Estes-Flatiron Transmission Line Rebuild Project.

Western is preparing to analyze how different alternatives for rebuilding or maintaining the transmission system will provide reliable power and impact the environment, landowners and surrounding communities. With high public interest for this project, Western extended the scoping period through Oct. 19 to work with the local communities to:

  1. Identify transmission line route options
  2. Gather input on design/structure features
  3. Understand the many issues and impacts with any alternative route

Get involved
If you would like to provide input on route alternatives or structure design, take the time to examine the scoping and alternative development materials and reply to Western by Oct. 19. The input will help Western and cooperating agencies identify alternatives to be analyzed in the draft environmental impact statement.

Utility partners with high schools for science education

Wheatland Rural Electric Association took advantage of Western’s Equipment Loan Program to help science classes at Wheatland, Chugwater and Glendo high schools in Platte County, Colo.

The program offers Western customers technical equipment through loan agreements. Educational displays are among the most requested items in the program. Utilities set them up at customer meetings, classrooms and community events to open up conversations with their ratepayers.

Wheatland REA Member Services Manager Al Teel was enthusiastic about the capability and usefulness of weather stations, which measure wind speed, solar index, ultraviolet levels, precipitation, soil temperature and moisture content.

For residents in a largely agricultural economy, that information is relevant to their daily lives, Teel observed. “It’s more than a science project—students will be collecting data that has real value to the three communities,” he said.

To learn what students measured and how the information will be used, read the full story.

Blue Mesa Dam drilling through Oct. 2

Bureau of Reclamation drilling crews began working on the crest of Blue Mesa Dam, Sept. 12, continuing through about Oct. 2. Workers will drill three sample holes and install equipment in one of the holes to monitor dam activity.

The information gleaned from the core samples and equipment will be used by Reclamation for consideration of short and long-term performance of the dam related to dam safety and security measures.

Blue Mesa Dam is the first of three dams, including Morrow Point and Crystal Dams, which create the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project from which Western markets hydropower. The drilling will not impact hydropower generation.

Linemen de-energize line for safety of Corps construction, part of American River Common Features project

Western’s linemen keep the agencies transmission lines and structures maintained so the system can reliably deliver electricity to cities and towns throughout the West. Sometimes this job requires Western to de-energize a line for maintenance of the line or working going on below the transmission line.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Todd Plain snapped this photo of Western linemen de-energizing the high-voltage power line at dusk for the safety of the workers below. Construction crews worked during the night constructing the seepage cutoff wall (part of the American River levees) underneath the line. This is part of the Corps American River Common Features project, a joint flood risk reduction effort between the Corps, the state’s Central Valley Flood Protection Board/Department of Water Resources and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.

Workers from Western Area Power Administration de-energize high power lines

(Photo belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Sacramento District. Full picture description available on the USACE-Sacramento District’s Flickr photostream.)

Deputy Secretary of Energy Poneman stops by Western

Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman talks with Western employeesIn a spontaneous visit to Colorado Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman made a quick stop by Western’s Corporate Services Office in Lakewood, Sept. 14, sandwiched between two other meetings in the area.

Opening with “I’m not really hear to talk; I’m here to answer any questions you have on your mind,” Poneman said in his video conference with several hundred Western employees. Read more »

NaturEner holds ceremony for Rim Rock wind farm in Montana

Rim Rock wind turbine

Rim Rock wind turbine owned and operated by NaturEner (Photo provided by NaturEner website)

Hundreds of people attended NaturEner’s opening ceremony Sept. 14 for the Rim Rock wind farm just north of Cut Bank, Mont., to celebrate overcoming the considerable challenges in making the wind farm a reality.

“There was a time last summer when we were doubtful we were going to be able to pull this off,” said Greg Copeland, Development Director of the U.S. division of the Spanish-owned NaturEner. Read more »

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.