May 01 , 2012
event photos
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Today First Wind officially broke ground on Palouse Wind, a wind farm near the town of Oakesdale off of State Route 195. Last year Avista signed a 30-year power purchase agreement for the renewable wind power that will be generated at the site once it’s completed later this year.

The wind farm is expected be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with 58 turbines and the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes.

The power we get from Palouse Wind will be part of a diverse, responsible energy portfolio that includes renewable resources generated right here in eastern Washington. In addition, the project is helping Avista invest in our infrastructure through the transmission upgrades we’re making so we can connect the power to our system. Palouse Wind will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while meeting renewable portfolio standards in Washington.

The groundbreaking ceremony included speakers from Avista, First Wind, Vestas, as well as several elected officials from Whitman County and the surrounding area who discussed the benefits of the project to the area’s economy, the surrounding communities and Avista’s customers.

The event was held at the future site of the project’s substation, a leveled section of land among the rolling hills that dot the landscape.

The turbines and their massive blades are not up yet, but will be shipped from Colorado to Washington by train and then transferred by trucks to the site, where they’ll be erected this summer. It should be a site to see. When the turbines go up, we’ll update the blog.
 
Published: 5/1/2012  4:01 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 27 , 2012
slideshow

 
Arbor Day celebrated with award and tree planting

The vocabulary word for today is arboriculture - that’s the planting and care of woody plants, especially trees.

Arboriculture is something that Avista is actively engaged in through our vegetation management program which works to keep trees clear of power lines, helping to ensure reliable service to customers. We’re also engaged in customer and community outreach programs that contribute to a healthy urban tree canopy through tree plantings and that educate customers on the importance of planting the right tree in the right place especially around power lines.

That on-going commitment has earned Avista its first Tree Line USA Award from the Arbor Day Foundation. The national program promotes the dual goals of safe, reliable electric service and abundant, healthy trees across utility service areas. Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, presented Avista with the award today at the Spokane Conservation District in Spokane Valley.

After the presentation the district planted a memorial cockspur hawthorn, the Avista 2012 Utility Smart Tree of the Year. See photos above.

Some of Avista’s programs which contributed to the company receiving the award are:
• The street tree replacement collaboration with Spokane Conservation District and the City of Spokane which removes tall growing trees located beneath power lines and replaces them with low-growing species that are compatible with overhead lines.
• The energy saving shade tree program which is a partnership with the Spokane Conservation District to help residential customers in Spokane County strategically plant shade trees to help reduce their energy costs.
• The announcement of the utility compatible tree of the year and planting of the tree in a ceremony held in Spokane
• Annual Arbor Day celebrations

Also contributing to Avista receiving the Tree Line USA Award is its commitment to quality tree care by adhering to industry standards and ensuring that employees and contract workers are trained in best practices.
 
More information
What kinds of trees can be planted near power lines?
• Only plant tree species that mature at 20’ or less near power lines.
• If you would like a list of power line compatible trees please call 1-800-727-9170, Extension 8514.
• For more species selection good sources of information are the County Extension Offices, City Parks Department, certified arborists, and reputable plant nurseries.
• If planting in city strips there may be ordinances over species selection.
Published: 4/27/2012  11:20 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 25 , 2012
Kill-A-Watt kit
Avista donation makes 36 kits available to Spokane County Library District

Blog post by Dan Kolbet
 
The Spokane County Library District (SCLD) has teamed up with Avista to make Kill-A-Watt devices available for check out. Kill-A-Watt is a small meter that measures the energy used by individual appliances to assess how efficient the appliances really are. Avista donated 36 Kill-A-Watt kits to SCLD.

With your library card, Kill-A-Watt devices may be checked out from any SCLD library for up to two weeks. Plug in the appliance you would like to measure and the Kill-A-Watt device will calculate how much energy you’re using and what it costs.

“Partnering with the Spokane County Library District is a great way to make the Kill-A-Watt devices available to everyone in our community interested in energy efficiency,” said Chris Drake, Avista’s manager for energy efficiency programs. “Knowing how much energy appliances and home electronics in our home use can help make smart choices and encourage energy-saving behavior. Every little bit really does add up to energy savings.”

The Kill-A-Watt program can help you compare energy costs of an appliance you own now with projected costs listed on any new one you might buy. Now you’ll know if it is time for a new refrigerator or that old TV should be unplugged when you are not using it.

Home Energy Savings Events for you
Date: April 28, 2012
 
Spokane Valley, 10 a.m.; North Spokane Library, 2 p.m.
 
Learn low-cost and no-cost ways to manage your energy use with easy tips to improve your energy efficiency. Plus, Ana Matthews will demonstrate the “Kill-A-Watt,” a small meter you can check out from the library. Plug this device into your appliances to see how much energy you’re using and what it costs. Sponsored by Avista

Also read
Avista Blog, October 19, 2010 “Bringing energy awareness to my home.” Communications Specialist Sarah Richards checked out a Kill-a-Watt meter from the Idaho Public Library.
 
 
Visit the SCLD
 
 
Published: 4/25/2012  2:50 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 23 , 2012
Ashland customer praises employees for going the extra mile

Guest Blog Post by Brian Taylor
Medford, Oregon Gas Operations Manager

Antique range
Antique range
In my position as Gas Operations Manager in Medford, I hear from customers quite a bit, which I enjoy. One of the best parts of my job is when a customer goes above and beyond to simply thank our employees for work they did at a home or business. Recently a customer called after two of our employees spent time at her home ensuring the safe operation of her very antique range.

It’s easy to talk about customer service, but it’s another thing to actually do it - Avista employees Marty Moore and Eddie Randles live it.

In mid-March, Moore was at the Ashland customer’s home. Her antique range had a leak that needed to be fixed. Given the age and model of the appliance Moore was concerned that the customer would have trouble finding a dealer who could provide service. He called a few on her behalf and found no takers. So, when Moore was called away on an emergency call, he called in Randles, who was working on some natural gas pipelines nearby, to help out. This avoided immediately shutting the customer off.

Randles was able to fix the small leak around the control body seal. He also cleaned and adjusted the pilot light while he was in there. The range was so old that the name plate was faded. Despite that, he was able to get enough information about the range to find a dealer in California who still stocks parts for it. This information just might come in handy in the future.

Here’s the best part. The customer called and spoke to two different Customer Service Representatives about the employees who visited her home.

“She was absolutely amazed with all [Moore and Randles] have helped her with today,” wrote one CSR.

Another CSR wrote, “The serviceman was very professional, friendly and went above and beyond what she expected. He paid attention to detail and helped her with things she didn’t expect, every little detail to help her get back in service . . . She is very happy with Avista.”

We do little fixes, like this one, for customers all the time.  If a customer needs something extra and we can provide it without too much trouble, we’ll go ahead and do it. For the customer in Ashland with the antique range, these fixes went a long way.

Have you had a similar experience? Tell us about it in the comments.
Published: 4/23/2012  4:31 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 20 , 2012
mini excavator
 
By knowing what’s below, contractors and homeowners are making wise decisions

Tim Sweet, co-owner of Clearwater Summit Group
Tim Sweet,
co-owner
of Clearwater
Summit Group, Inc.
Guest Blog Post by: Tim Sweet, co-owner of Clearwater Summit Group, Inc.
A landscape design, construction and maintenance company
 
Digging in the dirt has been a part of my daily life for the last 29 years I have been in business. As the owner of a full-service landscape company, safety, as you can imagine is a huge focus in my line of work.

Landscaping in the Spokane and Couer d’Alene region is a seasonal operation which means tight schedules and deadlines. It is important for my company to have clear lines of communication between the project manager and crew, the homeowner, the general contractor and/or subcontractor and the utility locate company. In fact, Clearwater Summit Group is never bashful about calling in a utility locate. One wrong move can compromise the safety of our employees as well as cost us time, money and credibility with the homeowner or general contractor.
 
Color codes for locates
utility locates marked on ground
In order to maximize our efficiency and safe operations, we have a clearly defined process for calling in utility locates. Our one rule of thumb is to never assume anything. If there is a doubt, we encourage our employees to voice their concerns to the project manager.

Since April is National Safe Digging Month, we are making it our mission at Clearwater Summit Group is to educate our customers about using the 811 Call Before you Dig system. Many of our clients will add to their landscape year after year and we want them to be aware of how important it is to know what’s below the surface of their yards before they embark on any DIY projects. Please help us and Avista spread the word about the importance of using the 811 system.
 
A message about 811 from Avista
We are proud to post messages from members of the community who are interested in helping us spread the word about the importance of using the free 811 utility locate system. Safety and reliability are top priorities for customers and that’s important when it comes to natural gas. Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
 
Published: 4/20/2012  2:05 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 18 , 2012
Local Spokane Artist,  George Roybal
 
Enter for a chance to win a custom designed and pained helmet by local artist, George Roybal

Post by Brandi Smith

April is National Call Before you Dig Month, and at Avista we are doing our best to get the word out about how important it is to use the free utility locate system before digging into the unknown territory below.

In honor of the occasion, we have partnered with the Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council (IEUCC) to bring a custom made chopper designed by Paul Jr. Designs to Spokane at no cost. You may have seen him on the popular reality show, “American Chopper:  Senior vs. Junior” where the design and construction of the 811 Damage Prevention bike was featured.

Contest Entry tab on Facebook
To enter the contest go to
 “Like” our page and fill out the entry form.
It’s that easy.
 
Don’t delay however,
the contest ends on May 31.
But wait, there’s more. Avista is offering a chance for one lucky person, biker or not, to win and design his or her own custom painted motorcycle helmet with the help of Spokane artist George Roybal.

Meet the artist
Known as the "Purveyor of Potent Paint", George Roybal owns and operates Illustrated Air, a custom airbrush, pinstripe, and paint studio located in Spokane Valley, Wash. For over 16 years, George has transformed custom paint in the Inland Northwest. Renowned for his photo realistic airbrush work, he has garnered numerous "Best Paint" awards for his customers including The House Of Kolor "Prestigious Painter" award in 2002 on a 1995 Hummer painted with a cutting edge tribal graphic done entirely freehand.

What we are trying to say is that his work is awesome and you wouldn’t want to miss out on this golden opportunity to win something cool. Entering the contest is as easy as calling in a utility locate. All you have to do is be at least 18, “like” us on Facebook and fill out the entry form.

Why 811 is so important
Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.

The new 811 Damage Prevention Bike created for One Call Concepts, Inc. will be at the May 18 Spokane Shock game and will be in the Spokane Lilac Festival Torchlight Parade and car show on May 19. Bringing the 811 Prevention Bike to Spokane for high-profile community events is one way that we can share with customers and the public about the importance of calling before beginning any project that involves digging.
 
If you have a project that needs a utility locate, call 811 or visit, www.call811.com to submit a request online. Simply click on the "local information" tab to get information on your state's utility locate service.

Published: 4/18/2012  10:28 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 17 , 2012
www.avistautilities.com/renewable
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
You may have seen the above image in newspapers recently. It’s PJ, a Mechanical Engineer at Avista. The ad is part of an educational campaign about renewables in our region. Last month we focused on reliability.

Customers like you are being asked to go to www.avistautilities.com/renewable to see a collection of blog posts (yes, from this blog you are reading) that focus on renewables. The first blog post, “Renewable energy: where to start” [LINK] frames the renewable conversation for our region. The other blog posts showcase work at Noxon; our biomass plant, Kettle Falls; and Palouse Wind, the under-construction wind farm near Oakesdale.
 
This effort is intended to encourage understanding and discussions with you and about reliability, renewable energy and the environment. Look for new blog posts and advertisements in May regarding the environment.

Check out the blog posts below or go to www.avistautilities.com/renewable
 
Published: 4/17/2012  10:28 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 16 , 2012
Enter to win
It could be as easy as making a small commitment to energy efficiency
 
 
Avista, KREM 2’s Project Green and Toyota have teamed up again in support of energy efficiency with one lucky person winning a new Prius C donated by Toyota.

For a chance to win the Prius C, donated by Toyota, viewers need to watch for the daily keyword during KREM news broadcasts from April 9 to May 23, and then enter the keywords at KREM.com. Avista customers can get two bonus entries by making a commitment to energy efficiency at everylittlebit.com and by “liking” Every Little Bit on Facebook. The deadline for entries is May 23 with the drawing on May 31.

The purpose of the campaign is to increase customer awareness and engagement in the importance of energy efficiency. For over 30 years, Avista has been helping customers become more energy efficient by offering programs and rebates to make home improvements and by providing valuable tools such as our online energy advisor. When it comes to energy, Avista knows efficiency matters and every little bit adds up.

Our region’s energy needs are growing, but building or purchasing new sources of` power including renewable energy isn’t cheap. Energy efficiency costs half the amount of generating new power and is the best approach to maximizing our existing resources.

KREM 2 Project Green showcases the company’s concern for the environment regarding energy efficiency, recycling and transportation. Toyota, which donated the Prius C, is proud to be constantly striving to provide the best possible driving experience while using the smallest amount of our natural resources. It’s a great partnership.

While just one person will win the Prius C, everyone participating in the campaign will be an energy efficiency winner. Through KREM news coverage about the importance of energy efficiency and information on Avista’s everylittlebit.com site about rebates and energy savings tips, viewers and customers can learn how to better manage their energy use.
Published: 4/16/2012  9:42 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012

Spokane River

The spring runoff season is just beginning, and can create dangerous river flows and lake levels. Stay safe by staying out of the water during high flows.

Post by Anna Scarlett

The high river flows and lake levels we saw in the first week of April brought breathtaking views at our area dams along with water over some parts of our roads and trails. This may have you thinking we’re well into the spring runoff season. But the fact is what we saw earlier this month was just a preview of what’s to come.

An abundance of early spring rain rapidly increased the flow of water into Coeur d’Alene Lake, and from there, into the Spokane River in the last days of March and early part of April. The Spokane River peaked on April 3 with nearly 28,000 cubic feet per second flowing through downtown Spokane, while Coeur d’Alene Lake peaked at just over 2,131 feet above sea level, or about 3 feet above its normal summer level. Since then, river and lake levels have gradually fallen, remaining fairly steady for the last few days.

Today (April 13), they’re starting to rise slightly again – and we’re likely in for a couple  more months of high waters. Due to higher than normal seasonal snowpack (as of Friday April 13, it’s still at 108 percent of normal), and warmer expected temperatures in addition to the heavy rainfall we’ve already received, the National Weather Service is predicting above average river flows in the area in the coming months.

Safety is a top priority at Avista. So as warmer, sunny days draw you to the water, we want to remind you that Coeur d’Alene Lake and the downstream river and reservoir levels can change rapidly at any time, due to weather and other factors. Please use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures, especially near the vicinity of hydroelectric facilities, and always wear your life jacket when on the water.

Property owners and lake users – remember to make necessary preparations, including removing boats from the water, and removing or securing docks and boathouses to accommodate changing water conditions.

When recreating on or along a river or reservoir, always follow these important safety tips:

• Always be alert for debris, obstructions, and partially submerged objects.
• Always obey warning signs near dams.
• Never cross boater restraining cables or buoy lines that designate areas where boats should not operate.
• Never fish, swim or boat above or below a dam - water levels can change rapidly with little warning due to operation of spill gates and turbines.
• If in a sailboat or catamaran, always look for overhead cables and power lines.
• Always wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), even if you are an adult.
• Never operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• When on the water, obey all warning signs and follow all rules and regulations.

Remember rivers and streams are at their peak flows during spring and early summer. For more safety information, visit http://www.avistautilities.com/safety/dams.

Access water level information 24 hours a day
Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated changes on Lake Spokane, the Spokane River and Coeur d’Alene Lake.

In Washington call 509-495-8043; in Idaho, call 208-769-1357.

The recorded information line advises shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check current river and lake levels on our website at http://www.avistautilities.com, keyword search “weather and water.”
 
LEARN MORE:
 
Published: 4/13/2012  4:19 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012
Wind and solar get the renewable headlines, but what about biomass and hydro?

Post by Dan Kolbet

Renewable Energy
At Avista we like to say that we were founded on renewable hydroelectricity. We’re proud of it. Even today the biggest resource percentage of generated or purchased power comes from hydroelectricity. Yet nationally, renewable energy tends to be framed around wind, solar and sometimes biomass and hydro. Where does Avista, biomass, hydroelectricity and your power fit in the renewable discussion?

Let’s start with hydroelectricity. Unlike much of the country, the Northwest benefits from having abundant hydroelectric resources. It’s good for all of us, because it’s in our backyard. It’s pretty tough to get a new hydroelectric project started in the United States, so the growth in this area generally comes from modernizing generation to make it more efficient. For the past decade or more we’ve been doing just that on the Clark Fork River at our Noxon Rapids and Cabinet Gorge dams.

Some of our hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River are more than 100 years old, and since we need to keep those dams running responsibly and reliably, we’re always looking for ways to improve them. This year, we’re looking at upgrading parts of our Post Falls and Little Falls hydroelectric facilities. There’s no doubt about it, hydroelectricity is an important renewable resource.

Biomass is another example of renewable energy that doesn’t get much of the spotlight. Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant was the first electric generating station of its kind constructed within the United States for the sole purpose of producing electricity from wood waste. It opened in October of 1983 – roughly 29 year ago. That’s a long history of renewable generation. Beginning in 2016 Washington will officially recognize its operations as a renewable resource for the purposes of meeting Washington state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).

Now for the hip, cool kids – wind and solar.

Solar panels
A small solar array is affixed to the top of our
corporate headquarters today. It helps offset the
power we use to charge the
Avista Sun Car.
Let’s talk solar first. Sure, the sun is free, but equipment involved in generating and delivering that power to the grid isn’t free - not by a long shot. In our area, given our other resources (like hydro), utility scale solar power isn’t in the cards, at least not today. We’re always on the lookout for proven resources, so that may change in the future, in fact a small solar array is affixed to the top of our corporate headquarters today. It helps offset the power we use to charge the Avista Sun Car.

Last, but certainly not least in this renewable roundup, is wind. Today Avista doesn’t generate any of its own power via wind, yet we’ve had a long-standing contract to buy wind power from the Stateline Wind Project on the Washington/Oregon border. Soon a new wind farm called Palouse Wind will come online near the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 on the hills surrounding Naff Ridge. The project is being developed by First Wind, but Avista has secured the rights to its electrical output for next 30 years. Avista has been thinking about how to incorporate wind into our generation mix for several years, so it’s certainly on our minds.

As you can see, from hydro to biomass, and wind to (a little) solar, we’re all over this renewable thing.

For another look at Avista’s power generation and planning for the future, check out our Electric Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The IRP analyzes and outlines a strategy to meet projected demand and renewable portfolio standards through energy efficiency and a careful mix of qualifying renewable and traditional energy resources

Renewable energy and you
Avista launched a Buck-A-Block voluntary rate program for customers in 2002. The program is still going strong today with thousands of megawatt hours of emission-free wind being purchased annually. Nearly 4,000 customers participate. When you sign up for Buck-A-Block, you make a voluntary payment above and beyond your normal rates. Avista makes no profit from that additional money, which goes to support the renewable energy many of our customers prefer by purchasing environmental offsets from renewable energy generation.
Published: 4/13/2012  12:31 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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