Nov 28 , 2012
Cabinet Gorge banner

This hydroelectric dam on the Clark Fork River is still a youngster at 60 years old
 
Whenever you flip a light switch, plug in an appliance, or turn on your furnace, you expect and receive energy on demand. Since the completion of our very first hydroelectric project in 1890, Avista’s dams have generated dependable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible power for our customers.

We’ve been celebrating the 60th anniversary of one of our youngest dams, Cabinet Gorge, throughout the year. Recently we had a banner produced that will hang in the control center at the dam. In November, Avista received special recognition from Idaho Lt. Governor Brad Little. The Lieutenant Governor presented a proclamation honoring the contribution of Cabinet Gorge to the region and the state of Idaho.

This year also marks the 14th year of successful, collaborative implementation of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, a multi-stakeholder agreement for managing and protecting the natural resources associated with our Clark Fork Hydroelectric Project. The agreement, signed in 1999 after several years of negotiation, resulted in a 45-year operating license from FERC to operate Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids.

With growing development of renewable energy like wind and solar, which depend on variable fuel sources, our dams are even more important as a dependable source of energy. Water can be stored and hydropower plants can be fired up quickly to meet energy need when the wind isn’t blowing.
Published: 11/28/2012  11:09 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 09 , 2012
I-937 requires Avista to have 3 percent eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both in 2012
 
 
Avista’s been generating renewable energy for a long time – after all we were founded on hydropower more than a century ago. But starting in 2012 renewable energy has officially become a required part of our energy portfolio.

video
In addition to meeting our customers’ energy needs, Avista has to meet renewable portfolio standards detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act. Washington state voters approved the act with the passage of Initiative-937 in 2006. It requires us to use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both to meet the following annual targets: 3 percent of energy used to meet customer demand by Jan. 1, 2012, 9 percent by Jan. 1, 2016 and 15 percent by Jan. 1, 2020.

We just got our first stamp of approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for submitting our renewable portfolio standard report, which details how we will meet our 2012 targets. This was no small feat, and we’ve done it in a way that allows us to continue to meet our goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, even as we add new renewable power to our mix.

We will meet the majority of our 2012 requirements simply by doing what we had already planned to do – upgrading our hydroelectric dams, primarily those on the Clark Fork River. We upgraded the generating units at Cabinet Gorge Dam from 2001 to 2007, replacing the original turbines, which were installed in the 1950s. And at Noxon Rapids Dam, we just finished upgrading all four original generating units with new turbines. We did this work to extend the life and capacity of our dams. And with the modern turbines, we can generate more energy using the same amount of water. Better yet, since the upgrades were done after 1999, the additional energy qualified as an eligible renewable resource to meet our state mandates.
 
Palouse Wind
Looking forward
The next big deadline will be 2016, and while it’s still a few years away, we’ve been planning for it for some time. Over the past several years, we followed the market and looked for opportunities to incorporate additional cost-effective sources of renewable power. Lower costs of developing wind power facilities and ongoing tax incentives set to expire at the end of 2012 led us to a request for proposals in early 2011, and later that year we signed a power purchase agreement with the Palouse Wind Project, which has the added benefit of being located in our service territory. 

Palouse Wind has added value in the form of the renewable energy credits it provides. From time to time, we sell surplus RECs that result from the generation of power from renewable resources that exceed our need to meet state requirements.  Sales of excess credits help offset and lower power costs for customers.

A more recent accomplishment gives us even more flexibility in meeting our renewable energy mandates. As one of the first biomass plants of its kind in the country, Kettle Falls has been generating renewable, dependable energy for more than 25 years. We’ve been working since 2008 to get the energy generated at Kettle Falls recognized in Washington state as renewable, and in March of 2012, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB 5575 into law. The bill qualifies biomass energy projects built before 1999 as eligible renewable resources. As a result of the bill’s passage, the energy generated at Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant will qualify to meet our renewable requirements beginning in 2016. This will save our customers millions of dollars that we might otherwise have to spend to acquire or build more renewable energy to meet our state mandates.  
Published: 10/9/2012  4:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 11 , 2012
Photo show of July 4 Celebrations on the Clark Fork
 

Original operator at Cabinet Gorge Dam, Clyde Meredith
One of the original operators of Cabinet
Gorge Dam, 90-year old Clyde Meredith,
who retired in 1984, rode alongside
Cabinet's current Chief Operator.
Avista employees and the community of Clark Fork celebrated our Independence Day and commemorated Cabinet Gorge 60th anniversary at the annual Clark Fork, Idaho - Fourth of July celebration last week.
 
Several of Avista’s hydro operations and environmental resources employees and their families, a line truck, electric safety demonstration trailer and Bull Trout education trailer took part in the community’s annual Fourth of July parade.
 
One of the original operators of Cabinet Gorge, 90-year old Clyde Meredith, who retired in 1984, was also in the parade. He rode alongside Cabinet Gorge’s current Chief Operator, Don Wells in Clark Fork License Manager Tim Swant’s 1965 Pontiac LeMans.
 
Avista helped support the community celebrations and fireworks, and donated a trailer-mounted BBQ to the Clark Fork Booster Club so they have a means of fundraising for many years to come.
 
We’re proud to be a part of the community of Clark Fork for the past 60 years. Happy Birthday to America, and to Cabinet Gorge.
Published: 7/11/2012  10:41 AM | 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

Apr 13 , 2012
noxon video
 
Four-year, $45 million upgrade nearing completion at Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam

Post by Brandi Smith
 
Noxon Rapids
In February Avista’s Noxon Rapids hydroelectric project, which generates clean, renewable energy reached a big milestone when the last of four original turbines to be replaced was installed. The four-unit, $45 million project started in July 2008 and is on schedule to be finished by spring 2012.

The upgraded units are expected to increase the total generating capacity of the dam by an estimated 30 megawatts. The upgrades enhance Avista’s ability to serve our customers because it lets us generate more power using the same amount of water – enough energy, in fact, to power more than 4,800 homes, or a town nearly the same size as Rathdrum, Idaho. Another benefit: this additional energy qualifies under Washington State’s Energy Independence Act (RCW 19.285) to meet Avista’s Washington state-mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements.

Avista continues to generate or purchase about half of our energy with hydroelectric power. Investing in our hydroelectric dams makes good sense – some of them are more than 100 years old – and it’s a continual process.

You can sense a pride of ownership from the crew featured in the above video. Many of these employees, who worked to remove and replace the old turbine, have been working on hydroelectric generation projects for many years. When the Noxon Rapids work is complete, these employees will move onto other projects, but their legacy will live on in the additional energy they helped produce.
Published: 4/13/2012  12:14 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 27 , 2012
video
 
An inside look at how Avista gathers information about snowpack

Post by Brandi Smith

Snow covered trees near Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest
Snowmobile
Avista owns and operates eight hydroelectric
dams on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers.
These facilities, together with long term hydro
contracts, make up about half of the total
electric resources available to serve our
customers.
Skiers may prefer light and fluffy snow, but heavy and wet snow contributes more to our water supply in the Northwest. Avista counts on water to generate hydropower for our customers.  Every year, Avista evaluates snowpack information in the mountains to get an idea of what spring runoff may be like at our dams on the Spokane and Clark Fork rivers. Only a select few get to see this evaluation process up close, so we took a video camera up the mountain to get you a special look at snowpack measurement.

Avista rents snowmobiles so employees can get as close to the snowpack measurement site as possible. Snow depth is measured by pushing an aluminum tube down through the snowpack and all the way down to ground surface. Both the depth and weight of the snow is recorded. An average of all samples taken is calculated and used to represent the snowpack measurement site. 

Avista measures 10 sites at Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest, which is located near the Hiawatha Trail. Once the data is collected, the Hydro Engineering team submits the data to the National Resources Conservation Service who is largely responsible for providing Avista and many other interested parties with reliable water supply forecasts.

The more gradual the snowmelt, the more Avista can maximize that water running through its dams.  However, you never know what Mother-Nature is going to do. Regardless, our customers can count on Avista to make the most out of this precious resource in an efficient, reliable and environmentally-responsible way.

If you have questions about lake and river levels, please visit our website.
 
Published: 3/27/2012  11:21 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 02 , 2012
video

Crews reflect on work while installing finishing touches on four-year, $45 million project

Post by Anna Scarlett, Video by Dan Kolbet
 
Autographing turbine
An Avista employee signs Unit 4’s new turbine with
a paint pen prior to its insertion at Noxon Rapids
Dam. They don’t usually autograph their work in this
way, but the project has lasted four years and this
was the last new turbine installed at Noxon, so the
crew wanted to mark the occasion.
It’s a complicated job to turn water, wind, natural gas, coal, or even sunshine into reliable energy. It takes a lot of people and equipment and it doesn’t come free. In fact, about 60 cents of every dollar you pay each month in your electric bill is simply the cost of power, whether it’s power Avista generates at our plants or power we buy on the market.

Avista continues to generate or purchase about half of our energy with hydroelectric power, one of the cleanest, most dependable and most cost-effective energy resources. Investing in our hydroelectric dams makes good sense – some of them are more than 100 years old – and it’s a continual process.

In the case of Noxon Rapids, Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam, in 2012 we’ll be wrapping up our four-year, $45 million project to upgrade all four original generating units, which were installed in the late 1950s, with new turbines. The result? We can make more energy using the same amount of water – enough energy, in fact, to power more than 4,800 homes, or a town nearly the same size as Rathdrum, Idaho. Another benefit: this additional energy qualifies under Washington State’s Energy Independence Act (RCW 19.285) to meet Avista’s Washington state-mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements.

The new turbines boast features such as smooth edges and corners and a stainless steel body that weighs just 65 tons (as opposed to the old turbines, massive beasts that weighed around 120 tons.) Removing the old turbines and installing the new ones took thousands of hours of skilled labor and craftsmanship, and many of the crew members have been involved throughout the entire project. Watch the final turbine being installed at Noxon Rapids, and hear from some of the folks that helped make it happen. These are your energy dollars at work.
 
Watch an interview with project engineer P.J. Henscheid as the old Unit 4 turbine is removed back in fall 2011.
Published: 3/2/2012  9:00 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 22 , 2011

By Dan Kolbet

New York Times
The New York Times blog Green, which focuses on energy and the environment, recently featured Avista’s innovative Bull Trout genetic testing work on the Clark Fork River. We’re doing the project as part of our FERC license to operate the Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams on the river. The ultimate goal is to protect the genetic integrity of the fish and boost their numbers. It’s a pretty cool project and it’s nice to see this national recognition.

Here are the first couple paragraphs of the article. See the full article here.

Trucking Trout to Their Native Streams

By Deborah Weisberg, NY TImes

In an innovative conservation effort, biologists on the Clark Fork River are using genetic testing to help get bull trout back to their natal streams to spawn.

Fulfilling a requirement for the relicensing of its two hydroelectric power plants on the river in Idaho and Montana, Avista Utilities is having the fin tissue of randomly caught adult bull trout “fingerprinted.” Juvenile fish in the natal streams are also sampled to determine whether they carry the DNA of the adults.

Continue Reading at the New York Times website here.

Published: 12/22/2011  9:04 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 08 , 2011
Noxon video
 
Video Interview by Brandi Smith
 
The last turbine to be upgraded at Noxon Rapids Dam was removed from service on Oct. 19, 2011. Avista's Brandi Smith interviewed project engineer P.J. Henscheid on the big day. See the video above.
 
The removal of the turbine is part of a $45 million project to upgrade four original generating units with newer, more efficient technology. The project started in July 2008 and is on schedule to be finished by spring 2012.

Learn more about the project here.

UPDATE Febrary 2012: The new Unit 4 has been installed. Watch a video of the crew discussing the project.

Published: 11/8/2011  8:45 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 27 , 2011
Noxon pics
 
Post by Brandi Smith
 
What weighs 120 tons and has been generating clean and reliable hydropower for 52 years? A turbine runner at Noxon Rapids Dam that has been in service since the dam’s opening in 1959.

On October 19, the project reached a milestone. The last turbine to be upgraded at Noxon Rapids Dam was removed from service. The removal of the turbine is part of a $45 million project to upgrade four original generating units with newer, more efficient technology. The project started in July 2008 and is on schedule to be finished by spring 2012.

The upgraded units are expected to increase the total generating capacity of the dam by an estimated 30 megawatts. The upgrades enhance Avista’s ability to serve our customers because it lets us generate more power using the same amount of water, rather than securing it somewhere else. The new turbines also boast features such as smooth edges and corners and a stainless steel body that weighs just 65 tons. The incremental energy they produce is already helping Avista meet its Washington State renewable portfolio standards as well.

Removing an old turbine isn’t easy business. They are cast steel beasts weighing approximately 120 tons. The prep work alone takes hundreds of hours of skilled labor and craftsmanship to get the turbine ready for retirement. Once the big day comes, a large crane is used to lift it out of the penstock. It’s a slow and careful process that takes a full day to complete, which makes Noxon Rapids’ stellar safety record of 20 years and counting for zero lost-time accidents even more impressive.

The final new replacement turbine is expected to be in service by spring 2012. As for the old turbine, we hope to move it to the dam’s public viewing area as an added attraction to an already beautiful and scenic park.
Published: 10/27/2011  3:47 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

 Next >>