Aug 01 , 2012
A rare look inside a wind turbine.
If you’ve had the opportunity to drive on State Route 195 near Oakesdale, Wash., within the past few weeks, you may have noticed large white towers popping up like daisies.
A little unfamiliar looking without their blades, the 250-foot structures are just the first of 58 Vestas V100-1.8 megawatt (MW) wind turbines, which will dot the Naff Ridge at First Wind’s
Palouse Wind project.
Last year, Avista signed an agreement to purchase the renewable wind power generated by the proposed Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Wash., once it comes online. In early May of this year, First Wind broke ground on Palouse Wind
. First Wind expects the project to be complete and generating power by the end of the year. Parts of the wind turbines have arrived and are being assembled and erected now.
Don’t let your view from the road deceive you, the sheer size and weight of the various wind turbine parts dictate a carefully planned delivery system of barge, rail and night-time truck hauls to avoid any traffic concerns. For example, the nacelle, which is the part that sits on top of the tower and houses all of the generating components of a wind turbine, weighs 97.5 tons. The blades, more than 160 feet in length, are scheduled to start arriving on site this month.
Tilling the ground for renewable energy and economic development
Avista is rooted in renewable energy. According to the latest report of the National Resources Defense Council, "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States
," Avista is the 11th lowest emitter of CO2 in pounds per megawatt-hour of major electric generators in the United States and the third lowest among investor-owned utilities. With 50 percent of our net generation capability from hydroelectric and a majority of our thermal generation fueled with natural gas, plus a commitment to energy efficiency, we are one of the greenest utilities in the nation. As the demands for energy increase, it’s important to look for sustainable ways to meet those demands.
“We’ve been looking at wind power for a long time at Avista,” said Bob Lafferty, Avista’s director of power supply. “The renewable energy from Palouse Wind will be an important piece of our diverse portfolio that can help us meet our customers’ energy needs and renewable portfolio standards in Washington.”
Palouse Wind will be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with the capacity to generate 105 MW of energy – enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of our customers’ homes.
In addition to meeting an energy need, the location of the Palouse Wind project brings economic growth to the region as well.
“We were very fortunate to capture this renewable energy project in Whitman County, along with the increasing level of economic activity it brings,” said Dick Watters, Whitman County director for the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). “It was always our first priority. We worked very close with Palouse Wind to ensure our region’s workforce, goods and service providers, and contractors had opportunities to participate along the way.”
According to First Wind, more than 150 jobs are being created during construction, which they anticipate will result in millions of dollars invested in the Inland Northwest.
First Wind estimates that over the life of the project, $700,000 will be generated in tax revenues per year. Additionally, sales tax collected on all goods and services purchased within Whitman County related to the project will contribute to the county general fund.
“Economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive and diverse economies,” Avista’s Regional Business Manager Paul Kimmell added. “Local assets and realities, a diverse industry base, and a commitment to equality of opportunity and sustainable practices must drive these strategies. This project has emerged as one that will ensure a strong foundation for long-term stability and economic growth for Whitman County.”
At Avista, renewable energy has been at the heart of our business since 1889. With the ever-increasing demand for energy, Avista’s purchase agreement with Palouse Wind will help us serve our customers with the renewable energy you expect and depend on.
Jul 26 , 2012
Last week, we began work at Paradise Path to
replace about 22 miles of electric lines. While
digging 22 feet into the ground, we hit bedrock,
which slowed progress down slightly. This picture
shows an auger being used to place a pole.
Bedrock makes it a tough job.
Post by Sarah Richards
We’ll have to close Paradise Path along Berman Creek Park and Styner Ave. in Moscow, Idaho for a couple extra days – July 30 – 31 – because of an unexpected turn of events. We’re in the process of replacing the power poles and wires connected to the Moscow City Substation.
Like any construction project, things can go smoothly until you hit rock, which is what happened – literally. About 22-feet into the ground, we hit bedrock. It will take some more time and effort than a normal dig to power through the solid rock, but we’ll be hard at work improving the reliability of service for our customers in the area.
It’s all part of a $7.5 million, three-year project to replace approximately 22 miles of electric transmission lines running from the Moscow City Substation south toward Lewiston.
Thank you for your patience as Avista continues to invest in our electric system so we can continue to deliver safe, reliable power to our customers.
Jul 23 , 2012
It’s an exciting time for Avista’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project in the Pullman area.
We’ve spent the last two years building the foundation to create two-way, real-time communication between customer meters and Avista. Now that the infrastructure is in place, we’re recruiting customers to participate in Avista’s Smart Thermostat Pilot.
What’s the Smart Thermostat Pilot?
Pullman customers who meet specific criteria can volunteer to participate in the pilot and receive a free thermostat with advanced capabilities. This thermostat lets participants actively monitor and manage energy usage online and make more informed decisions about how to use energy.
As part of the study, pilot participants allow Avista to remotely adjust their smart thermostat within a range of two degrees, for a period of ten minutes to a maximum of 24 hours. This study will help us understand how to balance power supply and demand within the region.
People are signing up
Avista recently held a focus group to share information about the Smart Thermostat Pilot. At the end of the meeting, half of the attendees signed up on the spot to participate. Others wanted to participate, but couldn’t due to various personal reasons.
Why did they agree to participate? Here’s what they said:
“This totally makes sense. It’s going to enable us to monitor
our energy usage and look for ways to fine-tune things. We
don’t want to waste energy.” Cherise Lloy, First participant to
“It’s nice that the thermostat has software to get a better
handle on energy use. I’d like to use less energy.” Jim
Bonner, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
“We’re very budget oriented and don’t want to waste. We’re
also fascinated by how the research will be used to inform
what the future holds.” Judi Dunn & Jeff Gray, Smart
Thermostat Pilot participants
“We’re so spoiled with abundant hydro-electricity. But
demand for electricity keeps growing. I’m curious to look at
my usage data. I think we have to manage electricity.”
Madeline Martin, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
As you can see, people have different reasons for participating. Recruitment efforts are continuing as we work toward September, when Battelle NW begins testing the technology to show how the electric grid can react to sudden changes in power supply and demand.
Through studies like this, Avista can assess how smart grid technology will enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional level and how customers and the utility will interact with new online energy usage information.
Jul 19 , 2012
Avista equips first responders with electric and natural gas safety training
To ensure the safety of our customers, employees and the public, Avista works closely with local firefighters, police and other first responders so we are all prepared to take action when called upon.
This work includes coordinating with other first responders in emergencies, mock accident training and basic electric and natural gas training.
Last month, the City of Spokane SWAT Team came to Avista to learn a little electric and natural gas 101, as well as how to disconnect electric and gas meters in an emergency situation.
The Spokane SWAT Team supports the Spokane Police Department with tactical response to critical incidents, such as hostage, barricade, or sniper situations. One of their objectives during an incident is to make the area safe. This includes eliminating the perpetrator’s ability to misuse electricity or natural gas to harm or threaten the safety of others.
“If there are potential electric or natural gas hazards, we always encourage first responders to contact us first,” said Bill Baker, Avista gas training and codes coordinator. “If they have to act at that moment, we’ve ensured they have the proper training to defuse a potentially volatile situation with electricity or natural gas.”
Baker, along with Natural Gas Foreman Dan Gigler taught the class of 30 SWAT team members how to pull an electric meter, how to turn off the gas meter and the importance of wearing safety equipment in the process.
First responders often put their lives on the line to ensure the public’s safety. Avista’s gas and electric servicemen and women, also first responders, ensure the public’s safety by making a situation safe from any potential electric or natural gas dangers.
Safety for everyone is always top of mind every day that we work to deliver energy to your homes and businesses. The training and partnership with other first responders is just one of the many examples of our commitment to your safety.
Jul 14 , 2012
Water levels allow spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed
Avista is advising Spokane River users that river recreation is now permitted in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables located just upstream of the Post Falls Dam. River flows have dropped sufficiently to allow all of the spill gates at the hydroelectric facility to be closed.
The City of Post Falls boat launch and swim beach at Q’emiln Park was opened to the public today. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday, and on average about June 22.
This year, several factors delayed the closure of the spill gates at Post Falls Dam. The spring runoff season extended well into the month of July, due to a larger than average snowpack and rainfall in June that amounted to more than twice the normal amounts.
Avista’s project to replace the lifting hoists and old timber intake gates at its Post Falls Dam with modern lifting hoists and new steel gates delayed the spill gate closure an additional week. During the work, at least two generator units must be taken out of service, which reduces the amount of water that can pass through the power house at any one time. This means the total river flow had to be lower than normal before the spill gates could be completely closed and the Q’emiln Park boat launch could be opened.
Visitors to Falls Park will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including cranes, barges, trucks and contractors throughout the project, which is expected to be completed by November. Some areas of the park may be temporarily fenced off, and detours or alternate viewpoints may be designated for park visitors. The public is requested to obey posted signs, stay out of the area of the river below the dam and keep clear of designated work areas.
Avista expects summer operation at the dam to continue through Labor Day, as long as weather conditions allow. River users are cautioned that weather conditions and dam operations can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.
For current information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River, call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043. The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check weather and water flow information on the Avista Utilities website.
Jul 13 , 2012
The Paradise Path along Berman Creekside Park and Styner Ave. in Moscow, Idaho will be closed from July 16-20 while Avista upgrades the poles and wires connected to the Moscow City Substation.
Investing in reliability for you and your area
As part of Avista’s ongoing investment to maintain and upgrade our electric system, Avista will invest $7.5 million over three years to replace approximately 22 miles of electric transmission lines running from the Moscow City Substation south toward Lewiston.
To improve reliability for customers in the region, Avista will be replacing old wooden poles with new steel poles that will require less maintenance in the future. We’re also upgrading the transmission lines for greater efficiency and with a higher clearance area for your safety. The new transmission poles will be fiber-optic wire ready.
Construction along Paradise Path begins July 16 and runs through July 20. We do not anticipate any power outages related to this work.
Thank you for your patience as Avista continues to invest in our electric system so we can continue to deliver safe, reliable power to our customers.
Jul 11 , 2012
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.
Jul 10 , 2012
The Burke-Thompson Falls A and B trans-
mission structures were originally constructed
in 1924. Avista crews are replacing the old
wooden poles with taller, steel poles. The
new design will stage the poles closer to
the center of the right of way, which will
improve efficiency, as the likelihood of a
tree falling on the line diminishes. The new
design requires 50 percent fewer poles as
To access the Burke-Thompson Falls A and
B transmission lines, we’re building three
temporary bridges so our equipment can
safely cross. Shown below, a temporary
bridge a crew is setting over the existing
Avista upgrades nearly 90-year old equipment to improve safety and reliability
At the east end of the Silver Valley stands the Burke-Thompson Falls A and B transmission lines. Our customers in this region depend on these primary “arteries” of power to deliver electricity to their homes and businesses.
Situated in a remote location near the Idaho/Montana border, maintaining the Burke-Thompson Falls lines carries its own set of challenges. And part of the solution is rebuilding 8-miles of lines to better serve our customers.
The rural reality
The Silver Valley is known for its beautiful forests and ample snow in the winter. The rural reality – lots of snow and trees don’t bode well for transmission lines.
“The snow levels can get very high in that area,” said Kellogg Operations Manager Bob Beitz. “When outages occur in the winter, we can't access them without a Sno-Cat. When our crews jump out of the cat, they are up to their armpits in snow. Trying to replace a pole in those conditions is a herculean effort.”
All that snow can weigh heavily on the forested areas near the power lines, which can result in falling branches and toppling trees. Even if our rights of way are 100-feet wide, falling trees can cause power outages.
The solution: A rebuild to alleviate outages and concerns
This year, we’re rebuilding 8 miles of electric transmission lines from Burke to the Montana border to improve the safety and reliability of delivering power to our customers. The project carries a price tag of $2.5 million. It’s part of Avista’s ongoing investments to maintain and upgrade our electric system.
The transmission lines were originally constructed in 1924. Though updated several times over the decades, many of the original structures still exist and will be replaced this year. We’ll be re-using the existing wire for the project.
Avista crews are replacing the old wooden poles with taller, steel poles. The new design will stage the poles closer to the center of the right of way, which will improve efficiency, as the likelihood of a tree falling on the line diminishes. The new design requires 50 percent fewer poles as well.
Investing in the future
Many parts of our system are 30, 40 and even 50 years old. Some of the poles on the Burke-Thompson Falls A and B lines are nearly 90 years old.
As we rebuild this section of our electric transmission system, we’ll also have to build three temporary bridges to accommodate the heavy equipment necessary for the construction project.
It’s a big job, but it’s well worth the effort. This is another example of what it takes to provide safe, reliable service for our customers, now – and in the future.
Jul 06 , 2012
We’re replacing the lifting hoists and old timber intake gates with modern lifting hoists and new steel gates. The work is expected to update a system that is more than 100 years old in places, enhancing safety and increasing reliability and efficiency at the dam. We were also planning to refurbish the spill gates in the south channel of the river, but that project has been postponed until 2013.
The intake gate replacement project is scheduled for July-November 2012 while river flows are at summer levels. During the project, we’ll do our best to minimize the disruption to recreation and power generation as much as possible, but the work is important so we can continue to safely generate clean, reliable hydropower. The project will affect park users, boaters and dam operations.
Q’emiln Park Boat Launch: During the work, at least two generator units must be taken out of service, which reduces the amount of water that can pass through the powerhouse at any one time. This means the total river flow will need to be lower than normal before the spill gates can be closed and the Q’emiln Park boat launch can be opened. Depending on weather, this will likely take place sometime in mid-July.
Falls Park: Falls Park visitors will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including cranes, barges, trucks and contractors throughout the project duration. Some areas of the park may be temporarily fenced off, and detours or alternate viewpoints may be designated for park visitors. For your safety, please obey posted signs, stay out of the area of the river below the dam and keep clear of designated work areas.
Post Falls Dam Informational Meeting July 10
Avista will host an informational meeting to discuss the project and answer questions on July 10 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Post Falls Police Department in Post Falls at 1717 E. Polston Ave. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, please call Mac Mikkelson at 509-495-8759. We'll be sure to keep you updated as the project reaches completion.
Jun 28 , 2012
Will summer ever get here? That’s seems to be a common question heard around the Spokane area these days and at Avista too. As you make plans for the upcoming weekends and July 4 holiday, we want to keep you up to date on changing conditions in the Spokane River as well as educate you about a project we are working on at the Post Falls Dam.
We’ve started closing spill gates at our Post Falls Dam now that Coeur d’Alene Lake is back below the maximum summer level of 2,128 feet. However, heavy rainfall throughout the month of June has slowed our process, and we’ve had to make ongoing adjustments to accommodate river flows, which have increased rapidly on a number of occasions, as recently as Tuesday, June 26.
Closing spill gates causes the river level below the dam to decrease. With this in mind, the spill gates need to be closed gradually, so that fish below the dam are not stranded in pools of water. To achieve this we close spill gates at a rate that decreases the downstream river level no more than four inches per hour, which is required by our Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.
As the river flows stabilize, we continue to close the remaining spill gates. As the spill gates are closed the elevation of the river above the dam increases, which provides additional recreational opportunities on the river. Once the final spill gate is closed, the Q’emiln Park boat launch in Post Falls can be opened for the summer season. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and mid-July. The median date for closing the gates is June 22. We don’t expect to close the final spill gate until after July 4 due to this year’s rainfall and extended high spring runoff season.
We’d like to remind you to always exercise caution on the water, as river and lake levels can change at any time depending on weather and other factors. The water is still cold, which puts those who are recreating on or near a lake or river at risk for hypothermia.
The best way to get the most current information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River is to call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line.
In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043.
The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check current river and lake levels on our website.
Avista’s summer work at Post Falls Dam
The dam needs ongoing maintenance and updates to keep it running safely and efficiently. This summer after the spring runoff season ends, Avista will be undertaking two projects to do that.
We’re planning to sandblast, repair and repaint the south channel spill gates, something that needs to be done every 30 to 40 years. We also plan to replace the lifting hoist and old timber intake gates that let water flow through the dam to the generator turbines at Post Falls Dam with new lifting hoists and steel gates.
Normally the generator turbines can pass about 5,400 cubic feet per second (cfs). Any additional water has to flow through the spill gates.
During the work, at least two generator units must be taken offline, which reduces the amount of water the power house can pass at any one time. This means the total river flow will need to be lower than normal before we can close all the spill gates and the Q’emiln Park boat launch can be opened.
Depending on weather, this will likely be about the second or third week of July.
During the project, we’ll do our best to minimize the disruption to recreation and power generation as much as possible, but the work is important so we can continue to safely generate clean, reliable hydropower. We'll be sure to keep you updated as the project reaches completion.