Jun 30 , 2011
Today, Avista announced an agreement to purchase power generated by the proposed Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Wash., beginning in the second half of 2012. What does this mean for you as an Avista customer? Well, it’s really about Avista’s responsibility to balance the costs of new resources with securing enough energy to meet your energy needs, while at the same time satisfying renewable portfolio standards, both in the near and long term.
Avista must comply with renewable portfolio standards (RPS) detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act, which was approved by Washington State voters with the passage of Initiative 937 in 2006. The Act requires us to use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits, or a combination of both, to meet the following targets: 3% of energy used to meet customer demand by January 1, 2012, 9% by January 1, 2016 and 15% by January 1, 2020.
We’re already meeting the 2012 targets, mostly with upgrades we’ve made at our hydroelectric dams
. Those upgrades allow us to generate more energy using the same amount of water, with the additional energy qualifying in Washington as an eligible renewable resource.
The next big deadline will be 2016, and, while it’s still a few years away, we’ve been thinking about it for some time. Over the past few years, we’ve been following the market and looking for potential opportunities to incorporate cost-effective, renewable power. Recent market changes, including lower costs of developing wind power facilities and tax incentives, have made this an excellent time to do that, so in February we put out a request for proposals. Through a competitive bid process, Palouse Wind
, which has the added benefit of being located in Avista’s service territory, was selected.
Avista expects to recover the cost of the power purchased from Palouse Wind through retail rates as we would have to recover the cost of any power used to meet demand, but not before that power is generated and delivered to customers. Remember, we’re a regulated utility, which means we can’t recover costs we haven’t incurred, and we must justify any rate increase.
The wind farm is expected be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes. Developers say its location between the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 is ideal for capturing the prevailing southwest wind.
Along with the other things Avista’s doing, like upgrading our dams, the renewable power purchased from Palouse Wind is expected to help us meet Washington State RPS goals for 2016, and will also provide a new energy resource for our customers. We think it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
May 17 , 2011
The Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA) has a nice blog post about how community action, Avista and KEA helped save a few homeless osprey in Idaho. Check out the story here.
I first heard about this a few weeks back when the word started getting passed around on twitter. I’m glad Avista could help out. This story shows how like-minded folks can accomplish a lot.
Apr 28 , 2011
Avista introduces its first annual report on the company’s philanthropic activities
If you look and listen closely enough, you’ll see or hear our name pretty frequently in every community we serve. Not just on the service trucks working in your neighborhood or among those talking about energy bills in the grocery store. We’re here in your community doing what you do…supporting the local Chamber of Commerce, the parks programs, the colleges and universities, the after-school programs and many, many other non-profit organizations. We’ve quietly done this for more than 120 years, and we thought it was time to share some of the stories with you.
Today Avista launched our first annual report on the company’s philanthropic activities. The online report, “Avista Cares -- 2010 Philanthropy Report,”
provides an overview of charitable donations made to non-profit organizations in our service territory as of Dec. 31, 2010. Funding for these contributions comes from company profits or endowed funds through the Avista Foundation and is not paid for by customers.
In 2010, we gave more than $2 million through donations and grants to non-profits in the communities we serve. These organizations are providing important services that are vital to the people who call those communities home. We believe that investing in philanthropic endeavors strengthens the fabric of communities, and enhances quality of life and community vitality.
We chose to put the report online to make it easier for you to access. It also is in keeping with our commitment to sustainable business practices – by not using paper, ink and energy to produce a printed report.
We hope you find the information of interest. Let us know what you think.
Apr 11 , 2011
Check out our Spring 2011 issue of the Clark Fork Newsletter. In this issue, you’ll find the following stories:
• Go Fishing and Catch Cash!
• Spring Runoff Looking Good
• Meet the People Behind the Clark Fork Project
• Noxon Upgrades to Finish in 2012
• Boaters Play Safe
This newsletter goes out to stakeholders, customers, media and others interested in news about Avista’s Clark Fork Project. Our Clark Fork Project includes Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids hydroelectric dams – the newsletter highlights natural resource, operational and community activities associate with the project.
Mar 14 , 2011
Grand Prize Video winner, "Original Song" by Vivek Jayarm, Rachit Singh, Maritz Lang from Pullman High School.
Grand Prize Runner Up video winner, "They're On"
by Hunter Farnsworth and Kyle Libey of Pullman
Looking for a little creative refreshment to start your day? Well look no further. High school students from our service territory recently took the “Every Little Bit” video challenge to create a short film demonstrating the importance of energy efficiency. With over 70 entries, the competition was fierce.
The Grand Prize winners were three imaginative students from Pullman High School. Not only will their school get a $2,500 technology grant from Avista, but they will each receive a day of learning at NxNW Production Company in Spokane as part of their prize package. Talk about awesome.
Check out the top five videos by clicking on the links below. You will no doubt be inspired by their creativity and attention to detail. Watch out “Glee,” it looks like our local talent might give you a run for your money.
• “Original Song
” Grand Prize video by Vivek Jayarm, Rachit Singh, Maritz Lang from Pullman High School.
• “They’re On
” Grand Prize Runner Up video winner by Hunter Farnsworth and Kyle Libey of Pullman High School.
• “Eco-Friendly Rap
” Viewers Choice Award by Aliva Imholt, Jesse German, and Ethan Sanchez of St. Maries High School.
• “Simple Ideas
” Honorable Mention by Savannah Miller and Ana Ruddlesden of Mead High School.
• “Eye Save Energy
” Honorable Mention by Chelsea Thaut and Jessica Hudson of St. Maries High School
Nov 17 , 2010
Avista crews upgrading the Nine Mile
Spillway gate system.
Reservoir to be raised and lowered throughout testing process
Avista has completed installation of new spillway gates at its Nine Mile Dam, and will be testing the new system over the next couple of weeks. Nine Mile Reservoir will be raised and lowered several times during the testing period to ensure the new spillway system is operating correctly.
The upgraded system will give Avista operators the ability to raise and lower the height of the spillway gate at any time, incrementally if needed, in order to maintain the reservoir pool at a more constant level throughout the entire year. The new system consists of metal gates supported by air-filled rubber bladders, and replaces our old wooden flashboard process, which had been in use since 1928 after Avista purchased the dam. In the past the reservoir had to be lowered each summer to accommodate installation of the flashboards.
Operators began inspecting and testing the new system this week. Tests will consist of independent cycles of each of the three spillway gate sections between the full and minimum pool elevation (about 10 feet below full pool). Beginning Sunday, Nov. 14, Nine Mile Reservoir was raised to full pool, and over the test period it will be gradually lowered and raised several times to allow for observation of the spillway gates throughout the minimum to full pool elevation range, in order to ensure the spillway gates are fully operable.
The public will see several fluctuations of the reservoir levels during this testing period, and should stay out of the section of the Spokane River above Nine Mile Dam to Plese Flats. Water levels and conditions around a dam are subject to change at any time, and river users are reminded to use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures.
The reservoir level should be back to full pool by the first part of December 2010. Currently, no change in the full pool level is planned after the new spillway has been tested. To the extent possible, Avista will maintain the reservoir level at the normal full pool elevation year around; however, there will be times when the reservoir will need to be drawn down for maintenance purposes.
Nov 11 , 2010
Boaters on the Spokane River who use the Q’emiln Park boat launch ramp in Post Falls have only a few days left to use the launch this season. The ramp, located upstream of Avista’s Post Falls Dam, will be closed for the season beginning Monday, Nov. 15.
The boat launch is normally closed about this time each year because of weather conditions and dropping water levels. When Avista spills water through gates at the dam, the boat launch must remain closed for safety reasons. This can happen frequently throughout the fall through spring. Generally, the ramp re-opens in the late spring or early summer, depending on the amount of inflows into Coeur d’Alene Lake.
As a result of Avista’s annual drawdown of Coeur d’Alene Lake, Spokane River levels above the dam will be approximately three feet below the summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet on Nov.15. Water levels may drop by as much as five additional feet by the end of January.
These water levels are subject to change due to weather conditions, and river users are reminded that weather can cause conditions can change dramatically at any time. Please use caution on the water.
Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River during the subsequent 24-hour and one-week periods. 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 the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.
Oct 20 , 2010
Post by Anna Scarlett
Avista recently published the second issue of our Clark Fork Newsletter, which goes out to stakeholders, customers, media and others interested in news about Avista’s Clark Fork Project. Our Clark Fork Project includes Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids hydroelectric dams – the newsletter highlights natural resource, operational and community activities associate with the project. Articles in this issue include:
• New Transformers Go PCB-Free
• EWM: Invasive Species Wrap Up
• Clark Fork Faces: Mike Miller
• Management Committee Tours
• Resource Projects
• Hunters – Play Safe!
Aug 27 , 2010
Note the white sandbags, called weirs, lined up in the Spokane River. These temporary dams help divert
water during the aesthetic spill tests. They will be removed from the river once testing is complete.
We received this message to firstname.lastname@example.org yesterday from a concerned customer. I thought this might be a question that other customers may be asking, so I’ve posted the full e-mail and our reply below.
I have seen the crews at work on the Aesthetic Spill Pilot Test in the River Front Park area. It appears the purpose of this pilot test is to assess the feasibility of diverting water that would normally flow through the south channel to the north channel. Do any practical benefits exist for this kind of diversion? Or, as the pilot study name suggests, are the benefits purely aesthetic?
If the no practical benefits exist, I object to the use of my utility rates for a purely aesthetic project which only benefits a small portion of the rate paying customers.
Please shed some light on the driving force for this project.
Dear Jesse, Thanks for your inquiry about the work being done on the Spokane River channels in Riverfront Park.
As you may know, we received a new operating license for our hydro facilities last year. With the new license came some new conditions that we are required to meet. Among those is an aesthetic spill in the north and middle channels of the river.
Currently the requirement is for a minimum 500 cfs to be diverted from the south channel. But there is a provision in the license that allows us to attempt to modify the riverbed so that we can make the flows just as appealing with only 300 cfs.
What we are doing is filling in the artificial cuts in the rock that were done in the early days of Spokane’s development. These were done to divert naturally low river flows to various mill wheels and laundries, etc. Those same cuts prevent the aesthetic affect that people want to see in the river.
Presently we have a group of stakeholders evaluating the modified river flows for the most effective configuration. Once that is established we can begin to make permanent modifications and hopefully divert less generating water from the powerhouse at Upper Falls.
I hope that addresses your concerns. Please let me know if you have further questions.
-Hugh Imhof, Avista Communications Manager
Aug 25 , 2010
The evaluation team takes a look at the river from one of 10 public viewpoints Wednesday morning,
August 25. The group will suggest changes to the temporary dams and come back for a second and
possibly third look at spills through the two channels. Evaluators include representatives of Spokane Parks
and Recreation, Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, Sierra Club, Washington Department of Ecology, Center
for Environmental Law and Policy, Avista, Friends of the Falls, and others.
Normally at this time of the year, the north and middle channels of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane, what many of us know as Spokane Falls, look pretty dry. That’s because in the past during the dry summer months, natural conditions and Avista’s hydropower operations have resulted in little or no flow through that part of the river. That all changed last year with the issuance of Avista’s new 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory license to operate our Spokane River Project, which includes Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams in downtown Spokane. As a result of the relicensing process, we must now release minimum aesthetic spills around the clock at both Upper Falls and Monroe Street. That began this summer, and you may have noticed more water flowing through the falls in July and early August.
But there’s more to it than that. If you’ve been to Riverfront Park in the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed something else in the river. Cranes, sandbags, and workers have been busy preparing for an aesthetic spills pilot test at Upper Falls Dam. This test will help us determine whether permanent channel modifications can be made to bring the riverbed closer to its natural state, the way it was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to divert the water during dry times. We’re hoping to enhance aesthetic appeal even more during periods of low river flow. Our license requires us to do this study to learn whether the same, or a better, aesthetic effect can achieved with daytime releases of 300cfs and channel modifications, as the current daytime release of 500 cfs does, without modifications.
Avista’s Upper Falls Dam is located where the river splits into two channels around Havermale Island in Riverfront Park. The southernmost channel forms the forebay that provides water to the powerhouse, and the northern channel passes through the control works dam and splits again into two smaller channels that run north and south of Canada Island. These are referred to as the north and south (or middle) channels. These two channels are where the pilot test is occurring, and we hope that as a result of this work, viewers of the river downtown will have a pleasant experience no matter what time of year it is.
Last week we temporarily interrupted normal aesthetic spills and placed several small, temporary dams made with sandbags, called weirs, throughout the channels. These weirs divert the flow of water throughout the channels, and this week, an evaluation team made up of representatives of stakeholders, agencies and the public is viewing test spills and giving their feedback as we release 300 cfs through the two channels. Team members will make judgments based on their sense of sound, coverage, depth and power of the water as it moves through the channels. The feedback we receive will help us determine whether to move forward with permanent channel modifications next year.
Next week, we’ll remove all of the equipment and materials from the river, and we’ll return to normal aesthetic spills the following week. Then, if the outcome of the pilot test shows us that permanent modifications are the way to go, the real work begins.
So far, we’re excited about the potential of this project. We’re hoping the result is a cascading waterfall effect throughout both channels of the river that visitors and the community can enjoy all summer long. And this collaborative effort could indeed accomplish that, possibly restoring at least some of the river’s natural beauty that was lost through the development of Spokane over the past 100 or more years.