Oct 27 , 2011
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.
Sep 13 , 2011
New line will reinforce gas service to Clarkston area customers; Safety lighting along trail a welcome public benefit
Natural gas pipeline installation includes welding
sections of steel pipe together. The new line will
help reinforcegas service to Avista customers in
the Clarkston area.
Since mid-July Avista contract crews have been working on a 2.8-mile natural gas line extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.
The new six-inch steel high pressure natural gas line is being installed on the Clarkston, Wash., side of the Snake River and will be fed through an existing line from Lewiston, Idaho. The project comes with several unique challenges, such as shoreline work, trenching along a popular nature trail, and accessing land managed by the Army Corp. of Engineers and Department of Transportation. Crews have also hit unexpected sections of buried rock, which slowed trenching work.
Recently Avista also had to monitor a portion of the project located underneath the Southway Bridge for cultural artifacts. An archaeologist was onsite during construction to observe the pipeline installation, but found no cultural artifacts.
Associate Gas Engineer David Smith, who is managing the project, said that 4,100 feet of pipe has been installed so far. That’s about 28 percent of the total expected length of the project.
Avista customers and area residents have expressed positive feelings about the project according the Regional Business Manager Mike Tatko who has spoken about the project at several community events.
An additional benefit of the project to customers and the public came in the form of safety lighting on the Greenbelt Trail, a popular recreation area, where the new line is being installed. In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed to access land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista will install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500. The new lights, to be installed later this year, will improve the safety of visitors who use the Greenbelt Trail.
"We are pleased to partner with the Corps to install safety lighting along the Greenbelt Trail as a part of our natural gas pipeline project," Tatko said. “Keeping funds for this project local in the form of new trail lighting is a very visible benefit to Avista customers and all area residents who use the trail."
Installation of the pipeline is expected to be complete in November.
After the line is complete, it will be pressure tested at 1.5 times its normal pressure before natural gas is allowed to flow. It’s a check to ensure the line has no leaks and is safe for use.
Aug 11 , 2011
Whether you’re in downtown Spokane spending the afternoon at Riverfront Park or just happen to walk through the area on your lunch hour, you will see a number of projects taking place in and around the river between Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams this summer and fall. The work will enhance fish, wildlife, water quality, recreation and aesthetic resources in our community and meet requirements of Avista’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.
As flows drop to summer levels, the following projects will take place in and around the river. If you are in the area, you may see temporary work structures, cranes, trucks and contractors. All equipment will be handled and operated with an emphasis on public safety and protecting the environment. For your own safety, please stay out of the riverbed and keep clear of designated work areas.
Here’s what’s on the construction schedule:
Viewing Platform Construction – Upper Falls
Construction of a new viewing platform near Avista’s Upper Falls Dam in Riverfront Park will take place this summer and fall. Avista is building the platform to access the Upper Falls Dam for maintenance. Once the work is complete, park visitors will have a permanent spot to enjoy the views of the river. This project will also improve pedestrian access and the aesthetics at Riverfront Park.
Aesthetic Flows Project – north channel, Upper Falls
The goal of Avista’s aesthetic spills project is to spread water more evenly throughout the two channels of the Spokane River that run north and south of Canada Island and produce an aesthetically pleasing flow of water that viewers can enjoy throughout the year. To do this, we’ll modify the river’s channel in order to return it to a more natural state, the way it was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to collect water during dry times. This project Last year, Avista brought together several stakeholder groups, including the Washington Department of Ecology, The Sierra Club, and others, to take part in a pilot test for this project. Immediately before and during construction, Avista will not release flows into the channels to the north and south of Canada Island.
Monroe Street Dam rock removal
Generating clean, efficient power is a top priority at Avista. The high river flows this spring have caused large amounts of rocks, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the Monroe Street Dam. The excess debris can damage the intake structure and interfere with power production.
In September, the accumulated rocks and gravel will be removed from the forebay. Depending on the analysis of sampled material, the materials will then be placed back into the river below the dam. Usually this activity is done every two years, however, because of heavy water flows this year, Avista will be performing the work again this fall.
While fishery work may not be as visible as other activities, biologists will be doing work throughout the summer and fall in the Upper Falls and Nine Mile Reservoirs. The majority of the work this fall will involve a study to determine the population of fish in this area of the Spokane River.
In 2011, Avista will plant 6,000 catchable, sterile rainbow trout in Upper Falls Reservoir and 9,000 fish in Nine Mile Reservoir. This stocking program is intended to provide families in our community the opportunity to fish.
Stay tuned for more information about these exciting projects throughout the summer and fall. Avista has also posted signs near the project areas to educate those who pass by about what we’re doing.
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.
Jun 22 , 2011
This morning I stopped by an Avista job site just east of Division in downtown Spokane. Our crews were replacing a section of power line between First and Second avenues at Cowley Street. In order to keep the neighboring homes and businesses with power while the replacement project occurred, they were safely working around live (or hot) power lines.
Our crews attached extenders on the top of the utility poles and moved the live/hot lines to the outer edges. Then they use rope to pull new, higher gauge power lines where the old lines used to sit. At either end of the work are massive spools that release the new wire or collect the rope. They will repeat this process until the entire length of the power line, usually many miles, is replaced.
We often use the term “upgrades,” when we talk about this type of project. Since we’re replacing an old line with a new one, a simple replacement really is an “upgrade” too. If you’re going to replace something, you might as well plan for future needs so you don’t have to come back and upgrade the line again in just a few years.
This small example shows how Avista is ensuring our electric grid has the capacity to meet your needs, when you need it. This is your rate dollars at work.
Check out the slideshow above for more 14 images of Avista crews working for you.
May 27 , 2011
The group was officially recognized for their milestone
at one of their routine monthly safety meetings.
Pride in their work and respect for one another is the perfect description of the crew of 13 employees at Noxon Rapids Dam who have gone 7,300 days without a lost-time accident. That’s 20 years and counting--an impressive feat considering the amount of work that has been taking place over the last few years to upgrade the 51-year-old structure as well as the amount of contract employees who rotate through the facility. So far, they have completed three out of four unit upgrades
without a recordable accident or injury.
“Safety at Noxon is a mind-set and a group effort above all else,” said Chief Operator Pat Kelly who will be retiring after 30 years of service with Avista this June. He attributes their successful safety record to the good old adage that anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. The close knit group talks about safety on a daily basis, evaluating hazards and discussing near misses.
“This record is secondary to the people who work here and go home safe and sound at the end of the day,” said Kelly. “We watch out for one another and pay close attention to safety procedures. If we identify a source or area for potential injury, we talk about it and make it safe.”
In addition to generating an excellent safety culture, Noxon Rapids Dam is widely known throughout Avista as our workhorse with a generating capacity of 562.4 Megawatts.
May 16 , 2011
Today Avista files for electric and natural gas rate increase in Washington
Post by Debbie Simock
When you need energy, you expect it to be there. That’s reliability. And, making sure it’s there is our job. A key to ensuring that happens is having infrastructure – poles, pipes, wires, transformers, substations, equipment and generating facilities – in place that can reliably do the job and continue to meet the growing demand for energy.
Can you guess how old this transformer is?
Hint – Harry Truman was President of the United
States. This transformer has been in continuous
service since 1947 and is one example of the
need to replace aging infrastructure to ensure
That’s why we’re investing approximately $250 million in our utility infrastructure in 2011.
The cost of upgrading equipment today is significantly more expensive than the equipment being replaced, some of which has been serving customers for 40 to 70 years. These increased costs are the major driver in the request we filed today with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to increase electric rates by an overall
8.7 percent and overall 4.0 percent for natural gas. Read more in the news release.
If approved it would increase the bill for a residential electric customer using an average 977 kilowatt hours per month by $7.13 per month, or 9.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $84.14. For natural gas it would increase the bill for a residential customer using an average of 67 therms a month by $3.26, or 5.1 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $66.71.
Rates are going up for customers across the U.S. and we know that any increase in rates can be a challenge for customers. That’s why we are committed to offering energy efficiency programs
for all customers and to supporting energy assistance services
that help those residential customers who are most impacted by rising prices.
We’re here to answer your questions and provide information about our energy future. Take a few minutes to watch the short Take a Closer Look at How Rates are Set video
. There, you’ll also learn more about What’s Driving the Cost of Energy and the work we’re doing to ensure that you have the reliable energy you expect.
Mar 30 , 2011
This Avista crew was in the middle of installing a
large steel electrical structure that holds power lines
which cross the Spokane River near SFCC and TJ
Meenach Bridge. The old wooden structure is still
standing in the middle with the poles connected at
the top. Two of the taller steel replacement poles are
on the picture on the left and right. The placement of
this structure is on the side of a 45-degree angle
ravine that slopes down to the river below. Once the
full structure is built the crew will re-string new, more
efficient power lines across the river.
The Avista crew fills in the hole for a new steel pole.
A contractor had to shoot gravel down the ravine on
a belt to fill in the massive depth of the new poles.
We all use power every day, but don’t always know where it comes from or why it’s so reliable
This morning I wrote a reply in an ongoing online conversation I’ve been having with a few folks on a local news website. The discussion was wide-ranging from rates to hydropower. We don’t always agree with one another. That’s OK. It got me thinking about power generation in our area and our customers’ use of it.
One area of the discussion that struck me was the idea that Avista’s hydroelectric dams (built when the company was Washington Water Power) were paid for by taxpayers. I don’t know if this is a common misperception, but it’s incorrect. In fact, all of Avista’s (WWPs) dams were built through private funding. All Spokane River projects: Monroe Street
(1890) Post Falls (1906), Nine Mile (1908), Nine Mile (1915) and Upper Falls
(1922); and Clark Fork projects: Noxon Rapids
(1959) and Cabinet Gorge
(1953) were built privately.
There are so many little dams chugging away day after day, decade after decade that they are easy to ignore. Even after four years of working at Avista when I think of a “big” dam, I find myself thinking of Grand Coulee
or Chief Joseph
dams on the Columbia River. Those are federal dams built with taxes, Avista’s weren’t.
Our power mix is roughly 50 percent hydroelectricity. Forty-two of that 50 percent comes from the dams we built, own and operate. The rest come from long-term contracts with other hydro generators.
Focusing on reliability so you don’t have to
Operating these dams and electric resources is really a complex process that most of us don’t think about every day. The perception may exist since these resources are up and running that power has, and always will be plentiful and reliable. That’s just not the case. We’ve got to work at it together. One of the questions I received last summer when I was working on our Energy on the Street project
was about the future of energy. How is Avista planning for the future?
The web of electric generation around the Northwest provides juice for those who want it and pay for it. When I come home at night and flip on the lights, I don’t think about where that power comes from and I bet you don’t either. Is it hydro, natural gas, biomass, coal or wind? But there’s a system in place that we manage that ensures you get the power you need when you want it. That’s one way to think of reliability.
The system is also reliable because employees maintain it. The effort extends beyond maintaining or upgrading power plants. It’s reliable because of the people who climb the poles in six-feet of snow. The men and women who brave the elements to ensure the power lines that feed your home are back in service as quickly as possible when nature’s fury blows trees into the lines, encases them in ice or burns them to the ground in a firestorm.
Avista’s electrical system is rooted around 125 years of history, but it’s not on autopilot. Our employees work hard to ensure that when you flip the light switch or turn on the TV, you don’t have to think about 125 years of power lines and dams. All you need to know is that we’re taking care of it and that it’s there for you when you need it. That’s reliability.
Mar 02 , 2011
This is a picture of the upgraded turbine runner and shaft
prior to installation. The turbine runner (water wheel) is 18
feet in diameter and weighs 130,000 pounds.
This picture shows the generator rotor being lowered into unit
3. It is 34 feet in diameter and weighs 650,000 pounds.
Project management is like juggling three balls at once - time, cost, and quality. The four-year, $45 million project to upgrade four generating units at Noxon Rapids Dam, Avista’s largest hydro facility, started in July of 2008. The improvements include upgrading the generator, installing higher capacity transformers and replacing the original turbine runners in all four units.
Sounds simple enough right? Well not so much.
Unfortunately, our local hardware stores don’t carry parts for turbine runners and generator rotors, so as you can imagine, this is no small deal. In fact, many of the parts that need to be replaced or refurbished have to be ordered a year in advance and are shipped from all over North America.
Each turbine runner weighs 130,000 pounds and the generator rotor weighs 650,000 pounds which combined is the equivalent of 47 elephants. Dealing with such significant weights and sizes makes the project more complex. Additionally, all of these upgrades are taking place in the midst of routine dam operations and maintenance. Talk about a juggling act.
To date, the Noxon team has finished upgrading two units and is nearly finished with the third, which will start seeing action this spring. The crew will begin work on the final unit this summer to complete the project by April of next year.
When finished, the improved turbine runners will generate more power using the same amount of water. Pretty cool, right? Approximately 30 megawatts will be added to the plant’s current maximum capacity (556.6 MW) and the incremental energy generated will meet some of the renewable energy portfolio standards as well. It’s a win-win.
The Noxon Rapids Dam is located on the Clark Fork River in Montana and provides Avista customers in Washington and Idaho with clean, renewable hydroelectric power.
Jan 24 , 2011
Community members learned about Avista's pullman smart grid project at a meeting on January 24, 2011.
Advanced meters to be installed in Pullman and Albion, Washington
Avista and its project partners, including Battelle, updated Pullman community leaders on the Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project today and outlined project plans for 2011.
While the first year of the five-year project focused on updating and automating Pullman’s distribution system, the second year will primarily involve the installation of Itron advanced meters in the city of Pullman, Wash. and the community of Albion, Wash. Approximately 13,000 electric and 5,000 natural gas customers will have their meters upgraded to the new, digital meters, with some customers receiving both electric and natural gas meters. The new meters will be installed over several months beginning in March, 2011.
"The most important aspects of the
Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration
project are the advantages it can pote-
ntially create for our customers,” said
Heather Cummins, Avista’s director of
process improvement, who leads Avista’s
smart grid programs.
Advanced meters operate via a secure wireless network, allowing two-way, real-time communication between the customers’ meter and Avista, so Avista can provide information to customers about their ongoing energy usage through a secure website. Later this year, customers with advanced meters should be able to log into their Avista Utilities account and access additional enhanced web tools to monitor their energy usage throughout the month so they can make more informed decisions about their energy use.
“The most important aspects of the Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration project are the advantages it can potentially create for our customers,” said Heather Cummins, Avista’s director of process improvement, who leads Avista’s smart grid programs.
The advanced meters have the ability to automatically detect and report an outage at a customer’s home or business. The meters are part of an automated distribution system that reduces outage frequency and duration for all customers.
“Having outage information available almost instantly can help our crews to more quickly and efficiently restore power to our customers,” said Dan Johnson, Avista’s Project Manager for the Pullman project.
A sneek peek at the advanced meters that
allow Avista's smart grid project to work.
Avista will notify customers who will be receiving the new meters with a letter over the next few weeks, and will continue to update customers with information about the demonstration project and technology throughout the project. Customers can also find information online at avistautilities.com.
The Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project is part of the Pacific Northwest Grid Demonstration Project, led by Battelle, to demonstrate smart grid technologies using matching stimulus monies from the U.S. Department of Energy. Avista is leading the five-year Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project, and will contribute $14.9 million with its local partners contributing an additional $4 million to create a smart grid in Pullman.
“We envision the smart grid to be a more efficient and effective electricity infrastructure that can help contain costs, reduce emissions, incorporate renewable energy, increase power grid reliability and provide greater flexibility for consumers,” Cummins said. “Over the long-term, it could modernize our traditional, one-way power delivery system to an automated, two-way exchange of information and multi-directional power flow.”
Cost-share partners for the Pullman Project are Itron, Washington State University, Hewlett Packard and Spirae. Other partners include vendors and contractors such as Scope and Efacec Advanced Control Systems, who will provide product and services including equipment and installation. Many of the project’s smart grid devices incorporate relay devices produced by Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., which remains a supportive contributor to the overall success of the SGDP project.