Apr 17 , 2012
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.
Apr 13 , 2012
Wind and solar get the renewable headlines, but what about biomass and hydro?
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.
|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.
Apr 13 , 2012
An artist rendering of the Palouse Wind project.
Avista owns right to wind power for 30 years
This fall when you drive down from Spokane to Pullman for a Cougar football game or if you’re just passing through the Palouse, you‘re likely to see some new scenery – wind turbines. First Wind is constructing a new wind farm called Palouse Wind between Oakesdale and State Route 195. Last year Avista signed a 30-year power purchase agreement for the renewable power generated at the site.
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 homes.
An official groundbreaking is planned this spring, but work for permitting and some construction work is already underway. One of Avista’s projects in preparation for the new wind energy is construction of a switching station needed to move the new electricity generated at the wind farm onto our transmission system.
The turbines and their massive blades will be shipped from Colorado to Washington by train and eventually be transferred to trucks to get to the site. It should be a site to see.
We’ll update the blog with new video, photos and information on the project as it progresses.
Mar 08 , 2012
On Wednesday, March 7, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB5575 into law. The bill qualifies legacy biomass energy projects (built before 1999) as eligible renewable resources for purposes of meeting Washington state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). 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 in Washington beginning in 2016.
The bill recognizes what Avista and many of our customers already know. 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. The plant pioneered a technology that has been replicated around the world and represents Avista’s culture and leadership in advancing renewable energy. We’re pleased that this resource will be given the recognition it deserves.
This passage of the bill is good news for our communities, particularly those in and around Kettle Falls. It will promote employment and preserve jobs at a time when rural economies are suffering. Avista employees at Kettle Falls are members of and contribute to their local communities, and Kettle Falls provides work to local sawmills, fuel delivery businesses, transportation companies and forest workers.
The bill will also save customers money, because Avista can use existing renewable power to meet some of our state mandates, which reduces the need to buy renewable energy credits or invest in development of new renewable energy resources.
Avista proudly remains one of the greenest utilities in the country. We’ve been working since 2008 to get the energy generated at Kettle Falls recognized in Washington state as renewable. The passage of this bill is an example of how Avista engages in policy-making at local, state and federal levels to advocate on behalf of our customers. Biomass is an important part of Avista’s diverse energy portfolio, and the recognition of the energy generated at Kettle Falls as renewable helps us continue to provide reliable, responsible energy while meeting mandates and being good stewards of our customers’ energy dollars and the environment.
Washington RPS info:
While meeting our customers’ energy needs, Avista must comply with renewable portfolio standards detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act and must use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both to meet the following annual targets: 3% of energy used to meet customer demand by January 1, 2012, 9% by January 1, 2016 and 15% by January 1, 2020.
• To meet the 2012 targets, Avista has added qualifying renewable generation capacity with upgrades at its hydroelectric projects.
• With the passage of the bill, the energy from Kettle Falls, in addition to the recently signed 30-year power purchase agreement with Palouse Wind, will help Avista to meet targets beginning in 2016.
Additional information about the Kettle Falls Generation Plant:
This blog post contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the blog post and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011.
Mar 02 , 2012
Crews reflect on work while installing finishing touches on four-year, $45 million project
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.
Jul 27 , 2011
The Spokane River is one of the most striking and scenic centerpieces of our community. It has a rich cultural history, and provides habitat for fish and other aquatic life as well as an abundance of recreational activities.
At Avista, we work hard to be good stewards of this vital resource as we operate our dams to provide clean, reliable, and cost effective energy to our customers. Today, we sent out the first issue of the Spokane River Newsletter, a quarterly publication that will be distributed to those who are interested in learning more about our activities in and around the Spokane River. The newsletter will not only keep you informed about current news, but it will introduce you to some of the people who take care of our natural resources. Each season, Avista plans to distribute the newsletter to stakeholders, employees, customers and others who sign up for it
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 15 , 2011
The world – literally – has been buzzing the past few years about sustainability. But what does it really mean in terms of how a company operates? And who cares? Well, we care. And judging from the questions we often get, we think our customers and others care too.
We talked about sustainability last year about this time as we launched our 2010 report on our sustainable business performance. In that report we shared information about how Avista’s operations impact the three legs of the sustainability stool: the economy, the environment and society.
We haven’t lost that momentum. We’ve built on it. This year’s report has a fresh perspective that we hope will give you an even better picture of what we do and why. In the 2011 report, we’re talking about how our sustainable business practices build shared value for our stakeholders as well as our company in three areas of focus: customer experiences, responsible resources and environmental stewardship.
Let me give you an example. In 2010 Avista completed installation of new, computerized spillway gates at the Nine Mile Dam, just downstream from downtown Spokane. The new system replaces our old wooden flashboard process, which had been in use since 1928. A series of community meetings engaged customers and property owners in the project, and our staff listened closely to their concerns about shorelines, water levels and wildlife, and partnered with them to achieve acceptable outcomes for all parties. The new spillway helps improve Avista’s coordination of the operation all of our Spokane River dams and allows us to operate more efficiently. At the same time we are more responsive to the needs of the community in protecting habitat and working with recreationists to improve angling and boating experiences. A win-win for all concerned.
Jun 07 , 2011
The photo on the left is of group of children touring one of our hydro facilities, Long Lake Dam (circa 1920).
The photo above right is a snapshot of Stevens Elementary sixth graders touring the dam in 2003.
We are Avista - the same reliable company we've always been. For well over a century (since 1889 to be exact), we've built a legacy of dependable service and engagement in the communities we serve. To help illustrate that, we’ve gone deep into our photo archive to uncover some snapshots of our history.
Today we feature one of our generating facilities which sits on the Spokane River approximately 30 miles northwest of Spokane, Long Lake Dam
The photo above left is of group of children touring one of our hydro facilities, Long Lake Dam (circa 1920).
The photo above right is a snapshot of Stevens Elementary sixth graders touring Long Lake Dam in 2003. Both photos were featured in Avista’s 2003 Annual Report
. These students would be in their second or third year of college today.
Legacy matters. We’ve put together a website that details Avista’s history, check out: www.AvistaLegacy.com
Then and now facts
When it was completed in 1915, Long Lake was "the world's highest spillway dam." Its turbines were also the largest (both in size and capacity) of any in existence at the time.
Today, the Long Lake development (HED) is capable of meeting the average energy needs of almost 35,000 households.
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.