May 30 , 2013
Over the past few years, we’ve heard from our customers that they want more information about how we do business in areas like utility operations, environmental stewardship and our community partnerships. Avista’s fifth annual report on our performance – our sustainability responsibility report -- is titled “Shared Value – Shared Success.”
Our purpose statement says, “To improve life’s quality with energy – safely, reliably and responsibly.” Each year, our report provides a comprehensive look at what goes into providing that energy and how often this has additional benefits to the customers and communities we serve. That’s shared value.
In this year’s report, we tell many stories of how shared value is created throughout our business. We’ve added some great graphics to help illustrate some of the information, as well as links to videos and other online resources to give readers many different ways to get the most complete story possible.
As part of our sustainable business practices, the report is published only online. But a PDF file can be downloaded for your convenience in reading the report or sharing it with others.
Shared value is at the heart of what Avista does every day. We hope you’ll take the time to read this year’s report and give us your feedback by email at SharedValue@avistacorp.com
. We want to hear from you about how we can continue to build shared value and shared successes.
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
Four-year, $45 million upgrade nearing completion at Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam
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.
Apr 13 , 2012
Washington provides renewable designation after nearly 29 years of clean operations
You probably don’t hear a lot about Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant. You also don’t see much about it or smell much of it either. You see, Kettle Falls pretty much keeps to itself, steadily cranking out electricity. But recently the plant was given a distinction that many people assumed all along – Kettle Falls and its biomass operation will be recognized as renewable by the state of Washington.
Earlier this month 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 Kettle Falls will qualify to meet our renewable requirements in Washington beginning in 2016.
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.
Kettle Falls and biomass: How’s it work?
Wood waste – called “hog fuel” – is fed into a seven-story furnace/boiler and burned, creating heat. The walls of the furnace/boiler consist of pipes filled with water that are heated by the burning hog fuel. The optimal burning temperature is 2,000 degrees, resulting in a steam temperature of 950 degrees. The heated water generates stream and pressure that drives a turbine, which turns a generator, creating electricity.
So, while you might not hear, see or smell a lot about Kettle Falls, now you know it’s cranking out renewable energy.
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.